When Whitewashing Wins Out

We have here a struggle between the hypocritical good guys (Europe ) and the sincere bad guys (Turkey and sometimes Israel ), who've not accepted the fact that history is nothing but a sequence of narratives.

Any cultured nation that rummages around in its past will find that its ancestors were responsible for horrible, intolerable deeds. National memory, however, is usually quick to falsify history, and lend it a respectable aura.

To understand the magnitude of the distortion and inhumanity entailed in such a process, it suffices to read the books of the late German-American historian George Mosse, who studied the falsification mechanism of the collective modern-European memory. The European countries took the trouble - and are still doing so - not only to cover up the horrors they perpetrated on members of other nations, but above all to conceal the magnitude of the murderousness they inflicted on their own citizenry when, in all their national arrogance, they sent millions of young people to their deaths and then covered this up by establishing all kinds of commemorative rites and elaborate memorials.

Eran Wolkowsli

A number of nations on the margins of European culture have had the bad luck to have neglected, for various reasons, the colossal effort of cover-up and falsification, or woken up to it too late, thereby finding themselves the target of attacks from their more industrious sister-countries. For there is nothing more embarrassing - and therefore deserving of punishment - than publicly exposing things that most people do outside of the limelight.

This, in my opinion, is the source of Europe's accusation of Turkey in the matter of the "Armenian Holocaust": "You idiots, of course it's clear all of us screwed up, but we have at least bothered to disguise things and lie properly, and to cover up the screw-ups with elaborate gilded monuments - whereas you fell asleep on your watch and present the world with a job half done. So: naughty, naughty, naughty you!"

There is something especially embarrassing in the historical affair that has been named the Armenian Holocaust: After the historical account of the most terrible and absurd war of all, World War I was laundered and presented anew in a falsified way agreed on by all the cultured nations of Europe - all of a sudden a stubborn blot of truth appeared at the edges of the cover-up, which had not been dealt with properly. A huge screw-up. Not only the horror itself, but rather the fact that not enough was done to transform it into a rosy memory, the way the other cultured nations did with respect to the horrors taking place within their areas of responsibility during that war.

That is to say, we have here above all a struggle between the hypocritical good guys (the nations of Europe ) and the sincere bad guys (Turkey, and by analogy, sometimes also Israel ), who in their foolishness have not accepted the fact that history is in any case nothing but a sequence of narratives. Or that the time has come to give up the passion for being absolutely right and to start being smart - i.e., hypocritical, i.e., prepared to update the national narrative in the spirit of the times.

After all, there is nothing more fake and hypocritical - albeit also immeasurably effective and smart - than Germany's unambiguous acknowledgment of its responsibility for the Holocaust of European Jewry. In the long term, the narrative has proven itself perfectly, from Germany's perspective: The unquestioned acknowledgment of its responsibility has made it appear to be a responsible adult, worthy of leading the European Union. And thanks to Germany's courage in openly admitting its guilt, over time, people, including even the Jews, began to admire that country and to divert their hatred from it to the Poles, the Lithuanians and other small nations that collaborated with Nazi Germany.

My late father, a native of Austria whose life was saved during World War II thanks to Turkey, was capable of throwing out of our a house a guest who dared to mention the Armenian Holocaust in his presence. Eventually, I myself traveled to eastern Turkey, where I saw the destroyed Armenian towns. In the city of Van I visited the museum the Turks built to commemorate the Armenian Holocaust: In their version, it was the Armenians who perpetrated a holocaust on the Turks and on themselves. Indeed, that same museum offers proof of the horrors inflicted with the help of the Russians on the inhabitants of eastern Turkey during World War I.

According to official Turkish history, what came afterward was a drastic but legitimate response to the atrocities committed by the Armenians, who had hoped to establish a state of their own in eastern Turkey on the ruins of the sinking Ottoman Empire.

Not long ago, during a visit to the annual Istanbul Book Fair, I stopped in front of the booth of the state of Azerbaijan. In one of the books I leafed though, my eyes lit upon a picture of a mass grave discovered in the city of Guba, where at the end of World War I Armenian troops buried the corpses of hundreds of Azeri Turks - among them, quite a number of Mountain Jews living in the area. All this is part of a continuing conflict between the Armenians and their Muslim neighbors, which has not ended to this day.

Is there anyone who remembers the Armenian slaughter of Azeri Turks in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which shocked the world when it took place, about 20 years ago? If anyone does, please keep quiet, because this is likely to spoil the accepted narrative.

In other words: It is not fashionable these days to ask the question of who's absolutely right when dealing with conflicts between peoples. And the Turks, just like us, the Israelis, are tiring the world with childishly stubborn attempts to prove it was the others who started and that they were only reacting to their enemies' aggression, and so on and so forth. And the exhausted world mutters: "Okay, we get it - but for heaven's sake, when will you finally understand that what works nowadays is a nice narrative?"