Magazine article History Today

The Politics of Genocide

Magazine article History Today

The Politics of Genocide

Article excerpt

IN TURKEY NOVELIST ORHAN PAMUK stands trial for 'insulting Turkishness' by daring to remind the world of the Armenian and Kurdish massacres of the twentieth century--and a host of international celebrities spring to his side. In Austria former historian David Irving waits in prison for his trial on the charge of being a Holocaust denier, facing a possible twenty-year sentence--and among the ragbag of voices raised on his behalf is, perhaps surprisingly, his nemesis in the 2000 High Court libel battle, Deborah Lipstadt.

By bringing the libel case against Penguin Books, Irving bought himself the most thorough-going investigation of his views and methods that any historian has ever been subjected to, and he can hardly claim to be misrepresented as a result; and Lipstadt now argues that a further trial would only make him a martyr, and that oblivion, not martyrdom, is the right fate for him.

If any doubted that the historiography of genocide has enormous political potency, the speech in December by Iranian president Ahmadinejad would have disabused them. Implying, Irving-style, that the Holocaust was a myth, he pursued the logic to argue that Israel, if it should exist at all, should be in Germany or Austria, or perhaps in North America (he seems to favour Alaska). …

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