The Assembly of Turkish American Associations (ATAA) is deeply saddened by the passing of Professor Bernard Lewis, British-American historian and preeminent scholar of the Middle East, Islam, Turkey and the Ottoman Empire. Professor Lewis died in New Jersey on Saturday at the age of 101.
Professor Lewis was best known for his position on the Armenian issue. In April 2002, at the National Press Club, Professor Lewis stated:
“This is a question of definition and nowadays the word “genocide” is used very loosely even in cases where no bloodshed is involved at all and I can understand the annoyance of those who feel refused. But in this particular case, the point that was being made was that the massacre of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire was the same as what happened to Jews in Nazi Germany and that is a downright falsehood. What happened to the Armenians was the result of a massive Armenian armed rebellion against the Turks, which began even before war broke out, and continued on a larger scale.
But to make this a parallel with the holocaust in Germany, you would have to assume the Jews of Germany had been engaged in an armed rebellion against the German state, collaborating with the allies against Germany. That in the deportation order the cities of Hamburg and Berlin were exempted, persons in the employment of state were exempted, and the deportation only applied to the Jews of Germany proper, so that when they got to Poland they were welcomed and sheltered by the Polish Jews. This seems to me a rather absurd parallel.”
Professor Lewis received his Ph.D. from the University of London (1939), then served in the British army and was attached later to a department of the Foreign Office. He was professor of history of the Near and Middle East at the School of Oriental and African Studies in the University of London (1949-1974). Subsequently, he was appointed professor in the Cleveland E. Dodge Chair of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University and a long-term member of the Institute for Advanced Study. He retired from Princeton and the IAS in 1986. His studies have been translated into more than 25 languages. Most deal with Islamic history, chiefly Arab and Turkish, although he also translated poetry from Hebrew, Arabic, Turkish, and Persian into English and served as editor of the second edition of the Encyclopedia of Islam. Among his numerous books are The Arabs in History (1950); The Emergence of Modern Turkey (1961); The Muslim Discovery of Europe (1982); The Jews of Islam (1984); Semites and Anti-Semites (1986); The Political Language of Islam (1988); Islam and the West (1993); Cultures in Conflict: Christians, Muslims and Jews in the Age of Discovery (1995); The Multiple Identities of the Middle East (1998); Music from a Distant Drum (2001); What Went Wrong: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response (2002); The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror (2003); and From Babel to Dragomans: Interpreting the Middle East (2004).
Professor Lewis is survived by two children, seven grandchildren and three great-grandsons.
ATAA remembers Professor Lewis with affection, and offers its deepest condolences to the Lewis Family and the community of scholars and experts on the history of Turkey.
Photo Credit: Princeton University