Tuesday, April 11, 2006

'Commentary' mangles Prof. Charny's letter


`Protestcide' - The Killing of Protest of a Denial of Genocide

Armenian News Network / Groong
March 27, 2006

by Israel W. Charny

To what extent does a publication have the right to alter a Letter to
the Editor that criticizes the publication, and then to publish their
altered version of the letter without the full permission of the
letter writer, especially in light of his explicit refusal to approve
their revision?

In December 2005, Commentary published a lengthy article denying the
Armenian Genocide by one, Guenter Lewy, a retired professor who has
previously published denials of other genocides as well, including a
denial that the Gypsies were victims of genocide in WW II (Simon
Wiesenthal defended the role of the Gypsies as fellow victims of the
Holocaust, and on several occasions wrote and told passionately of
seeing the Gypsies in Auschwitz in the barracks right next to his);
and including a denial that the Native Americans (Indians) were
victims of genocide in America. It is clear that Lewy has established
himself as an arch specialist in denial who has now relegated no less
than three victim peoples to some kind of status of sufferers other
than victims of genocidal mass murder. I think that readers of this
current Commentary piece denying there was a genocide of the Armenians
had a right to know of the author's previous publications of denials
(one of which was also in Commentary), but not a word was mentioned.

Lewy's article in Commentary is entitled, `The first genocide of the
20th century?' Lewy himself mentions in his article that the
International Association of Genocide Scholars, of which I am the
current president, had passed a unanimous resolution some years ago
confirming the validity of the Armenian Genocide. When Commentary was
approached by a colleague as to whether they would publish a rejoinder
to Lewy's article by me, the editor agreed immediately to receive a
600-word statement from me. So far to their credit. But then in the
grotesque sequence of censorship and revisions of my rejoinder that
follows, Commentary at first refused to identify my connection to the
same Association that passed the resolution, and finally did in fact
identify me as somehow affiliated with the Association but eliminated
identifying my leadership role. A personal slight? Then it's
irrelevant. Or is it a diminution of the significance of my protest?
In the meantime, Commentary published a lengthy rejoinder by Lewy in
the same issue with the following statement that, by a wave of the
Lewy-Commentary wand removes any significance to our association's
informed judgment: `I am less than impressed by the unanimous vote of
the International Association of Genocide Scholars that the Armenian
case `was one of the major genocides of the modern era' writes Denier
Lewy conclusively and then presumptuously slams the members of the
association that virtually no one (but him) has done real research.

No matter. Commentary commits more serious infringements to the point
of not allowing me to voice my definite judgment about their question,
`The first genocide of the 20th century?'

In my letter I write about how the Turks also killed other Christian
(therefore non-Turkish) groups such as the Assyrians and Greeks as
well as the Armenians (the first Christian people of Europe) and that
this was `outright genocidal murder.' Commentary removed this vital
statement from my letter. Remember, the article by Lewy they have
published is asking explicitly if this was genocide, and the section
of Letters to the Editor in February is re-entitled, `Genocide?' but
my clear-cut rejoinder that it was `outright genocidal murder' was not

Moreover, what does Lewy do? I say in my letter that I wonder if
readers of the Jewish-sponsored Commentary (this remark by me is also
censored out) know that the Turks were also responsible for two forced
expulsions of Jews from Jaffa-Tel Aviv in 1914 and 1917, both of which
resulted in losses of life of the elderly, infirm and ill. As if
referring to this information, Lewy says to me in his rejoinder,
`Mr. Charny stops short of calling these occurrences `genocide,'' but
he and the hard-working editor who we have seen manages to censor my
writing so fastidiously, thus manage to get across a message that
seems to refer to the whole bigger original issue of the Armenian
Genocide. Now, not only have I not been allowed to say what I did say
that there was clear-cut genocide, but it is as if claimed explicitly
that I too don't call the Ottoman murders genocide.

Higher-class deniers, like Lewy and Commentary, are a fascinating
study in the propagandistic logic-defying language mechanisms they
employ -- Commentary also removed from my letter a reference to an
article that Daphna Fromer and myself published in the British
journal, Patterns of Prejudice in which we analyzed the language-logic
of earlier deniers of the Armenian Genocide.

Ultimately, my most serious criticism is that Commentary is fully
responsible alongside of its author for publishing a bald exposition
of denial of an established major genocide. Thus, I conclude my
letter, `Regrettably, Mr. Lewy and Commentary too have now earned
places in the pantheon of genocide Deniers,' but -- by now you guessed
it -- you will never see that sentence, or an earlier statement
similarly critical of Commentary in the letter they published.

I ask, do responsible publications in a free world have the right to
censor and arbitrarily revise Letters to the Editor beyond
considerations of space, bad language such as epithets, and ad hominem
attacks (but not legitimate major criticisms of an author or the
publication!)? Obviously a publication holds the ultimate power and
can simply decline to publish a letter (who will ever know?). But to
cut and revise and remove and distort the thrust of the original
message, and fail to advise and fail to get approval of changes? I
don't know if there are legal controls against such tampering with the
lowly institution of a Letter to an Editor and/or op-ed writing, but I
do know such tampering violates the `natural law' of journalistic
integrity, and I think Commentary should be told so by an informed

Prof. Israel W. Charny, Ph.D. is President of the International
Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS) Editor-in-Chief, Encyclopedia
of Genocide [www.abc-clio.com/product/109124] Executive Director,
Institute on the Holocaust and Genocide, Jerusalem Prof. of Psychology
& Family Therapy, Hebrew University of Jerusalem Tel & Fax:
972-2-672-0424 e-mail: encygeno@mail.com Author of forthcoming book,
Fascism and Democracy in the Human Mind, by the University of Nebraska
Press, May 2006

An e-mail transcript of all texts and correspondence between me and
Commentary is available immediately on request to encygeno@mail.com


  1. "Simon Wiesenthal defended the role of the Gypsies as fellow victims of the
    Holocaust, and on several occasions wrote and told passionately of
    seeing the Gypsies in Auschwitz in the barracks right next to his"

    When was Wiesenthal in Auschwitz?


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