Mark Arax likes to write about conflict among Jews. Last year he published a piece in which he blended a tendentious and distorted view of Fresno’s Jewish community (Victor Davis Hanson and Bruce Thornton called it a ‘caricature’) with what can only be called harassment of a family bereaved by the war in Iraq.
Now he’s written an article which apparently discusses the ‘split’ in the Jewish community over a congressional resolution to recognize the Armenian Genocide. I say ‘apparently’ because he’s embroiled in a controversy with the Times, which does not wish to run the article. But never mind — is there a ‘split’ in the Jewish community over this issue?
Jewish voices opposed to the genocide resolution are a small minority. The resolution’s author, Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), is Jewish. Many synagogues and Jewish organizations have expressed support for it, despite lobbying by the Turkish government, which has even hired a lobbyist to work with the Jewish community:
“How can we, the people decimated by the Holocaust, stand on the sidelines?” asked Rabbi Harold Schulweis [of the huge Valley Beth Shalom congregation in Encino]. “Perhaps if the world had stood up against the first genocide of the 20th century against the Armenians, the Holocaust might have been prevented…
In 2004, Schulweis channeled his demand for action against world genocides by founding Jewish World Watch, focusing first on the ongoing massacres in Darfur. This year, the nonprofit was organized well enough to expand its reach, sponsoring a joint commemoration of “the 92nd anniversary of the Armenian Genocide” at Shulweis’ [synagogue]…
Schiff noted that his resolution, now under consideration by the House Foreign Affairs Committee… is co-sponsored by 21 out of 30 Jewish representatives and by eight out of 13 Jewish senators in a companion resolution. He acknowledged that he is under considerable pressure by the Bush administration and by former fellow legislators now working for the Turkish lobby, which Schiff described as “one of the most powerful” in Washington.
But a few Jewish groups have opposed the resolution:
[Rep. Schiff] admonished the American Jewish Committee (AJ Committee), B’nai B’rith International, the Anti-Defamation League and Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), which had jointly transmitted to House leaders a letter from the organized Jewish Community of Turkey.
In the letter, addressed to the AJCommittee, the Turkish Jewish leaders expressed their concern that the Schiff resolution “has the clear possibility of potentially endangering the interests of the United States” by straining Turkey’s relations with Washington and Israel.
JINSA supported the letter’s view, while the Jewish Telegraphic Agency quoted ADL National Director Abraham Foxman as stating that “I don’t think congressional action will reconcile the issue. The resolution takes a position, it comes to a judgment.” — Tom Tugend, Jewish Journal
Why would they hold this view, opposed to that of most other Jewish Americans?
These groups received the letter in question from a delegation of Turkish Jews who visited the US at the time of the AIPAC convention and ‘voluntarily’ asked Jewish leaders to pass on their concern that the passage of the resolution would not be good for Turkish Jews.
Do you think these Jews, led by Turkish Jewish community president Silvyo Ovadya, decided to take this step by themselves? Were they perhaps encouraged to do so by the Turkish government? What would be the likely reaction of the Turkish government if they returned home with no results?
As I wrote on May 3, it’s likely that the US Jewish organizations above, by passing on the letter as requested, protected Turkish Jews from possible reprisals. Especially since the new ‘moderate’ Islamist regime has come to power in Turkey, the position of Turkish Jews has been uncomfortable.
Much of the buzz around this incident seems to be an attempt to exaggerate the importance of it — and to suggest that Jews oppose the resolution because of their support for Israel. But the state of Israel has no interest in a resolution about Turkey passed by the US Congress, which is unlikely to have any effect whatever on Israel. And the ‘strategic’ relationship between Israel and Turkey is not so great lately either.
So why should Arax and others want to drive a wedge between American Jews and Armenians? Because the real target is Israel and her supporters.
Arax is a subtle guy. He lets others do his talking. Let me present a snippet from his “Not so Civil War” article. When you read this excerpt — in which Arax quotes two good friends of mine, incidentally — ask yourself “what does Mark Arax think about the relationship between Israel and our war in Iraq?
The Iraq war, [Barry Price] said, had put temple lefties in a bind, raising questions they weren’t keen to address. Was the decision to topple Saddam Hussein motivated in part by America’s devotion to Israel? Was it relevant that several of the neoconservatives who pushed hardest for war inside the Bush-Cheney administration—top defense aides Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas J. Feith and consultant Richard Perle—were Jews who had worked for years to marry the security concerns of the U.S. and Israel? Feith, for one, had been honored by the Zionist Organization of America for his contributions as a “pro-Israel activist.”
“It was the one topic that people were most afraid to touch,” Price said. “The progressives in the temple had ceded the field to the vocal Jews on the right. We were cowed into silence.”
Sitting in his office in his khakis and tennis shoes, brow furrowed and head cocked, [Stuart] Weil now wondered if I might be betraying some prejudice for even raising the idea that a love of Israel had motivated the Jewish war hawks in the White House. “Is that how your liberal friends talk when you’re together?” he asked, eyes narrowing. He rejected the notion as a new version of the old canard that Jews operated with dual loyalties. The term “neoconservative” had become a liberal code word for “Zionist,” he believed. If the neoconservatives got us into war, the translation read: “The Jews did it.”
I think that Weil had it nailed, and I think that Arax is trying to make a very similar point this time, that Jews are ‘split’ because some of them prefer supporting Israel over opposing genocide. This is, though, an entirely false dichotomy. American Jews — even strong supporters of Israel — overwhelmingly identify with the Armenians in their struggle to force Turkey to accept the historical truth of the Genocide. Israel did not cause the US to invade Iraq, and Israel is not using US Jews to help the Turks hide their crimes.
I don’t think his first article made Arax a lot of friends in Fresno’s Jewish community. Maybe Doug Frantz, the LA Times’ Managing Editor, saved him from losing whatever few he has left by pulling his latest one.