Letter to The New York Times, May 1, 1996

Letters to the Editor
The New York Times
229 West 43rd Street
New York, NY 10036-3959

To the Editor:

William Safire's April 25th essay "Cradle of Terror" was appropriately titled, but wholly misdirected. His equating Hezbollah's genuine international terrorism with what is clearly a struggle for independence by Kurdish freedom fighters from an historically oppressive Turkish Government is an analogy that flies in the face of both moral decency and geopolitical reality.

Israelis should raise more than an eyebrow by such an absurd comparison. Until fairly recently, Israel has been on the defensive against surrounding hostile Arab nations, which have vowed to destroy her at every turn. Turkey on the other hand continues to be the primary aggressor in the area, moreso than even Syria, Iran and Iraq. The Turks remain the most heavily armed nation in the region, with the largest standing army in European NATO.

Despite its human rights violations and international legal transgressions, Israel nevertheless remains a beacon of genuine western democratic values in a part of the world that has yet to embrace them.

Turkey on the other hand remains the only country in the area which is occupying a foreign nation against U.N. Resolutions after having killed thousands and after having ethnically cleansed its indigenous, European inhabitants. In addition to its occupation of Cyprus, Turkey has openly threatened to invade NATO ally Greece in pursuit of Ankara's claims over what is clearly Greek territory in the Aegean Sea.

To make matters worse, Turkey had recently launched an invasion of northern Iraq in its ruthless pursuit of Kurdish seperatists. The Kurds of Turkey faired far worse. According to human rights organizations and confirmed by the State Department, thousands of villages in Turkish Kurdistan have been destroyed and their Kurdish inhabitants ethnically cleansed under the familiar guise of military necessity for the purpose of their absorbtion and assimilation into urban areas. Furthermore, Turkey is recognized by human rights organizations as one of the worst human rights violators in the world today with torture, imprisonment, and censorship as preferred methods of silencing internal dissent.

Given the sobering fact of what has often been considered the seminal event of Twentieth Century Jewry--the Holocaust--your correspondent must fail to recognize the deep irony in his equation. Unlike Germany, the Turkish Government continues to actively deny its perpetration of the first genocide of this century. Spending millions in this country to purchase everything from top-notch PR firms to Turkish studies chairs in prominent universities, Turkey has made genocide denial a main priority. As Professor Stanley Cohen at Hebrew University in Jerusalem has written:

The mode of forgetting by which a whole society separates itself from its discreditable past . . . might happen at an organized, official, and conscious level - the deliberate coverup, the rewriting of history . . . The nearest successful example in the modern era is the 80 years of official denial by successive Turkish governments of the 1915-17 genocide against the Armenians in which some 1.5 million people lost their lives. This denial has been sustained by deliberate propaganda, lying and coverups, forging documents, suppression of archives, and bribing scholars. Law and Social Inquiry, Vol. 20, No. 1, Winter '95.

Unlike Safire's morally bankrupt and unconditional praise of the recent Turkish-Israeli military pact, given Turkey's sinister past and abhorrent present practices one would expect Israelis to grudgingly view it, at best, as an expedient and temporary evil in the face of pressing security concerns. Anything more than this, and the unlikely image of Jews readily embracing a nation which advocates genocide denial, state-sponsored torture, and widespread ethnic cleansing under the guise of fighting terrorism would, in the long run, be far more damaging than even Hezbollah's entire arsenal of rockets and suicide bombers.

Very truly yours,
Phillip Spyropoulos, Esq.

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