As Turkey And France Clash Over Armenian Genocide Law, Ankara Plots Next Move

The French Senate passed a controversial law this week that makes it a crime to deny that Armenians were victims of a Turkish genocide. Turkey's Prime Minister Erdogan had angry words for France, but a closer look shows Ankara may have another st

France's embassy to Turkey (Panoramas)
France's embassy to Turkey (Panoramas)
Sedat Ergin

ISTANBUL - The French Senate's approval this week of a bill making it a crime to deny that Turkey committed genocide against Armenians has pushed the Paris-Ankara diplomatic standoff to a new phase. On one side is the Turkish government; on the other, a three-way coalition of President Nicolas Sarkozy, his Socialist party rival Francois Hollande and the Armenian lobby.

The turf of this struggle has now moved from the halls of Parliament to the heart of French law.

But it is first worth noting that Ankara's response to the Senate decision has been far more controlled than the virulent reaction first shown when the bill was accepted by the French Parliament in December.

One explanation of this more moderate reaction was that Ankara has delayed putting into motion a ‘plan of action" intended to truly retaliate against France. Speaking to his party's members of Parliament on Tuesday, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his government's reaction would depend on how the situation evolved, and that at this stage they would be "patient." This suggests there is no great rush regarding sanctions.

Even though he used phrases such as ‘racist" and ‘the footsteps of fascism" when referring to Sarkozy, the Prime Minister's main message was that the issue would not shake Turkey. Erdogan said "Turkey would not stoop to quarrel with a small racist mentality." He added that Ankara would "act with the reason and reserve suitable to a great country,".

The Prime Minister also noted that it would take 60 signatures for the Constitutional Council, which is charged with preserving the principles of the French Constitution, to object to the bill. This suggests that he doesn't want to burn bridges with those French lawmakers who are close to Turkey.

Three options, two roads

A roadmap with three options is taking shape for Turkey.

The first, as the Prime Minister suggested, is for 60 representatives of the French Senate or 60 members from Parliament to apply to the Constitutional Council with an objection on grounds that the bill violates the French Constitution.

This would need the support of about two-thirds of the 87 senators who voted in favor of Turkey in Monday night's vote. It seems that there is a group of Senators prepared to do this. On the other hand, both Sarkozy and Hollande, who are facing off in the French presidential election, are each applying significant pressure on their parties to prevent this.

There is one significant detail to note. Even without reaching the threshold, if the Senators express their will to do this, the Constitutional Council can apply to the government and ask that the law be suspended without taking effect. If a formal petition is made, the law would likewise need to be suspended.

What if this effort doesn't produce a result? The Constitutional Council has one more option to exercise its power: in 2008, a change to the French Constitution gave French citizens the right to apply directly to the Council if there was a situation which was potentially unconstitutional.

In this case, a Turkish or French citizen who has said the events of 1915 were not a genocide and has been penalized for this by a lower court could apply to the Constitutional Council. But this objection would first need to pass a higher court. If, in the final analysis, the Constitutional Court found this person justified, it would be a considerable victory for Turkey in France.

Let us imagine that this route was taken and that the Constitutional Court nonetheless rejected this citizen's appeal. There would then be one more path to take: an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

In this event, the European tribunal would need to ascertain whether this law violates the European Convention on Human Rights. If it does reach this stage, this case would undoubtedly be one of the most critical files the European institution has ever taken up.

Whichever route is followed, it is without question that Ankara is just at the beginning of a long, drawn-out, extremely difficult process.

Read the original article in Turkish

Photo – Panoramas

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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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