July 17, 2001 -- Vol.6, no.1
Introduction to Analysis of Denials of Known Genocides
In 1985, I formulated a first grouping of psychological dynamics of denials of genocide, that denials of known events of genocide must be treated as acts of bitter and malevolent psychological aggression, certainly against the victims, but really against all of human society, for such denials literally celebrate genocidal violence and in the process suggestively call for renewed massacres -- of the same people or of others (Charny, 1992b, 1991). In the same year (1985), a remarkable advertisement appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post and several other prominent newspapers in which some 69 academics, any number of them very well established and well known scholars in various fields pertaining to Middle East Studies, called on members of the U.S. Congress who were then considering a resolution to create a Day of Commemoration for the victims of the Armenian Genocide to go slowly until all the records of the era had been researched by way of the archives of the Ottoman government which up until then had been inaccessible. A new era of sophistication and camouflage in denials of genocide was now launched, and a new era of co-option of bona fide members of the academic establishment was begun. To this day, and repeatedly, the above advertisement is referred to by deniers of the Armenian Genocide as proof of the "academic controversy" about the genocide.
In 1990, I proposed a major extension of our understanding of denials also to include what I termed 'innocent deniers,' i.e., those who may not really be aware of the genocide they are helping to deny, and are not necessarily in touch with why it is important to them -- what benefit accrues to them -- by standing with the negationists, skeptics and deniers of the genocide (Charny & Fromer, 1990; Charny, 1991; Charny & Fromer, 1998). I suggested that by analyzing the dynamics of such 'innocent deniers' who may not be aware that they are consciously seeking any benefit from their denials of a known genocide, we may be able, for the first time, to create a psychological framework for understanding the millions of everyday people, in all societies, who join the bandwagons of denial without necessarily knowing that they are doing so or why they are doing so. However, one must also realize that there are also many instances of ostensible or seeming 'innocent denials' which are not at all innocent, but are the full-blown lies of deniers who are attempting to look like honest scholars and peace-promoting people and are doing so to infiltrate the world of scholarship with sophisticated denials.
The present paper works with five thinking defense mechanisms which are used by the mind to justify sophisticated denials. The formulation of these defense mechanisms emerged from content analysis of the responses of signators of the 1985 advertisement to a study of their motivations to participate in the ad and their thinking about the meaning of that advertisement. We apply the same categories of thinking defense mechanisms to analyses of the cases of two well known academics who respectively deny the Armenian Genocide (Professor Bernard Lewis) and the Holocaust (Professor Ernst Nolte). Additional examples of denial are analyzed, including of statements by an historian (David Irving) who has been a notorious denier of the Holocaust, even as he denies being a denier, who is seen as an out-and-out antisemite and adorer of Hitler who hides behind an academic facade; and a well-known liberal intellectual (Noam Chomsky) who stands up so adamantly for unrestrained free speech that he becomes an inadvertent supporter of a denier of the Holocaust -- which makes Chomsky himself culpable of 'innocent denial.'
The above examples are placed in the perspective of a recently published conceptual framework (Charny, 2000) for locating the structure of different denials along two continua. The first is a Continuum of Malevolence of Denial of Known Genocides: 'Innocent Denial' to Malevolence; and the second is a Continuum of Celebration of Violence and Denials of Known Genocides: 'Moral Innocence' and Disavowals of Violence to Celebration of Violence.
Finally, the stories of two cases of denial of the Armenian Genocide in Israel
are presented and analyzed. In conclusion, it is argued that denials are becoming
more sophisticated and complex, and that there needs to be a concerted battle
against all forms of denials.
The Anti-Life Meaning of Denials of Genocide
At the outset, I should like to state that the clear-cut purpose of this essay on academicians who deny a known case of genocide is to enable us to fight back, discredit, and one would hope also shame those professionals of the academic cloth who utilize the advantages of their positions in the service of denials of the cruelest events of mass murders of peoples.
Let me also caution that the analysis that I will be presenting will include, along with the denials by killers, fascists and bigots, a wide range of denials which fulfill selfish pragmatic and exhibitionistic needs of deniers as well as the forms and dynamics of denial which I have dared to identify as 'innocent denials,' which means that the denials are based on a kind of moral 'innocence' and naiveté. In these cases, the deniers are relatively unaware of the real facts of the genocide, and/or are seeking to picture our universe as more decent and secure for human beings than it really is; and in the process to project themselves as fine, justice-seeking, reconciliation-advancing "good" people. These conscious qualities are then used as a cover for unconscious choices and delight in joining in the celebration of genocidal violence that is in effect implied by all denials of known genocides.
Although I attempt some understanding of such 'innocent denials,' I do not for a moment suggest that we should be anything but resolute and powerful in combatting these forms of denial. Indeed, we need to attack the seemingly 'good' people who engage in such 'innocent denials,' first of all because the impact of their rewriting history is no less vicious and dangerous than denials generated by anti-Semitism, or anti-Armenianism, or a generic anti-life position of celebrating the deaths of any victims of mass murder; and secondly because these deniers are engaging in a vicious form of intellectual and moral dishonesty. In fact, my thesis is that such forms of 'innocent' participation in processes of denial are similar to the dynamics of the endless numbers of accomplices and bystanders who, in the course of actual events of genocide, enable and allow the actual perpetrators to execute the genocide.
In this paper, I shall focus primarily on the two major instances of the Armenian Genocide in the years 1915-1920 and the Holocaust of the Jews in World War II, but the framework that is developed is intended to be used for analysis of denials in a wide range of cases of genocide (see the Special Triple Issue of Internet on the Holocaust and Genocide on "Denial of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Contemporary Massacres" ).
Let us begin with a brief look at examples of vicious and even sloppy forms
of denial. These have been well known to us for some time. Generally each victim
people reports the brazen denials of its people's suffering (Anti-Defamation
League, 1993; Armenian Assembly of America, 1983; Housepian Dobkin, Marjorie,
1993; Simon Wiesenthal Center, 1994), but it is also important to see how the
basic methodology of denials is comparable in denials of the genocides of different
peoples. There is recently a beginning literature comparing denials of the Armenian
Genocide and the Holocaust (see Hovannisian, 1997). Table 1 presents two simple
examples of traditional bald and brazen rewriting of the records of the histories
of the Armenian Genocide and of the Holocaust.
As noted in the Introduction, in 1985, in a conference at Bentley College on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide  (Charny, 1992b 1991), I formulated a first grouping of psychological dynamics of denials of genocide. At this stage, I was aware of and concentrated on the kinds of blatant denials of which the above two examples are representative. I proposed that denials of known events of genocide must be treated as acts of bitter and malevolent psychological aggression, certainly against the victims, but really against all of human society, for such denials literally celebrate genocidal violence and in the process suggestively call for renewed massacres -- of the same people or of others. Such denials also madden, insult and humiliate the survivors, the relatives of the dead, and the entire people of the victims, and are, without doubt, continuing manifestations of the kinds of dehumanization and disentitlement that we know are the basic psychological substrates that make genocide possible to begin with. The deniers also are attacking the fundamental foundations of civilization, namely the standards of evidence, fairness and justice, by flagrantly altering the historical record; indeed, the deniers are engaging in a totalitarian overpowering of the knowledge process, fully intending to subjugate the integrity of human history, memory, scholarship, and communication to their demagogy and tyranny.
The remarkable advertisement which appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post and several other prominent newspapers in 1985 was signed by 69 academics, any number of them very well-established and well-known scholars in various fields pertaining to Middle East Studies. The scholars used the advertisement to call on members of the U.S. Congress who were then considering a resolution to create a Day of Commemoration for the victims of the Armenian Genocide to go slowly until all the records of the era had been researched in the archives of the Ottoman government which up until then had been inaccessible, but which the Turkish government now announced were going to be opened to scholars (see Appendix 1 for the text of the advertisement). The advertisement, especially with its impressive collection of academic dignitaries, then became a key tool in the successful Turkish lobbying against passage of the Congressional resolution, and over the years and very much to this day, it continues to reappear over and over again in support for other Turkish propaganda efforts to censor scholarly publications, and to halt or at the least contaminate the proceedings of academic conferences in which scholars dare even to refer to, let alone to confirm and draw implications from the history of the Armenian Genocide. The advertisement in 1985 launched new era of sophistication and camouflage of denials and began a new era of co-option of bona fide members of the academic establishment.
In one comic faux-pas reported by Smith, Markusen and Lifton (1995) in a publication which has become a truly classic paper on denial of genocide, the Turkish Embassy neglectfully enclosed an internal memo by now Princeton Professor Heath Lowry, who was then Director of the Turkish Institute, in which he provided the ammunition for the Turkish Ambassador's letter of protest to distinguished psychiatrist-researcher, Robert Jay Lifton, for having dared to make several references to the Armenian Genocide in the course of his major work on the doctors in the Nazi concentration camps (Lifton, 1986). What Smith, Markusen and Lifton in effect show us is the systematic propaganda machinery of the Turks through the cooption of ostensible scholars who brazenly ignore any accepted rules of objective inquiry and evidence. They are out to make a point -- namely, denial of the Armenian Genocide -- at any cost. (See also Smith's review  of the cheap allegations by Lowry  that the famous book by Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, Sr. , who was the American ambassador to Turkey at the time of the Armenian Genocide who resolutely described and protested the genocide, was a forgery! Lowry's book is an obviously bigoted polemic, written loosely, and also published shoddily [in English] in Turkey.)
In the immediate shock of the appearance of the new virulent form of double talk back in 1985, the Armenian Assembly of America rapidly undertook investigation of the academic records and especially the history of research grants received by the 69 signators (Armenian Assembly of America, 1987). The Assembly revealed first of all that a majority of the scholars were not specialists in the subject matter of the period of the genocide, and more important that a very large number of the signators were recipients of grants from Turkish government sources. Vyronis (1993) has since reviewed the data and has similarly concluded that a considerable number of the signators, and their institutions, were direct recipients of research funds from Turkey.
New Formulations of Other Motivations for Denial: Self-Interest and 'Innocent Denial'
From a theoretical point of view, in the wake of the advertisement, it seemed that a new category had emerged for our understanding of the psychology of denials of genocide, namely that deniers are not necessarily rabid anti-some people, like anti-Semites and haters of Armenians, but may more simply be out for their personal gain, economic advantage, or even more simply career advantage -- research grants imply a combination both of financial resources as well as opportunities to engage in research in desired settings.
It turned out, however, that this additional explanation too was not sufficient to account for all the 69 scholars, and by extension to the countless, perhaps even the majority of people who, in every culture, including seemingly rational Western cultures that are not subject to a State-prevailing ideology of a police state, flock with pleasure to celebrate denials of known genocides and their deniers without any obvious gain resulting to them.
The Institute on the Holocaust and Genocide in Jerusalem undertook a follow-up study of the 69 signators themselves (Charny & Fromer, 1990; Charny, 1991; Charny & Fromer, 1998). To our amazement, a surprisingly large number of the signators responded to our invitation, if not by completion of the actual questionnaire that we sent, then by various, often long, detailed and impassioned letters of protest against the research that we were undertaking, where the letters contained so much information that they provided us with no less a basis for content analyses of attitudes about many of the same issues that we were looking for in the questionnaire. We learned, in fact, that a significant number of the signators are unable to deny that the Armenian Genocide occurred, although they refrain from acknowledging it as genocide in that word; also a good number acknowledged that the Turks manifestly falsify, censor, suppress and revise the historical record; and several indicated that had they known the advertisement would be used in the political way that it was, they never would have signed the advertisement; and several agreed that it is indeed desirable to commemorate the Armenian Genocide.
Against this background, what stood out over and over again was the irate protest of the scholars that they had never received any tangible gain for their participation in the advertisement, and probably most important, repeated refrains of their being good people who are interested only in being fair and just, and in assisting to bring about a reconciliation between the Armenians and the Turks in the interests of a more peaceful world. These data convinced us of the conscious sincerity of the respondents, so that now we were drawn for the first time to formulate another new category of dynamics of denials of genocide, namely what we are calling 'innocent denial.'
'Innocent deniers' may not at all be aware that they are seeking or taking benefit from their participation in the denial. Such 'innocence' can apply also to recipients of actual grants and favors. The process is reminiscent of many phenomena where one becomes tied to the 'hand that feeds you' without realizing or acknowledging that one is making oneself dependent on that corrupt source of support and thereby serving that corruption. In other words, while accepting the findings about the large number of recipients who have definite interests in the grants that they receive from the Turks, it is proposed that, psychologically, any number of these scholars do not in their conscious selves intend to curry favor at any price, and are not placing themselves on the payroll of their masters to be their agents, but are 'innocently' drawn to identifying with, liking, and wanting to please the people with whom they do business.
It was from this point of departure that it was then also realized that one must begin to analyze a great variety of other 'innocent denials' which involve many other scholars who are not even receiving grants or other professional support. We realized that in doing so we may be able, for the first time, to create a psychological framework for understanding the millions of everyday people, in all societies who join the bandwagons of denial without necessarily knowing that they are doing so or why they are doing so. Phenomenologically, these deniers alternately feel good in undertaking the seeming 'open-mindedness' of listening to the 'other side' of the argument; or in reveling in conspiracy theories of all sorts such as the notion that the Jews created a mythology of the Holocaust, or that the Jews are pushing the Holocaust myth in order to gain economic and political advantages in the world; or like some major intellectual and political figures to whom a pro-Turkish policy is very important, feel justified in backing the Turkish government which is fighting to maintain an island of western-oriented democracy in the Muslim world; and on and on of variations.
Nonetheless, we also need to understand what are the emotional appeals and the gratifications served by theories such as just given and their ostensible justifications of denials of established and evident historical realities such as the Armenian Genocide or the Holocaust, for even most of the 'innocents' who don't consciously know about the genocide of course do know on some level the truth of such major events.
Thinking Defense-Mechanisms Identified in the Scholars' Explanations and Justifications Which 'Allow' Them to Engage in Denial
On the basis of the responses received in the above study of the 69 scholars who had signed the advertisement questioning the Armenian Genocide, Fromer and I formulated a series of five conceptual characteristics of 'innocent denial.' These five categories emerged for us as a consensus of the independent content analyses we did of the texts of the respondents. As will be reported shortly, we have now successfully used these categories also for content analyses of two prominent academic deniers -- a Jew denying the Armenian Genocide, and a German denying the Holocaust, two top professors in their respective cultures. (The manifest usefulness of these categories in analyzing these two notable representatives of denial in the academic world gives a further indication of the content validity of the categories, but further research to test systematically the reliability of the definitions is indicated.)
The five categories of thinking defense mechanisms are the following:
Definitionalism refers to a form of maddening resistance to acknowledging a known genocide that is common to academics who enter into definitional battles over whether or not a given event really fits the pure form of definition of genocide. So much energy goes into the definitional struggle, and so much emphasis is put on words that minimize the extent of the event, that first the significance of the event and its enormous human tragedy are written out of existence, and then the event itself becomes as if something else. A caveat may be appended that the subject should be considered, but in some other context like discussions of human rights, wars, or civilian disasters, but it is not to be reckoned with as a case of a government-ordered systematic destruction of a people. (See Charny, 1994a for an extensive discussion of this pattern of obfuscation and the epistemology of definition.)
The Relationship Between 'Innocent' and Malevolent Denials
Many disturbing questions emerge about 'innocent denials' as one struggles to incorporate these phenomena in the same universe of the rank and file of obscene deniers who are, clearly, rabid fascists of one sort and another, or opportunistic paid agents of agencies of denial such as the Turkish government or neo-Nazi organizations.
The issue is even more confusing when one realizes that there are also many instances of ostensible or seeming 'innocent denials' which are not at all innocent, but are the full-blown lies of deniers who are attempting to look like honest scholars and peace-promoting people, and are doing so simply to infiltrate scholarship and academia with their rotten denial propaganda. Assuming one has made the leap of accepting the fact that there are genuinely 'innocent' deniers who lack conscious knowledge of the denied genocide, and/or are sincere in their conscious protestations of disavowing violence, one must still look out for and try to identify dissimulation and manipulation by people who really do know better, and who are pretending 'innocence.' In other words, the styles of thinking in the various categories we have just presented for misinterpretation of the data of the history can be adopted by 'innocents' who consciously do not mean, or do not know they mean, to do harm, and also by avowed vicious anti-Armenians or anti-Semites in purposeful disguises of their fully knowing about the genocide, whose malevolent intentions are to infiltrate academia with seemingly well-intentioned, legitimate differences of opinion.
To illustrate malevolent denials which utilize the covers of seeming fairness and scholarly open-mindedness, I have taken statements by two prominent academicians who are each among the 'heads' of their respective cadres of deniers, the one of the Armenian Genocide and the other of the Holocaust. Table 2 presents a comparative synopsis of writings by Professor Bernard Lewis (1968, 1993 & 1994, 1994) in the first instance and by Professor Ernst Nolte (1966, 1994) in the second instance, each organized analytically according to the five criteria previously formulated.
In the case of Prof. Bernard Lewis, the seemingly scholarly concern with putting the historical facts in the context of Armenians constituting a threat to the Turks as a rebellious force who together with the Russians threatened the Ottoman Empire, and the insistence that only a policy of deportations was executed, barely conceal the fact that the organized deportations constituted systematic mass murder, let alone that repeated major events of genocidal mass murder were carried out by the Turks (see, for example, the repeated detailed reports in the New York Times 1915-1920 in Kloian, 1988). Among the issues avoided by Lewis are these:
For Prof. Ernst Nolte, Hitler and the Nazis were justified from their point of view in killing the Jews so long as they held a belief that the Jews were threatening a major historical change that would lead to "a civilization of world peace" and a world government. Then Nolte goes on to say Hitler and the Nazis were not justified because one cannot hold the Jews or anyone responsible for history, but he does not say a word about the Nazis not being justified because they were inhuman and evil in destroying Jewish lives en masse. Forgetting for a moment the issues of Nolte's faulty historical and manipulative interpretations, Nolte's statements are, in effect, a condescending, maddening word-game on seemingly intellectual and historical matters without an ounce of human compassion, mercy or seeking of justice, and with a constant refrain of incitement and honor to Nazi genocidal violence. Throughout, his style is to say yes, there was a Holocaust, and then, immediately, to rush off to celebration/respect of revisionists, citations of their absurd work -- e.g., the pseudo-mathematics of how the gas chambers couldn't handle the number of people they were supposed to and, of course, reframing Nazi actions intrinsically as grand efforts to contribute to European and world history.
Lewis and Nolte, separately, illustrate the demagogic, cruel use of intellectual camouflage to escape from the horror and tragedy of mass murders. The logic and linguistics of their camouflaged attacks on the victims' nationalities and human decency need to be analyzed and understood in our battle against denials of the Holocaust and genocide. Neither are 'innocent,' in my opinion, but both make pretenses of being innocent in order to do their dirty work.
UTILIZING A CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK OF TWO CONTINUA FOR LOCATING THE STRUCTURE OF DIFFERENT DENIALS
In an effort to make more sense out of any given case incident of denial, I have recently published a way of classifying each denial as to its position along two continua (Charny, 1997b, 2000). The intention is to analyze the communication strategy and message, and by implication the motivations of the denier. Thus, to what extent is the denier apparently genuinely unaware or skeptical about the facts of the genocide? To what extent is the denier conveying, if not explicitly then through innuendo and meta-message, a celebration of the deaths of the victims of the genocide and approval and incitement of renewed violences? Or is the denier involved in trying to set up a comfortable position to gain lucrative grants from sources which favor denials? Or perhaps the denier is essentially truly committed to an extreme position of free speech and belief, that all opinions must be heard, and feels duty-bound to defend the rights of deniers to state their positions in the press, media, on university campuses, or in journals and books? There is indeed a bewildering range of forms and dynamics of denial.
The first continuum is a Continuum of Malevolence of Denial of Known Genocides: 'Innocent Denial' to Malevolence. This continuum refers to the extent to which the denier is manifestly and consciously aware of the facts of the genocide that he is denying or whether, to the best of our judgment following his writings and public expressions as well as evidence known to us from named objective sources, the writer is engaging in more 'innocent denial,' for example, a sincere belief that, to the denier's knowledge, such and such people could never be such inhuman monster killers as the story of the given genocide implies.
The second continuum is a Continuum of Celebration of Violence and Denials of Known Genocides: 'Moral Innocence' and Disavowals of Violence to Celebration of Violence. Here the question is to what extent does the denier of the genocide, manifestly or by undisguised innuendo and implication, celebrate the violence that was done to the victim people, and/or incite further violence to the same or to other victims in the world, or justify the violence that was done in the name of whatever cause or the vested rights of legitimate authority.
Each denier can be charted along each of the two continua, and the combination of the two is then taken as a profile of that particular agent of denial.
The four extreme categories that are generated by the intersection of the two continua are as follows:
Type 1 is the sloppy, virulent denier. Type 2 is the denier who clearly violates the rules of evidence in history, but at the same time claims he wouldn't want to harm a soul violently. Types 3 and 4 engage "innocently" in their denials of history -- as described earlier, not really distorting known facts, just creating a situation where one can't see the historical reality of genocide as it was. At the same time, Type 3 lets it out that they are accepting, if not more openly celebrating, the violence that took place; while Type 4 goes all the way in disavowing the violence, and opposing violence, while still messing up 'innocently' the facts of the genocide.
All but Type 4 contain distinct elements of identification with, justification and celebration of genocide. Nonetheless, Types 2 and 3 are somewhat confusing because, in the ratings given, there is an acknowledgment of at least some aspect of conscious 'innocence'; in Type 2, the denier is apparently genuine in standing against violence; in Type 3 the denier is apparently genuinely unknowing of the facts of the genocide. At the same time, in both these types, the judgment is also that the denier is purposely out either to censor and conceal known facts of history (Type 2), or is culpable for 'accepting' or even celebrating the genocidal violence (Type 3), so that the accompanying aspect of 'innocence' in each case is already contaminated by an identifiably ugly and vitriolic type of denial.
For some time I considered British historian, David Irving a strong example of Type 2, because to the best of my knowledge, he had not celebrated openly the Nazi murders which he also grudgingly acknowledged. There was no question that Irving was a 'malevolent denier' of the Holocaust (Jacobs, 1999). Irving denied key elements in the history of the Holocaust -- such as in his bizarre claims that there were no gas chambers in Auschwitz until after the war when they were built by the Poles in order to smirch the Nazis; that the wretched trains to the camps were well-equipped with food for the travelers; and that Auschwitz was not a death camp. But if we add to Irving's bizarre concoctions about the Holocaust period his adulation of Hitler and the Nazis, and then also his active participation in events sponsored by rabid neo-Nazi deniers who certainly celebrate the Holocaust, a strong question could be raised as to whether or not Irving too was playing with implied celebrations of the murders of the Jews.
In early 2000, a world-famous trial took place in London of David Irving suing Professor Deborah Lipstadt for identifying him as a dangerous denier of the Holocaust. Numerous news reports in major newspapers and the media summarized Irving's career, including the history of some of his fine work as well as the pattern of his adamant and bizarre denials (see, for example, Guttenplan, 2000). Because Irving had also done some meritorious work as an historian, there were many -- in my experience a great many -- who were very fearful that the outcome of the trial might strengthen or even legitimate denials of the Holocaust in the future. In fact, the trial concluded with a resounding judgment against Irving who was characterized by the presiding judge as an antisemite and a methodical liar who warped and misrepresented facts in favor of his implicit political agenda of honor to the Nazis. Hopefully the welcome trial result will provide an important barrier and warning to other academic deniers of genocides.
Insofar as Irving's insidious remarks about Jews have increasingly taken on further airs of open antisemitism and a kind of implied glee about destruction of Jews, I believe today that he should be characterized in Type 1. Thus, Irving has spoken of the future demise of the State of Israel as a result of the discrediting of the "legend" of the gas chambers in Auschwitz (to no small extent thanks to Irving's stellar contributions to the invalidation of the mythology, of course). I believe it is not wrong to begin seeing in such a remark, and in its language symbolization of death to Israel, a movement towards implied celebration of violence to Jews.
It is Type 4 that is the ultimate puzzler. For here we place those deniers whom we believe to be truthful and not consciously prejudicial and genocide-mongering. Yet the damage they do is no less, and sometimes even greater, than open-and-shut fascists and apologists for genocide. Thus, it is especially painful to look at a brilliant academic like Noam Chomsky and to evaluate the meanings of his assistance to arch revisionist of the Holocaust, Robert Faurisson, for whose book Chomsky wrote a preface (Chomsky, 1980; for extensive discussions of this cause celebre, see two major works on denial of the Holocaust by Lipstadt, 1993, and Vidal-Naquet, 1992). The explanation and defense given by Chomsky, who as a youth enjoyed a strong Jewish educational experience, is that he believes in anyone's unlimited right to say whatever he wishes to say. Chomsky himself does not deny the Holocaust as Faurisson does, and I personally can't for the life of me believe that he intends to support denial of the facts of the Holocaust as such. Yet by supporting Faurisson, Chomsky supports denial, and I therefore qualify him under 'innocent denial.' Note that 'innocent' does not mean harmless. I dread the impact of Chomsky's behavior and believe it is intellectually corrupt and socially dangerous. But it is different than say Faurisson's full-blown denial. Faurisson on his part clearly qualifies under the Type 1 category of Malevolent Denial and Celebration of Violence.
When it comes to the types of denials represented by Bernard Lewis and Ernst Nolte, it can be hard to know whether or not to attribute to such people simple demagogy (Type 1), or whether they are really drawn into believing the positions they adopt for whatever unconscious reasons (Type 4). For many Jews, Nolte might be cast more readily into Type 1 as an 'obvious' reactionary, yet it will be inconceivable to them that widely-respected, Jewish professor Lewis can be committing anything but an honest error. At this point I list Lewis and Nolte in both the categories of 'Innocent Denial' & 'Moral Innocence'-Disavowal of Violence (Type 4) and in the category of Malevolent Denial and Celebration of Violence (Type 1) with question marks in both places, although I will note that I personally believe both should qualify in Type 1. Only further analysis, over time, will give us a clearer perspective as to where to place these men, and others like them, based on their further statements to the public record, and based on our success in investigating more about the nature of their motivations.
Again, note that even when qualified as 'Innocent Denial,' there is no implication at all that these kinds of denial are less dangerous or less deserving of serious moral criticism and professional censure. Even if the process of denial is unconscious, we have every reason to understand that the denier in his inner being knows the facts of the genocide; and even if the statements of the denier are full of homilies of moral sincerity, there can be no acceptance of rationalizations or recontextualizing of the horrors of mass murders of human beings. The manipulative process through which such 'innocent deniers' bring about mitigation of the significance of a case of genocide and decontextualization of its reality, thus making the genocide itself as if not real enough for us to be sure that it occurred, is a dangerous sophisticated new form of revisionism. Thus, in Chomsky's case, by placing the emphasis on allowing and honoring free speech and the right to controversy by even the most extreme revisionists, the suffering and deaths of the victims are not mourned and in effect fade into insignificance while the rights of virulent antisemites and deniers of the Holocaust are being defended, and such behavior even by a great academic is insufferable.
As I have written elsewhere (Charny, 2000, p. 35):
Obsessive Obfuscation and Denials in the Service of Nationalistic Hubris
Not only is there much more to say about scholars who become so involved in the pedantics of definitions of genocide and obsessive concern with details to a point where the very facts that are being analyzed are lost; but we also need to look at inadvertent denials of a given genocide which take place whenever representatives of a given people, however well meaning, are so involved in claiming the uniqueness and specialness and the 'true nature of the genocide' of their people, and in the process make odious and invidious comparisons to the genocides of other peoples, that the result is a diminution of the significance of the genocide of the other people that, in effect, constitutes a degree of denial of that genocide.
In the first case of excessive involvement with definitions, the involvement is with micro-aspects of information, and the experience of moral sensitivity to the tragedy and infamy of killing of masses of people is lost. While not intending to deny the genocide, these scholars, in my opinion, become functionally equivalent to deniers, for they knock out the experience of and the moral sensitivity to the terrible crime and tragedy that has taken place.
In the second case of insistence on the incomparable uniqueness of a given genocide, the understandable desire to memorialize and to emphasize -- often correctly -- the unique aspects of a given (usually one's own) people's genocide can lead to a process of minimizing and even devaluing the genocide of another people, especially when the claims of uniqueness are taken so far as to exclude another case of mass murder entirely from the very category of genocide See a proposed classification of denials of genocide (Charny, 1994b, 1997a, in press). The latest revised classification includes a category devoted to involvement with claims of uniqueness of one's own people's genocide to a point which excludes other people's genocides from qualifying as a similar evil and tragedy; and also includes a category of denial based on laudable sensitivity to a broad spectrum of genocidal events to many different people, but which paradoxically is accompanied by unduly reduced sensitivity to a given event such as the Holocaust.
TWO CASES OF DENIAL OF THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE IN ISRAEL
There is a long history of the State of Israel's complicity in denial of the Armenian Genocide for purposes of Israel's political connections with the State of Turkey, but in 1994, for a variety of historical reasons, a documentary of the Armenian Genocide was shown for the first time on Israel television (which in past years had canceled films at the last minute), and the Deputy Foreign Minister, Yossi Beilin, acknowledged in remarks to the Israeli Knesset the validity of the Armenian Genocide. Indeed, these events were spurred by a ludicrous and shameful appearance by the Turkish Ambassador to Israel on TV in which he so clumsily and insultingly lambasted any recognition by Israelis of the historical events of the Armenian Genocide that in effect he spurred a counteraction by those who would protect the democratic foundations of free speech in Israel.
It is not clear whether the above changing public climate also contributed to another constructive process around the same time when the Ministry of Education initiated a new project to create teaching materials at the high school level about the Armenian Genocide and about the fate of the Gypsies in the Holocaust, thus for the first time supplementing the traditional curriculum of instruction about the Holocaust with informations about two other peoples, and in an explicit context encouraging sensitivity to the suffering of all other peoples. This welcome initiative was entrusted to a team headed by Yair Auron of the Seminar Hakibbutzim State Teachers College in Tel Aviv (see Auron, 1999 for an excellent study of the responses of the Jewish community in the Ottoman-held Holy Land at the time of the Armenian Genocide).
From the outset, the project did not go without a violent protest. The Director of Yad Vashem, Israel's memorial authority for the Holocaust, called it a sacrilege, and an editorial in the Jerusalem Post -- which at that time had been taken over by a 'right-wing' ownership and editorial board -- also attacked the curriculum severely. Nonetheless the program continued, and Auron was authorized to undertake a pilot project to train a small group of teachers who would introduce the new curriculum into their classrooms beginning in the academic year of 1995. However, when the Committee on Instruction of History of the Ministry of Education met in January, 1995, it made the surprising decision that the syllabus was unacceptable and would be shelved (Israel, State of, Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport, 1995). Ostensibly, the curriculum was rejected because of serious defects in the pedagogic quality of the materials. However, not only were the author and his team not given the opportunity to make any corrections (which in my opinion could be easily achieved), but a reading of the committee report shows that it was basically inspired by revisionist thinking. What the Chair of the Committee, Professor M. Abitboul, wrote in the official report is that recent scholarship raised doubts about the historical authenticity of the basic documentation proving the Armenian Genocide, including doubts about the authenticity of the Talaat telegrams, the postwar Turkish court-martial of the heads of state responsible for the genocide, let alone the biased nature of Morgenthau's reports. This is Abitboul's text in the official report of the Committee (my translation from the Hebrew):
Abitboul clearly utilized, and in my judgment was virtually reprinting, known revisionist texts that none of the basic documents of the Armenian Genocide are in any way valid, they are all contrived forgeries and/or the mouthings of prejudiced parties who have an axe to grind like the Jewish Ambassador, Morgenthau!
As if this were not enough, Abitboul then went sloppily off to a new extreme of charlatanism by citing the name of Professor Vahakn Dadrian, a scholar who has done much of the outstanding research proving the authenticity of the various documents of the Armenian Genocide, as if Dadrian were a legitimate citation for scholarly work that gives reason for questioning the authenticity of the Armenian Genocide (see, for example, two major works by Dadrian, 1995, 1996)! If Abitboul knew nothing of Dadrian's record but was citing material that had been fed him by revisionist sources, which is entirely possible, then he too qualifies for 'innocent denial,' albeit of the ugly sort that nourishes on irresponsible and unprofessional critical use of materials from sources known to be engaged in revisionism. If the flagrant deception is by Abitboul himself, or his agreement to use denial sources was for reasons of personal prejudice or personal gain, then we have an instance of the seeming use of unknowing or 'innocent denial' for manipulative and exploitative purposes. Obviously, we cannot hire detectives to track the dynamics of every specific case of denial, and at this point it is sufficient to categorize this horrible example of disinformation in the overall category of 'innocent denial' in the sense that Abitboul explicitly set out to disqualify the evidential and factual basis of key documents which define the history of the Armenian Genocide.
At about the same time as a public furor was mounting about the above cancellation of the new curriculum, the Jerusalem Post also saw fit to run an explicitly revisionist article on its pages by one, Yitzhak Kerem. According to the editor of the Jerusalem Post with whom I spoke, Kerem identified himself as an historian with an affiliation to a Greek university as well as to the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Inquiries to the academic secretariat at Hebrew University were answered that no such man was employed by the university. Indeed, I had first run into Kerem as part of a three-man group, headed by a well-known vitriolic spokesman of Turkish denial, at the Remembering the Future Conference on the Holocaust in Berlin in April, 1994, where the three busied themselves going from session to session in a systematic way to promote denials of the Armenian Genocide, even in sessions which had nothing to do with the subject given that the conference overall was devoted to the Holocaust (see report of the conference in Internet on the Holocaust and Genocide, April 1994).
Abitboul and Kerem join with Irving, Lewis, Nolte and others in illustrating the fact that the styles of denials of genocide are becoming infinitely more complex, sophisticated, disarming and dangerous, for denials have shifted to a new extent to a battle over the academic establishment and in a sense over the epistemological process itself.
By complex decontextualization of historical events (-- there always were genocides so why get excited about a given one); by insidious questioning of established facts (-- we must wait for the research to give us further insights as to whether or not a genocidal event took place); by outright lies about references and sources; by contrived appeals to fairness and listening to the 'two sides' of academic 'controversy'; a new generation of revisionists is making new efforts to steal the truth and hold it captive from the eyes and decency of the human community.
Denials of the Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust challenge all of us who seek to preserve not only the historical record, but also a sense of tragedy and moral outrage over these events. It is my judgment that only as we become more capable of analyzing the dynamics of any given denial will we be in a position to create better strategies for counterattacking and fighting the denials and the deniers. Taner Akçam, a Turkish scholar who is affiliated with a research institute in Hamburg, who has stated the importance of understanding the dynamics of perpetrators is one of the rare but growing number of Turkish scholars who acknowledge the Armenian Genocide: "If you want 'to understand' and analyse collectively committed cruelty, and you wish to prevent the repetition of such events, then you will not find a solution if you direct your attention primarily to the group of 'victims.' Attention must be directed to the 'perpetrators' in order to uncover a series of 'conscious or unconscious' mechanisms which underlie their actions, for it is the activation of these mechanisms that makes these people 'perpetrators'" (Akçam, 1995, p. 353). The same can be said of the importance of our understanding deniers of known genocides, who are, for all practical purposes, accomplices of genocide even after the fact of the murders.
On a metaphoric level, denial is a virus which has many different forms, and which changes its forms. It is especially important to note that the different strategies of denial can be mixed with one another. We must fight denials because the denial of genocide is a crucial symbolic and ideological process which not only follows every genocide after it has taken place, but is a process which is intended to desensitize and make possible the emergence of new forms of genocidal violence to peoples in the future (see Charny, 1992a, 1999).
We must create new means for fighting denials and deniers in academia, in the mainstream of public education, as well as in the mainstreams of the media. I have expressed the hope that we can establish a Commission to Combat Denials of the Holocaust, the Armenian Genocide and All Known Genocides. I envision such a Commission as consisting of representatives from a variety of academic disciplines, and also including applied specialists in public opinion polling, media professionals, advertising executives, and indeed popular folk-culture heroes and political leaders, and also ecumenical religious leaders, all brought together to develop a broad-based approach to insisting on the integrity and rationality of the historical truths of the major genocides that civilization is obligated to remember in humility and repentance.
Most of all, we need to link the battles against denials to civilization's obligation to recommit itself to the cardinal principle, "Thou Shalt Not Kill," for that is the real issue underlying denials of genocide.
1. Presented originally as an Invited Address to Conference in New York, April 1995, on "Genocide and Holocaust: Armenian and Jewish Perspectives" sponsored by the Israel Colloquium and the Krikor and Clara Zohrab Information Center of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of Armenia.
An earlier version of this paper was published in French: Charny, Israel W. (1997b). L'intolérable perversion des universitaires négateurs du génocide Arménien ou de l'Holocauste. Revue du monde Arménien moderne et contemporaine, 3, 123-141.
A later version of this paper was presented to the conference, "Remembering for the Future III" in Oxford, UK, July 2000.
Selected portions of the original French paper have been published in English in Charny, Israel W. (2000). 'Innocent denials' of known genocides: A further contribution to a psychology of denial of genocide (revisionism). Human Rights Review, 1 (3), 15-39. These sections, especially the Tables, are not being repeated in the text of the present paper. [back]
2. Editor-in-Chief, Encyclopedia of Genocide; Executive Director, Institute on the Holocaust and Genocide; & Professor of Psychology & Family Therapy, and Founder and Former Director, Program for Advanced Studies in Integrative Psychotherapy, Dept. of Psychology & Martin Buber Center, Hebrew University of Jerusalem.[back]
3. National Conference on Genocide and Human Rights, Seventy Years After the Genocide: Lessons from the Armenian Experience. National Association for Armenian Studies and Research, Bentley College, Waltham, MA., 1985.[back]
4. It seems appropriate in this context also to refer to the fact that I wrote Professor Lewis to ask him to defend his claims that he had adopted the position of denying the genocide of the Armenians in the light of and in response to new historical evidence. As noted earlier, the reader will find in Appendix 2 to this article a copy of a letter sent to Professor Lewis on December 27, 1994 asking him to produce the references to that research evidence. Lewis had written of his right to a change of professional heart and mind to the 17th Court at the Palace of Justice in Paris in October, 1994 in preparation for his trial on criminal charges which were brought by the French Armenian community (technically the plaintiffs were a number of survivors of the genocide). Writing about the fact that in the 1960's he had explicitly referred to "the terrible holocaust" of the Armenians, he insisted that like any other professional, such as physicians, he had the right to change his mind based on new research evidence. While acquitted of the criminal charges because French law only pertained to crimes against humanity since WW II, this Court clearly characterized Lewis as a denier; and then in the Spring of 1995, Lewis was convicted by another French court in civil proceedings based on his denials (Internet on the Holocaust and Genocide, April 1995). Although Lewis' secretary acknowledged the letter and added she was sure he would respond on return from a trip, no reply was ever received to this or to a later follow-up letter. (For a discerning and detailed review of the Lewis conviction, see Adalian, 1997. The same author may also be consulted for his earlier helpful typology of deniers [Adalian, 1992]). [back]
5. From the transcript of the court proceedings in the Irving case, in the affidavit of Jonathan Gary Mozzochi, Research Director of the Coalition for Human Dignity in Seattle, Washingto: Mozzochi is reporting on a talk given by Irving in Seattle on 19 November 1995 to the Northwest Historical Society which was organized by a preeminent antisemite, on the occasion of which the Sheriff reported "pro-Hitler and pro-Third Reich" publications were on display. This is what Irving said: "Isn't it odd that if there were gas chambers in Auschwitz…there's no scientific trace whatsoever of any cyanide compound in the walls of gas chambers?…There's not a single German document referring to gas chambers or gassings dated before the end of World War II…The crime in World War II wasn't genocide, which, to my mind is another Jewish legend...If the gas chamber legend collapses, as it will finally within the next three months…then I think there will be a very large swing around of taxpayer opinion in the United States and Germany [on subsidies to Israel]…the state of Israel will probably be dead and gone within the next 10 years."[back]
6. Yair Auron is in the process of introducing a major course on genocide at the Open University of Israel, whose main branch is in Ramat Aviv, Tel Aviv. The Open University's tradition is to pioneer very high-level textbooks in connection with each major course, and a first textbook in Hebrew on comparative genocide is currently being readied by Auron.[back]
7. There was a great deal of public protest of the Ministry's decision in the press and public meetings. The Institute on the Holocaust and Genocide in Jerusalem which I direct was consulting with attorneys to prepare a suit against the Ministry of Education and Professor Abitboul. However, when the tragic assassination of Prime Minister Rabin took place in 1995, it seemed that the mood of the country did not allow for further public debate of what then became a secondary issue; and then with the change of government officials that followed, it also did not make sense to sue officials of the Ministry of Education who were no longer in their posts.[back]