The killing of more than a million Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915 was an act of genocide. The Holocaust was a fact. Yet Americans are free to deny the reality of either — or make outlandish assertions of all kinds — without facing punishment by the state. Residents of France will be denied that privilege if its parliament adopts a wrong-headed bill to criminalize denial of the Armenian genocide.
On Thursday the lower house of France's parliament will debate a bill that would punish those who deny the genocide with a year in prison and a $58,000 fine. Turkey is livid, just as it is when legislation is proposed in the U.S. Congress to declare the killings a genocide. It has threatened "grave consequences" to the French-Turkish relationship if the bill is approved and warns that it will raise the issue of violent French colonialism in international forums.
Turkey's sensitivity to the term "genocide" is nothing new, nor is the warning of a diplomatic rupture if another nation dares to use that word. That's not the reason to oppose the bill. The reason the French bill deserves condemnation is that it would be a monstrous violation of free speech.
Photo: Eliza Sargsyan, left, and Gurgen Nersesyan look at some artwork during a candlelight vigil, honoring Armenian genocide, which took place at the parking lot next to Glendale Civic Auditorium on Saturday, April 23, 2011. Unified Young Armenians organized the vigil. Credit: Times Community News