Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Armenian genocide debate: Blood libel?


March 25, 2009

The perennial dispute over an Armenian genocide recognition is now taking place in multiple arenas.

President Barack Obama is weighing whether to antagonize Turkey by issuing a genocide commemorative statement; or, in the alternative, he could antagonize Armenian-American voters by breaking his apparent campaign pledge and avoiding use of the term.

Meanwhile, in U.S. District Court this week, the Turkish American Legal Defense Fund is battling it out with the Southern Poverty Law Center. Led by attorneys Bruce Fein and David Saltzman, the Turkish American group has filed a defamation suit on behalf of author Guenter Lewy. An 85-year-old emeritus professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts, Lewy says the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Report libeled him when it wrote, in part:
“Lewy is one of the most active members of a network of American scholars, influence peddlers and website operators, financed by hundreds of thousands of dollars each year from the government of Turkey, who promote the denial of the Armenian genocide….”

The wrangling this week, before U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, is procedural. Some of the questions, in part, appear to deal with what kind of media the Intelligence Report is and whether the District of Columbia is the right place for this legal action. Stated the Southern Poverty Law Center:

"The 'act' complained of – publication of an allegedly libelous article – occurred in Alabama and Georgia. SPLC publishes the Intelligence Report in Alabama and Georgia."Beyond the Southern Poverty Law Center lawsuit, Fein said the Turkish American Legal Defense Fund is preparing for a potential defamation lawsuit against one-time Ohio congressional candidate David Krikorian. Krikorian evidently declared that his GOP opponent, Rep. Jean Schmdt "has taken $30,000 in blood money to deny the genocide." Stated Krikorian:
"Both sets of my grandparents are survivors of this first Holocaust of the 20th century...most of their family members at the time were murdered...The only deniers of this great tragedy which led to the Holocaust of the Jews by Nazi Germany are the Turkish government and certain members of the United States Congress like Jean Schmidt."

In preparation for the upcoming defamation suit, Fein has already filed a complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission; in an interview, he said this complaint was designed to flesh out the facts that will be the underpinning of the defamation suit."We want to try to send a signal to Armenian-Americans that the time for bullying has come to an end," Fein said.

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