|Arabs, Turks, & The Language Of Cultural Genocide|
by Gerald A. Honigman
The week of May 21st proved to be quite eventful regarding the subject of the sinister use of language. Let me explain…
Even with Arabs continuously murdering each other by the tens of thousands in the region, the attempt by many--both in and out of the so-called "Arab" world--to redirect the focus of scrutiny onto the Jews remains ever vigilant. The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement and Apartheid Israel Week especially come to mind. But, for a good portion of the last century (not to mention the earlier atrocities), literally millions of native, non-Arab peoples fell victim to Arabs the same way fellow Arabs are now doing today. The fear that some fifteen million native, pre-Arab/non-Arab Egyptian Copts now feel over what bodes for the future of their country is shared by many others as well.
Besides the sword, there are other methods used to insure victory to the cause, and both Arabs and those who succeeded them as Muslim rulers in the neighborhood became ardent proponents of such tactics. While it's hard to find any human society which is blame-free, certainly some examples stand out more than others…or, at least should.
It is thus beyond ironic that the society which, at least in the Middle East and its environs, has tried the most to make fair accommodations with its national competitors and enemies is the one which is constantly the most criticized.
I am speaking about Israel, of course. No doubt, there are also things there that could be improved upon regarding relations with the one-fifth of the country which is Arab. The same could also be said regarding relations between the various Jewish communities and others as well.
But, in the greater perspective (which is too often ignored by Israel's numerous duplicitous critics), Arabic is the second national language of the land, and Arabs who side with Fatah and Hamas (both which aim and/or openly call for Israel's destruction) serve in Israel's Parliament, teach in its schools, freely protest against "nasty Zionists" on campuses and elsewhere, intimidate their Jewish neighbors, etc. and so forth. And when there are alleged problems, Arabs take Israel to court and frequently win their cases.
To any truly objective observer, there is simply no comparison between what an Arab can expect living in Israel and what a non-Arab usually experiences living in an Arab country. That Israeli Arabs are having a fit fearing that they may fall under Arab rule instead of Israel's in any future land swap also speaks volumes.
It is no mere accident that the Foreword to my book on the quest for justice in the region ( http://q4j-middle-east.com) is written by a Kurd, and some of the major jacket comments are written by an Amazigh ("Berber") publisher. Together, these two gentlemen alone represent about eighty million non-Arab people in the region (which Arabs routinely refer to as "purely Arab patrimony") who have had their cultures and languages periodically outlawed by their Arab and other Islamic conquerors--notably Turks. And this does not include scores of millions of other subjugated, non-Arab peoples living nearby as well. That brings me back to the two news articles mentioned above…
Let's start out with the story in The New York Times by Jodi Rudoren on May 22nd,
It seems that Hamas has decided that the Arabs of Gaza should once again learn Hebrew and will, after a long hiatus, begin offering it as an elective in its schools. Here's the reasoning…
“Through the Hebrew language we can understand the structure of the Israeli society, the way they think,” explained Mahmoud Matar, director general of the Hamas-run Ministry of Education here.
“The Arabic language is a basic thing for the Israelis, and they use it to achieve what they want,” Dr. Matar added. “We look at Israel as an enemy. We teach our students the language of the enemy.”
Hey--whatever the reasons, on the balance sheet, I see this as a good thing.
Sure, some will probably use their new knowledge of Hebrew to carry out Hamas' overtly genocidal agenda towards their Jewish neighbors. More Israeli soldiers may wind up being kidnapped, other Jews will become even more vulnerable and victimized, etc., etc., etc.
But, the more Arabs learn about those nasty Zionists, the more at least some of them may indulge in some serious soul-searching.
While the Muslim Brotherhood clone Hamasniks have an Islamist agenda, who knows what unexpected consequences may yet result in the process of expanding some minds? There are Arabs right now who started out as Israel's sworn enemies who can now be counted among its friends.
Contrast the above story, again, to that regarding how Arabs have routinely dealt with their own enemies--and not only Jews…Kurds, Berbers, Copts, native Jews (one half in Israel who were Jewish refugees from "Arab"/Muslim lands and many other such Jewish refugees who now live elsewhere), Assyrians, native Semitic but pre-Arab Lebanese, black Africans in the Sudan, and so forth.
Frequently, as part of the forced Arabization process, the conquered native peoples' own languages and cultures were declared illegal--to the point where parents were/are even forced to name their own children with approved Arab names. Do not bother, however, to search for such information in your typical college text, in the typical college classroom, written by your typical allegedly objective expert.
While these disturbing facts are well-documented elsewhere, more often than not if the alleged sins were/are not Israel's, they have not been worthy of inclusion for debate, discussion , or inclusion on academic syllabi--and not by accident, either. There is no doubt that too often one set of lenses has been used to judge and study the sole, minuscule, and yes--imperfect--Jewish State, and quite a different set--if any at all--used to study the rest of the neighborhood in which it lives.
As a card-carrying member of the London-based Anti-Slavery Society decades ago, I knew quite well what Arabs were doing in black Africa--and not only in the Sudan, where millions of blacks were being murdered, raped, maimed, enslaved, turned into refugees, and so forth…without a peep out of the mouths of the same scholars who never missed a chance to dissect and take Israel to task.
Moving on to the second Article…
On May 26th, there was an interesting op-ed written by Mustafa Akyol in the Turkish publication, Hurriyet, "Kurdish As Official Language For Turkey" http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/kurdish-as-official-language-for-turkey.aspx?pageID=238&nID=21635&NewsCatID=411
On an official visit to Finland, Mr. Akyol discovered that even though Swedish-speakers account for a mere 7 % of the population, Finland has made Swedish the second official language of the nation. Follow him…
This, inevitably, reminded me of the debates around the status of Turkey’s Kurdish citizens, which make up some 15 percent (actually, at least 20%--there are 15 to 18 million Kurds in Turkey) of the population. For decades, our paranoid state, whose fear of “division” overshadowed its already-fragile commitments to human rights, had banned the use of the Kurdish language. There were times that Kurdish-speakers on the street were fined and harassed, and Kurdish-language songs were criminalized as “separatist propaganda.”
Indeed, the stench of the hypocrisy of the Turks on such matters is as at least as bad as that of the Arabs.
Turkey has the same mix of Turks to Kurds in a Turkey geographically almost forty times the size of Israel as there are Jews to Arabs in the latter. Turkey's total population is about ten times that of Israel.
Israel is surrounded by Arab and non-Arab enemies sworn to its total demise. The Turks have no such existential enemies, and besides Turkey, there are another half dozen Asiatic Turkic states in existence.
Despite this, while the Jews and Israel have respected the culture and language of the very folks who want them dead and repeatedly act on those wishes, the Turks have engaged in cultural genocide against the one fifth of their own nation's population who are Kurds (and others as well). Notice, please, that I'm only focusing upon the cultural and linguistic aspects of this genocide. Unfortunately, history adds another more bloody dimension to this story as well…and not only involving Kurds.
Let's check out a few more excerpts from Mr. Akyol. While speaking of some progress in recent years, he then went on to say…
However, none of these moves are enough, at least for the millions of Kurds who are proud of their language and want to see it even more established.
So, here is my heretical idea: Why does not the Turkish government take a bold step and consider making Kurdish a second official language for Turkey? Why don’t we use Kurdish in official documents and street signs, restaurant menus and TV channels, and courthouses and Parliament sessions?
I call this a heretical idea for I am sure that many Turkish nationalists – the bulk of Turkish society – will find it disturbing and dangerous. And their reaction will come from not only an emotional distaste for anything other than Turkish, but also a fear that more Kurdishness will divide Turkey and pave the way for an independent Kurdistan in the southeast.
But I think that this fear is based on a totally mistaken notion: that a more Kurdish-friendly Turkey will end up being torn into two. The truth, I believe, is quite the opposite: Turkey will be saved from ethnic partition only when it becomes more Kurdish-friendly.
This is the case, because, besides the totalitarian ambitions of the PKK (the outlawed and terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party), the real Kurdish political aspiration in Turkey is to have a homeland. The Turkish Republic as we know it has never been this homeland, for it always suppressed Kurdish identity. So, either the Kurds will keep on hoping (and fighting) for a Kurdistan in the southeast, or the rest of Turkey will become a bit Kurdistan-like.
Turkish nationalists, in other words, need to understand that they can’t have their cake and eat it too. They can’t keep Turkey fully Turkish and intact at the same time. They need to make a decision, and they had better make it soon.
It is very refreshing to hear a Turk speaking such language. I've been writing and spouting such stuff for over four decades now, as have some (but not enough) others as well. Too often, even leading specialists on Turkey in academia barely mentioned or wrote of the plight of the Kurdish people--and, again, this was no accident.
For far too long, too much of the world, for one reason or another, the hypocrisy practiced by Ankara regarding Israel and the Arabs in contrast to its own dealings with native Kurds who pre-date them in the land by millennia and whom they renamed "Mountain Turks" has been given a free pass.
It is time for this to end because it's also long overdue that the same standards of morality routinely used to critique Israel also be applied to Arabs, Turks, Iranians, and others whose sins in the region in reality dwarf those of the Jews.