By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier
This is the second part of the debate between two Democratic Congressmen, Howard Berman and Brad Sherman, held at the Ferrahian School’s Avedissian Hall in Encino, California, on Sept. 29. The debate was organized by the Armenian National Committee of America, Western Region.
Cong. Sherman: “We need to recognize the Genocide not only for Armenia, not only for America, but the Turkish state will never be a modern state until it comes to grip with its own history.” Criticizing US government’s reluctance to use the term Armenian Genocide, Cong. Sherman asked: “What kind of superpower cowers before history? What kind of superpower worries about Turkish threats? Dozens of parliaments around this world have recognized the Genocide. It is about time for Congress to have the same level of courage!”
In response to a question on what the two Congressmen would do to encourage America’s allies such as Israel to recognize the Armenian Genocide, Cong. Berman stated that “it is audacious for a country that itself hasn’t recognized the Armenian Genocide, to start telling other countries what they should be doing. So number one: get this [genocide] resolution passed, and push and persuade the Executive Branch to support what the Congress has done, and then you do want to make it into an international consensus. But, we are not effectively going to tell a government that they should do something that we haven’t yet done. …”
Cong. Sherman: "I’m proud that Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, recognizes the Armenian genocide; proud that the Holocaust Museum in Washington does the same. We need to recognize the Armenian genocide at the U.S. government level, but I for one have the chutzpah to urge my Israeli friends to do it even before we do it. And the politics in Israel are a little different. Here, there is still this mirage that somehow Turkey is the critical American ally. In Israel, that same mirage was more or less shattered recently, and so we may indeed find that Israel is able to beat the United States in recognizing the first genocide of the 20th century. And given the history of Israel and the history of the Jewish people, I think it’s an important thing to do. So I for one don’t believe we should wait to urge Israel to move forward, but we should be inspired to move forward ourselves as quickly as possible.”
Panelist Harut Sassounian: “I would like to clarify something for the record based on the answers that you both gave. Before we give any wiggle room for Israel to wait for us to pronounce judgment on this issue, I think we would do well to remember that in 1975 and in 1984, twice, the House of Representatives, the full House, adopted resolutions recognizing the Armenian genocide. So Israel doesn’t have to wait for the US to do it first. We’ve already done it twice, so they can do it once at least, in the meantime."
Cong. Berman: “For historical reasons Israel should do it, particularly Israel, should do it.”
Cong. Sherman: Israel is going to recognize the Armenian Genocide “because it is the moral and right thing to do and because the historical record is there.”
In response to a question on whether the United States should stop paying rent to the Turkish government for the Airbase in Incirlik, Turkey -- located on occupied Armenian territories -- and pay that money to the heirs of original Armenian owners, Cong. Sherman stated: “I look forward to developing a foreign policy where we are less dependent upon the use of bases in Turkey, because I’ve seen them try to lobby the Pentagon, to lobby Congress not to recognize the Genocide on the theory that, ‘oh, you need our bases.’ We can and should work with our other southeast Asian NATO allies to have a basing structure that does not require us to be paying rent to the Turkish state. …However, as long as our base is on that land, that becomes an excellent argument for additional aid to the Armenian state because we’re on that territory.”
Cong. Berman: “…One of the arguments made in Congress against the genocide resolution is ‘Oh the Turks will kick us out of Incirlik.' The Turks have no intention of kicking us out of Incirlik. They want us there; they’re desperate to have us there. This is a smokescreen. This is an argument that people who are fronting for the Turkish position use to scare Congress into thinking there’ll be great dangers to our national security.”
(to be continued)