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Freelance journalist based in Istanbul. Keeping an eye on Turkish politics and development.
This is the last episode of a series of podcasts on how nations address portions of their history, which is in sum very recommendable. They discuss symbolic gestures, apologies, the need for education. All difficult questions. But one question stands out.
How do you put a price on historical injustice?
In this episode of The Foreign Desk, Andrew Mueller focusses on two events: the context of slavery in the United States, and the Holocaust.
The case for reparations in the USA has three faces: slavery, the period of legal segregation and the ongoing effects of white supremacy (including police killings and mass incarceration even today.)
Would the country have been different if reparation had occurred right after the Civil War in 1865?
It is indeed an interesting thought that could be translated to many other countries and different reconciliation processes. I can think of the case of Spain and its pact of oblivion. If things had been done different back in 1975, nothing would be the same.
But nations often miss the opportunity to attain closure. And while in the case of the US the direct victims of slavery might not be alive today, there are still ongoing injustices that are affecting black Americans today.
In 1952, Western Germany and Israel agreed on an amount of money as reparation. The decision was very unpopular on both sides, and protests in Israel against German compensation escalated into riots. Today, the relationship between the two nations is reasonably good. Part of that success is the payment, but also the fact that Germany does not criticize Israel's policies, despite having a very clear opinion on the occupation and the settlements. Which might in itself be controversial.
How then should reparations take place? Is it about money, an apology, or what else? Reconciliation is a process, and part of the process is taking time for examining the depth of the injury.