About a month or so ago, I was looking through the “weird news” section of a certain website when a really silly article caught my eye. Every year, each country in the Eurozone is permitted to issue a circulating commemorative €2 coin. Usually, these are entirely uncontroversial; Italy and Greece had the Olympics, some of the monarchies had Kings and Queens abdicating, and the rest had innocuous stuff like “International Year of Family Farming,” Things nobody but a collector would be interested in.
This year, Belgium announced would be issuing it’s €2 commemorative with the image of the Lion Monument at the Waterloo battlefield, this June being the bicentennial of that momentous event. Makes sense, right?
The French government didn’t think so. They went ballistic, and demanded that the coins be withdrawn, even though over 180 thousand had already been minted, Belgium did so. French sensibilities and honor were thus satisfied.
Silly, huh? Not really.
This month marks the Centennial of the Turkish anti-Armenian/Assyrian genocides. 55 thousand of the latter and well over a million of the former were murdered because of their religion and ethnicity. They are known as the first genocides of the 20th century, and a precursor to the Holocaust.
Turkey denies these ever happened. Turkish sensibilities and honor are offended that anyone would even think of claiming they would even do such a thing! The Turkish government proclaims that the Turks are wonderful people and to say otherwise is a crime (Article 301 in the penal code) that brings years in prison.
History matters, and history denial matters even more, the Germans acknowledged their myriad war crimes primarily because they were forced to. They lost the war, and Holocaust rubbed in their collective face for decades. They at least had the decency to “man up” and admit they were the bad guys. The Japanese are still getting into trouble because they don’t.
The Rape of Nanjing? Overblown. Comfort women? Happy volunteers. Japan is the land of anime and Nintendo®, after all. No one there would even dream of doing such horrible things! Right?
History denial makes one the good guy, the innocent victim. A couple of decades ago, on the 50th anniversary of the nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Smithsonian Institution was going to have an exhibition on these events, and they had a script, written with the aid of Japanese history deniers, who blamed the war on “American imperialism,” and held the Japanese harmless.
There were a heck of a lot more veterans alive back then, and they went even more ballistic than the French over that commemorative coin.
Some of the worst offenders though, are the Palestinians and their defenders, whose entire narrative is bogus. Sure, the Haganah and Irgun weren’t behaving in a gentlemanly manner during the 1948 war. It was a WAR, for crying out loud, and wars are always nasty and brutish. The Israelis have always acknowledged that.
But the Palestinians haven’t. Their narrative is that they didn’t have any weapons to speak of, their neighboring Arab armies never invaded…well maybe they got into Palestinian territory, by invitation, of course, but they made sure to remain within the ’47 partition lines, and they really didn’t try very hard…. and oh yeah, there were never any Jews living in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus, don’tcha know.
People have always lied about history. That’s why anniversaries are important. It forces people to look at the past and think about it. The Assyrian/Armenian genocides were a full century ago. Everyone involved with it, but victimizer and victim, are long dead. Admitting that the ancestors are guilty doesn’t make the descendants so. The governments of the west should keep up the pressure.