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Around Town: The Gaza flotilla hits home

Between 1915 and 1923, the Ottoman Empire (Turkey) massacred nearly 2 million Armenians. There were death marches and extermination camps. For the survivors, there were mass exiles.

To this day, Turkey has refused to acknowledge this event, and only 26 nations have officially recognized the genocide of the Armenian people. The United States has not recognized the Armenian Genocide, but 42 states have passed resolutions to that effect.

Unlike Germany, a nation whose self-reflection has led to a dominant culture of pacifism, Turkey takes the position that these deaths were merely the result of an act of war.

As far as Turkey is concerned, there was no Armenian Genocide.

If a nation wants to be an ally of Turkey, recognition of this historical truth is forbidden. Even within the Jewish community, there has been a reluctance to recognize the Armenian Genocide for fear of worsening relations between Turkey and Israel.

An unintended consequence of the recent Gaza flotilla crisis might be this — honesty.

La Cañada Flintridge resident Edward D. Vaisbort explains "the U.S. should have led the free world many years ago in recognizing the Armenian Genocide, but failed to do so in order to cultivate Turkey as an ally. In light of the resurgence of anti-Western Islamism in Turkey, it's time for the U.S. to do the right thing and recognize the Armenian Genocide and give voice to its victims."

La Cañadan Mark Bernhard agrees, "The U.S. should recognize the Armenian Genocide, and Israel should as well."

His neighbor, Avi Zirler, has a different view. "For the moment Turkey is a NATO ally of the U.S., and such a recognition should be given only if it is in the best interest of the U.S. I am not sure that it is [in the best interest of the U.S.] at this point in time. The U.S. government should leave the recognition to Human Rights NGOs."

With respect to Israel, Zirler says, "Turkey is one of the few Muslim countries that have strong ties to Israel, despite the rhetoric that is coming from the Turkish government. The current government might be voted out, but the Turkish people will still be around. Meanwhile, the recognition can come from NGOs."

Rep. Anthony Weiner, (D-N.Y.) recently opined in the New York Daily News that "when Israel began its blockade of the coast of Gaza, it did so for reasons that were obvious. The Hamas terrorists that have run Gaza since 2007 have been using rockets carried by boats to attack Israeli civilians . . . a fair review of the facts here shows that Turkey deserves much of the blame for this flare-up."

The political correctness of the Gaza blockade (by Egypt and Israel) can be debated another day. At issue this week are the deaths on the Gaza flotilla.

The true cause of the Mavi Marmara flotilla deaths is clear. The peace activists used deadly force on the young Israeli sailors, who then defended themselves.

Al Jazeera reporter Andre Abu Khalil is not exactly a pro-Israel source. He told Reuters that the Turkish men on the Mavi Marmara used force to prevent the Israelis from reaching the wheelhouse. Using "slingshots, metal pipes and wooden rods, they initially succeeded in wounding and overpowering four Israeli soldiers and dragging them below decks."

The "IHH," which organized the convoy, is not exactly pro-Israel. They released photos of the bloodied, stunned and unconscious Israel sailors in the hands of IHH "peace activists." The photos were first published in the Middle East and are now working their way through the Internet and print media in the U.S.

Our sister paper, the Los Angeles Times, interviewed the other peace activists on the Rachel Corrie, the last flotilla ship. The Rachel Corrie activists "criticized the actions of the ship Mavi Marmara activists, who fought off Israeli soldiers for several minutes, throwing one commando off a deck. 'That is not part of the game,' former U.N. Assistant Secretary-General Denis Halliday told Al Jazeera on Friday from the Rachel Corrie. 'The Turkish peace [activists] broke the rules.'"

The videos released by the Israeli military clearly show the assaults by the "IHH" men on the Mavi Marmara. (See

Vice President Joe Biden thinks the Israelis acted in self-defense. His former opponent, Sarah Palin, agrees. As for news coverage of the incident, La Cañadans Mark Bernard and Bob Sobraske feel that it was not fair. Bernhard noted, "I think mainstream media reports could have been more impartial."

The flotilla deaths are a sad event, but the "IHH" men on the Turkish ship, armed with metal rods and knives, did not die due to the blockade. They died because they organized and initiated a violent confrontation with Israeli sailors.

The Israeli sailors boarded the ship expecting to find peace activists. Instead, they found armed fighters. The Israelis had a right to self-defense.

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