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France brings Armenian genocide bill one step closer to law

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In fact, there are actual reasons why Turkey might see fit to remain calm, as Juppe urges. This law really isn’t about Turkey. It’s French politics.

Turkish leaders take the genocide law as a matter of national dishonor and high principles, and point to French slaughters in Algeria, and speak of rights, including of independent thought, that France champions. It is highly emotional.

Yet in France the new genocide law is seen with considerable cynicism, and with little emotion or much regard. It comes just ahead of national elections this spring. Along with its slightly craven appeal to the hundreds of thousands of French-Armenian voters, for whom the issue has always been a defining one, the law also gives President Sarkozy a way to remind conservatives that he’s against a Muslim country joining Europe.

Mr. Sarkozy has a problem with a poll-surging Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Front, who accuses him of overseeing an “Islamization” of France.

The bill is "not entirely free of ulterior electoral motives considering that there is a 500,000-strong French Armenian community in France," as the French daily Liberation put it.

French politicos have portrayed their new legal concoction as part of a long, historic fight against a “poisonous denial” by the human race of various mass murders.

Yet as the Monitor noted in December, the only time France sees fit to raise this universal value is right ahead of its own elections: In 2001, it was just before elections that France recognized the Armenian genocide. In 2006, just before elections, French politicians nearly passed a five-year jail term for denying the genocide. Now, with the 2012 vote around the corner – voila! – a new law to jail Armenian deniers has taken shape.

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