Reps. Sherman Pallone Protest Turkish Chair Plans at UCLA

Editor’s Note: California Congressman and UCLA alumni Brad Sherman was joined on the House floor Saturday by Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) in speaking out against the Turkish government’s bid to manipulate scholarship on the Armenian Genocide and Ottoman history by providing a $1,000,000 endowment for the establishment of a Turkish History Chair at the University of California–Los Angeles. The texts of their statemen’s follow. The Congressional Record November 7–1997 Statement by Rep. Brad Sherman Mr. Speaker–I rise today to focus on a generous gift to my alma mater–but looking at the history of Troy–I have learned that sometimes one must look a gift horse in the mouth.

The Government of Turkey has offered over $1 million to fund a chair at my alma mater–UCLA–in the study of Ottoman and Turkish history. While the generosity of such an offer should be noted–I note the concern in the academic community and concern among those of us concerned with international relations for the academic integrity and historical accuracy of the academic work that will be done by the occupant of this chair.

Our concern for history is based on history. The Turkish Government has endowed other chairs at other American universities–and the occupants of those chairs have sought not to report and analyze history–but to rewrite it and cover it up.

Mr. Speaker–as a Jewish American–I am very concerned with those who would want to cover up the history of genocide–or claim that the Holocaust against the Jewish people did not occur or did not occur on a massive scale. But as an American and as a citizen of the world–I am equally concerned about attempts to cover up and deny other genocides.

I am certainly concerned that the occupant of this chair at UCLA may feel or may be pushed toward trying to deny the great massacres at Smyrna–or the genocide of the Armenian people that occurred in the first two or three decades of this century.

Those of us concerned with history must remember that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it–and those of us concerned with avoiding genocide must remember–never forget and never again. Indeed–the history of the Ottoman Empire and the Republic of Turkey are two subjects of academic study. But that study should be unbiased and uninfluenced.

I would suggest that UCLA look at a number of academics who have studied the history of Anatolia–the history of the Caucasus–who have established their academic freedom and their academic independence. For example–Marjorie Housepian Dolkin or Speros Vrionis would make excellent occupants of this new chair in Turkish and Ottoman history–and their academic independence would be beyond question. Whoever occupies any chair looking at the modern history of Turkey should look not only at the promise of this nation–but also some of its misdeeds as well.

Last week–I had a chance to talk to Kathyrn Cameron Porter and to talk also with several others who–along with her–are fasting to protest the Turkish Government’s imprisonment of Leyla Zana–a duly elected member of the Turkish Parliament who has been arrested for addressing a committee of this House of Representatives.

As an American–I am offended that someone would be imprisoned for giving us their views. And as a graduate of UCLA–I want to make sure that any review of modern Turkish history is complete and full and focuses on some of the human rights abuses–including the imprisonment of Ms. Zana.

I look forward to UCLA expanding upon its reputation as one of America’s and one of the world’s great universities and look forward to UCLA doing so by looking at all aspects of Turkish history and the history of the Ottoman Empire. Statement by Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) Mr. Speaker–I wanted to just talk briefly about a few other issues. First of all–I should say that my colleague from California [Mr. Sherman]–touched on two issues that I wanted to mention briefly also this evening. He mentioned that the University of California at Los Angeles–UCLA–is establishing a Turkish Studies Chair–funded I may add–by the Government of Turkey. I wanted to join the gentleman in expressing my serious concern about this unfortunate use of a major prestigious university as a vehicle of indoctrination by another country.

In my home State of New Jersey–we had a similar situation where Princeton University set up a study program that was financed by the Government of Turkey. As a result–the information that was coming out of the study program essentially denied the Armenian genocide. There has been a history with the Ottoman Empire and the Republic of Turkey to basically deny that the Armenian genocide ever occurred.

My concern–and I know that of Mr. Sherman as well–is that by establishing these chairs or these Turkish study programs in different parts of the country–in my case at Princeton–in his case at UCLA–the Turkish Government is using these study programs to basically deny history and deny the facts of the Armenian genocide. In fact–it is really a brazen opportunity–if you will–a brazen attempt by a foreign government–to manipulate an American university for the denial of the historically verified genocide of the Armenian Nation.

The Turkish Government is not setting up scholarships. These are propaganda and propaganda alone. It would be like a German Government that had not acknowledged the Holocaust funding a Nazi studies program at an American university. Of course–the difference is that Germany at least accepts responsibility and apologizes for the Holocaust of the Jewish people. The Turkish Government–still defying the historical record–denies that the Armenian genocide ever happened.

I just wanted to join this evening with the Armenian community in the United States in appealing to the officials at UCLA–in the same way that I did at Princeton University about a year ago–and ask the board of regents to stop the effort of filling the heads of young Americans with revisionist propaganda in the name of so-called scholarship.

This is something that we have seen happen more and more where the Turkish Government has been financing these study programs or chairs at various American universities in order to basically deny the Armenian genocide.

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