Turks threaten Jews, Israel, over Armenian Genocide resolution

Turkish FM Ali BabacanIt’s hard to understand this as anything other than a threat:

The passage of a resolution in the US Congress supporting Armenian claims of genocide at the hands of the late Ottoman Empire will irreparably damage the image of the United States and make the Jewish population a target of criticism in Turkey, Foreign Minister and Chief EU Negotiator Ali Babacan has said…

An influential US Jewish group, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), recently reversed its longtime position and declared killings of Armenians in eastern Anatolia during the World War I years to be genocide. The ADL says it [still] remains opposed to the Congress [sic] resolution because history should be left to historians and not politicians…

Babacan said if the resolution is passed in Congress, the Jewish population will inevitably be the target of public anger in Turkey. He said Turkish officials have told the ADL and other US Jewish groups in recent talks that the widespread perception in Turkey would be that “Armenian and Jewish lobbies unite forces against Turks.” He said: “We have told them that we cannot explain it to the public in Turkey if a road accident happens. We have told them that we cannot keep the Jewish people out of this.” — Today’s Zaman [Turkish English-language newspaper] [my emphasis]

The ADL had originally refused to say that genocide had taken place. But many Jews believe strongly that the Armenian Genocide is a matter of historical fact, and that it is morally unacceptable for Jews, of all people, to deny it. The ADL, under pressure from Jews, Armenians, and even its own employees, finally did backtrack to some extent, although its statement was far from unequivocal.

It seemed to me at the time that the ADL — although its position on the Genocide was wrong — was motivated by fear of the consequences for Turkish Jews.

Now the Turkish Foreign Minister has hinted that the Jews would suffer if the resolution is passed, and he suggests that the Turkish government would be powerless to prevent an antisemitic reaction by the Turkish public in that case!

This is complicated also by the pressure that Turkey is expected to apply via Israel:

Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan is scheduled to arrive in Israel on Sunday following a brief visit to Damascus. High on his agenda in Jerusalem will be Israel’s air strike on Syria last month and the American Jewish community’s stand on whether the World War I killing of Armenians constituted genocide…

Turkish media reports have said Babacan is expected to play a mediating role between Syria and Israel. If so, he has his work cut out for him, as A-Baath, the official newspaper of President Bashar Assad’s government, warned Saturday that Syria would not hesitate to start a war with Israel to restore its control over the Golan Heights…

Alongside Syria, Babacan is expected to talk with his Israeli interlocutors about legislation that will come before the US House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday that would declare the World War I era killings of Armenians a genocide. — Jerusalem Post

I presume that Babacan intends to explain to the Israelis how Israeli interests will suffer as a result of the behavior of the ADL, which the Turks — who understand nothing about Jews, the US, or democracy — incorrectly believe to be an agent of the Israeli government.

The ADL will not make another about-face. American Jews massively support the genocide resolution and will not change their position. I would like to believe that the Turks will not behave as antisemitic bullies.

Update [10 Oct 2153 PDT]: The House Foreign Relations Committee has voted to approve the resolution. If it is passed by the full House, it is expected to cause serious strains in the relationship between the US and Turkey.

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