Archive for the ‘Jews and Armenian Genocide’ Category

“How many times can they recall their ambassador?”

Monday, December 26th, 2011
Illustration from antisemitic site blaming Jews for the Armenian Genocide

Illustration from antisemitic site blaming Jews for the Armenian Genocide

I’ve written numerous articles over the past few years about Jews, Israel and the Armenian Genocide. The subject is current yet again, as the Knesset is discussing whether or not Israel should officially recognize it.

My position has always been that the Genocide is a historical fact and should be recognized as such. The US has never done so — during the cold war, Turkey was considered an integral part of the anti-Soviet alliance, and it is still considered by the Obama Administration too important an ally to irritate unnecessarily, despite agitation by Armenians in the US (and to no small extent in Fresno, which is one of the centers of Armenian population in the US).

The US State Department has been happy to suggest that the failure to pass bills calling for recognition has been the fault of the “Israel Lobby.” Last year a local Armenian activist published an op-ed in the Fresno Bee pushing this theory. The article went so far as to say that “the Jewish lobby was complicit” in genocide denial, and since “denial is the last stage of genocide,” in genocide itself.

The Middle East is a complicated place, and there are not just two sides. Iran, Turkey and Egypt all see themselves as replacing the US as the major power in the region. Turkey has aspirations to expand its influence as a Sunni Islamist power, which have put it in conflict with Iran, Hizballah and the Assad regime in Syria. The US may be fooling itself in thinking that Turkey is an ally in this respect. Insofar as it is acting in concert with the US, it is doing so for its own motives. Although Turkey would try to punish the US in some fashion, I doubt there would be any major change in policy if Congress finally passed a bill recognizing the Genocide.

In Israel there are still those who think that the relationship with Turkey can be repaired, although it seems evident that AKP Islamist ideology is moving in the opposite direction. One real concern is for the small Jewish community in Turkey. At the time of one of the previous debates in the US, the Turkish Ambassador suggested that antisemitism in Turkey might get out of control if Israel did not prevent Congress from passing the bill! In addition to the repulsiveness of holding this small mostly elderly community hostage, this plays into the stupid and offensive notion that the “Jewish lobby” has the power to control the US Congress — something that my Armenian activist friend apparently agrees with.

Interestingly, it’s mostly been the Left in both the US and Israel that has called for recognition. Perhaps I’m cynical, but this may change now that Turkey has moved farther on the road to Islamism and hostility to Israel and the US.

Those that take every opportunity to attack Israel find this issue congenial. If Israel does not recognize the Genocide, it’s because of ugly political expediency. If it does, then it’s only to punish the Turks for exposing Israel’s ‘mistreatment’ of the saintly Palestinian Arabs. A particularly offensive position commonly attributed to Jews is that recognition of the Armenian Genocide would diminish the importance of the Jewish Holocaust.

Kenneth Segal, a former rabbi of the local Reform Temple in Fresno once made an effort at rapprochement with the Armenian community and even got a resolution passed at the Reform movement’s biennial convention in 1989. Segal was unsparing in criticizing the state of Israel, as was the Armenian pastor he invited to speak at his temple. Apparently it was not considered possible to recognize that a crime was committed by Turks in 1915 without bashing Israel.

I think that its time for both Israel and the US to put the issue to rest and admit that it is appropriate to use the word ‘genocide’ to describe the policy that brought about the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians in 1915.

As one member of the Knesset, Ori Orbach, said, “How many times can they recall their ambassador?”

Update [27 Dec 1405]: The Knesset Education Committee decided to end its session without a vote, apparently fearful of Turkish reaction. Very unfortunate.

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Find another scapegoat

Monday, April 25th, 2011

Over the years, I’ve written about the moral necessity to recognize the Armenian Genocide, in those words, without euphemisms.

I’ve maintained my position despite the prevalence of antisemitism in Armenia (read a 2005 report here) as well as a disturbing strain of it found among some Armenian Americans (see this discussion, by an Armenian). One of the common themes in antisemitic revisionist history is that Jews somehow instigated or took part in the actual genocide alongside the Turks. And it is common currency on antisemitic and anti-Zionist websites that Jews and Israel are behind the US government’s failure to recognize the genocide (see for example the slimy Stephen Walt).

Last December Marshall Moushigian, a local Armenian activist, wrote an op-ed in the Fresno Bee entitled “Israel’s role in Armenian Genocide” in which he claimed that AIPAC was responsible for the defeat of several congressional resolutions to recognize the genocide. He went as far as to say that

Israel has, for decades, colluded with Turkey in the final stage of the Armenian genocide — denial that it ever happened.

and quoted the offensive remark of an antisemitic State Department employee that

[Jews] don’t particularly want to share the genocide label with other groups.

I responded that the great majority of Jews and Jewish organizations in the US, with a few exceptions, do call for recognition of the genocide, that those who did not (the ADL in particular) were responding to multiple forms of pressure, including threats against Turkish Jews. It was also to the advantage of the State Department to blame Israel for its own cynical amorality, and they are happy to do that.

Moushigian, following Walt, also called attention to the recent cooling of relations between Israel and Turkey, and suggested that AIPAC and Jewish groups might not oppose similar resolutions in the future. For my part, I thought that the State Department might change its tune as a result of Turkey’s recent alignment with the anti-American Iranian bloc.

Well guess what? Our courageous president blew it again, and neither side is happy:

Obama issued the annual statement on Armenian Remembrance Day on Saturday, honoring the “horrific events” that took the lives of 1.5 million Armenians in 1915 — but declining to label it as “genocide” …

“The statement distorts the historical facts.” said the Turkish foreign ministry. “Therefore, we find it very problematic and deeply regret it … One-sided statements that interpret controversial historical events by a selective sense of justice prevent understanding of the truth” …

In the meantime, the chairman of the Armenian National Committee of America, Ken Hachikian, criticized Obama for a “disgraceful capitulation to Turkey’s threats” and failing to acknowledge what many historians describe as genocide.

“His complicity in Turkey’s denials, and his administration’s active opposition to congressional recognition of the Armenian Genocide represent the very opposite of the principled and honest change he promised to bring to our country’s response to this crime,” Hachikian said.

With Turkish PM Erdoğan and the terrorist IHH planning yet another Turkish flotilla to Gaza (delayed only because of upcoming elections in Turkey), I think it’s safe to say that AIPAC, ‘The Lobby’, Israel or Jews in general had absolutely nothing to do with the administration’s failure once again to recognize the genocide.

It’s also an indication of their lack of understanding of today’s geopolitical realities that the administration seems to think it is still productive to appease Turkish genocide denial. Caroline Glick wrote (April 15),

This week it was reported that NATO member Turkey is opening something akin to a Taliban diplomatic mission in Ankara. Turkey supports Hamas and Hizbullah. It has begun training the Syrian military. It supports Iran’s nuclear weapons program. It has become the Iranian regime’s economic lifeline by allowing the mullahs to use Turkish markets to bypass the UN sanctions regime.

In less than 10 years, the AKP regime has dismantled Turkey’s strategic alliance with Israel. It has inculcated the formerly tolerant if not pro- Israel Turkish public with virulent anti-Semitism. It is this systematic indoctrination to Jew-hatred that has emboldened Turkish leaders to announce publicly that they support going to war against Israel.

As a Zionist, I have consistently called for recognition of the Armenian Genocide, and did not change my position as a result of Turkey’s hostile policies toward Israel. To those Armenians like Marshall Moushigian who choose to blame the Jews, I say: find another scapegoat.

Note: The Fresno Bee link to Marshall Moushigian’s original article is not available. My link is to a local copy of it.

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Armenian activist bashes Israel

Monday, December 6th, 2010

This weekend Armenian activist Marshall Moushigian wrote an op-ed in our local newspaper, the Fresno Bee, which the paper thoughtfully headlined “Israel’s role in Armenian genocide.”

It contained numerous gratuitous attacks on Israel, quoted with approval the vicious remark of former State Department official Arma Jane Karaer that Jews “don’t particularly want to share the genocide label with other groups,” accused Israel and her supporters of “active participation in the final stage of genocide,” and compared Israel with “neo-Nazis.”

Nothing special these days, but his main point was a story that Israel shot down a Congressional resolution to recognize the genocide. He wrote,

The most blatant example of Israel’s meddling occurred in 2000 when the Armenian Genocide Resolution was set for a House vote. Armenians had been anxiously awaiting this vote, 85 years after the killings began, and former House Speaker Dennis Hastert had promised to bring it to a vote. Passage, and the beginning stages of justice, was certain.

But in a surprise, last-minute move, Hastert withdrew the resolution from the docket, and many suspected Israel’s involvement. The Washington Post confirmed that suspicion in June 2010 when it reported a sequence of panicked events that flowed from Ankara directly to AIPAC in Washington, which immediately contacted President Clinton, who personally requested Hastert remove the resolution.

I believe the story was this one, in the Washington Times (not Post), which explains that

The Turks called up Keith Weissman, a senior researcher from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and asked him to intervene.

Mr. Weissman said in an interview this week that AIPAC lit up the phones and managed at the last minute — with the help of the State Department — to persuade President Clinton himself to write a letter to Mr. Hastert saying a vote on the resolution would cause strategic damage to U.S. interests.

The last-minute push worked. Mr. Hastert removed the resolution from the floor, and the full Congress has yet to take up the matter to this day.

Hmm, “with the help of the State Department.”

Could it be that the fact that State — and Defense — seriously wanted the resolution squashed had more than a little to do with the outcome?

Could it be that the notoriously Arabist State Department would be quite happy to put the blame for an unpopular decision on Israel? A twofer: help out the Turks and screw Israel in one blow!

Could it be that the notoriously self-important Weissman and AIPAC would be happy to take the ‘credit’?

As an aside, AIPAC has done a lot for the ‘Israel Lobby’ theorists by bragging about its supposed ability to ‘get things done’ in Washington. In fact, compared to the Saudi lobby, it is not all that effective.

Most American Jews want to see the Armenian genocide recognized, especially in Fresno where they have many Armenian friends, and where, in years past, it was common to hear eyewitness testimony.

In 1989 the rabbi of Fresno’s Temple Beth Israel pushed through a resolution at the national body of the Reform movement to support official US recognition of the genocide.

I’ve written numerous posts over the years arguing that the only moral position, given historical evidence, is to demand recognition of the genocide.

Moushigian’s ugly screed will not make him friends in the Jewish community, and will not advance his goal of getting a resolution passed in Congress. Jewish congressman Adam Schiff (D., Burbank CA) will be reintroducing his genocide recognition bill, which failed in 2008, in the next Congress.

Possibly the State Department will be sufficiently alarmed by Turkey’s new alignment with the Iranian bloc to support it this time.

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contains numerous gratuitous attacks on Israel, mostly unsupported by facts. He quotes with approval the vicious remark of a former State Department official that Jews “don’t want to share the genocide label with other groups,” he accuses Israel and her supporters of “active participation in the final stage of genocide,” and makes a comparison with neo-Nazis.

Israel blamed for US Armenian genocide resolution

Saturday, March 6th, 2010

News item:

Jewish lobbyists contrived a U.S. congressional vote that labeled the World War One-era massacre of Armenians by Turkish forces as genocide, a London-based Arabic-language newspaper claimed on Saturday.

Pro-Israel lobbyists had previously backed Turkey on the issue but changed tack in retaliation for Turkish condemnation of Israel’s policies in the Gaza Strip, the Al-Quds Al-Arabi daily said in an editorial, according to Israel Radio reports…

In his leading article, Al-Quds Al-Arabi editor Abd al-Bari Atwan urged Erdogan not to give in to the Jewish lobby’s “extortion” tactics.

You may remember that back in 2007 a similar resolution escaped the Foreign Relations Committee, although it did not survive to become law due to pressure from the Bush Administration. At that time, Turkey threatened to cool relations with Israel, and even hinted that it might not be able to protect Turkish Jews against antisemitic reactions if the resolution passed.

In what can only be called an antisemitic failure to understand the relationship between Israel, American Jews and the US government, the Turks seemed to think that Israel could order American Jews and Jewish organizations to apply irresistible pressure against the resolution — because, as everyone knows, US Jews take orders from Jerusalem and control their government!

When the ADL, which had originally opposed the resolution, more or less reversed its position as a result of an outcry that it was unthinkable for a Jewish group to be on the wrong side of this kind of issue, the outraged Turkish government complained to Israel.

Now the Armenian Genocide resolution has reared its head yet again, but diplomatic sources in Israel claim that this time the Turks have not turned to Israel for help. It’s not surprising; the ‘special relationship’ between Israel and Turkey is badly strained these days.

Turkish PM Erdoğan seems to have decided that Turkey’s future lies elsewhere than the Western bloc. His Islamist AKP party has pushed it closer to Iran and Syria and away from the US and Israel. He’s bashed Israel unmercifully over alleged ‘crimes’ in Gaza, and even walked out of a panel with Israeli President Shimon Peres in Davos, Switzerland, in simulated dudgeon.

In 2007, Israel  and its supporters were sharply attacked by Armenian and liberal groups for their coolness to the genocide resolution. Then, Israel was threatened by Turkey when Jewish groups didn’t ‘follow orders’ to oppose it. Finally, in 2010 when Israel stayed out of the fray — after taking massive abuse from the Turkish PM — it’s criticized for conspiring to ‘contrive’ the issue!

It would probably be best for Israel and Jews to simply take the moral point of view and go on record as recognizing the genocide. Probably neither the Turkish nor the Armenian side — not to mention Al-Quds Al-Arabi — can be expected to join the pro-Israel camp no matter what Israel does.

I’ve written quite a number of posts on this subject over the years, which you can find here.

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Yes, the Armenians were victims of genocide

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

Recently I’ve received some comments critical of my posts about the Armenian Genocide (there have been quite a few; you can search here). I have asserted that the events of 1915-17 do constitute genocide, and that Turkey should admit that a predecessor regime, the Ottoman Empire, is guilty thereof.

Start with the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (CPPCG) definition of ‘genocide’:

any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life, calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [and] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Did the Ottoman Turks do this to the Armenians in 1915-17?

Note that the following things are entirely irrelevant to this question:

  • If the Armenians living in the Ottoman empire were hostile to the Turks
  • If the Armenians collaborated with the Russians during WWI
  • If the Armenians were or are racist or antisemitic
  • If the Turks were or are friendly to Jews or Israel
  • Whether the Holocaust was ‘worse’ than what happened to the Armenians
  • If the Armenians ever committed massacres of their own
  • Whether partisans of either side are associated with right- or left-wing causes
  • Whether Hitler ever said “who remembers the Armenians?” (probably not)

We know — and most of those who disagree with calling the massacres ‘genocide’ agree — that hundreds of thousands died (estimates range from 300,000 to 1.5 million — Wikipedia). The question is, were they killed “with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such?”

This has two parts: was it aimed specifically at Armenians, as such (as opposed to, e.g., as revolutionaries),  and was there intent.

One way to determine if it was directed at Armenians qua Armenians is to ask if the victims included a great number of Armenians who were not in any sense combatants — e.g., children, old men, most women. And this was indeed the case, because entire Armenian populations were marched by foot over great distances, during which they died of hunger and disease, as well as deliberate murder. This is quite different from a non-genocidal massacre of political or war prisoners, for example.

There is a huge amount of similar eyewitness testimony to these events; to call it all “propaganda” is unreasonable.

What about intent? Clearly the meaning is the ‘intent’ of people who were in control of or made use of the mechanisms of the regime. So it could be argued that anti-Jewish pogroms in Czarist Russia were not actually genocidal, even though the regime was antisemitic, insofar as pogroms were initiated by local Jew-haters and not part of a coordinated policy promulgated by the regime.

In the case of the Armenians, laws calling for deportation and/or confiscation of property (for example, the Tehcir Law of 1915) were put into place and enforced by Turkish soldiers and police. The population displacement is thus seen to be a deliberate act of the regime, and not either local actions or a result of the disorder associated with war.

Even if the minimal estimate of Armenian deaths is accepted, it is still a substantial proportion of the population. It’s clear that Armenians were singled out because they were Armenians, and that the Armenians died as a direct result of orders and policies of the Ottoman regime and in particular the “Three Pashas“.

Therefore I conclude that the legal sense of the word ‘genocide’ is correctly applied in speaking of the Armenian Genocide.

Whether Jews ought to support Armenian political goals is another question, as is the appropriate attitude toward Turkey, whose new Islamist government is a reason for concern.

Note: like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it’s almost impossible to find historical material on the Armenian Genocide which is acceptable to both sides. I tried to base my argument only on generally agreed-upon historical facts.

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No Jew in his right mind…

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009


An official with a leading American Jewish organization told the The Jerusalem Post on Monday that a deterioration in Israel-Turkey relations might prompt his group and others to reconsider Armenian efforts to win recognition of the century-old Turkish massacres as genocide.

A bill that would ensure such recognition by the US, which was backed by Rep. Adam Schiff — a Jewish Democrat who represents a heavily Armenian area of Los Angeles – failed to make it to a Congressional vote in 2007. However, it sparked a row in the American Jewish community between those who sided with Turkey in an effort to protect Israel’s political interests, and those who argued that Jews were particularly responsible for helping other groups block the public denial of genocide.

“No Jew or Israeli in his right mind will insult Turkey,” the official told the Post. “But next time… they might not come to Turkey’s aid or equivocate quite so much on the issue.” — Jerusalem Post (my emphasis)

I have no idea who the un-named ‘official’ is, but his point of view is repugnant.

Does it even need to be said that it is everyone’s moral duty — not just Jews — to ensure that victims of genocide are remembered, so that present and future genocides can be stopped?

To suggest that recognition of historical events should be granted or withheld for political reasons is cynical; if the event in question is a genocide, it’s obscene.

I’ve written about this at least ten times, but it won’t go away. For example,

The Turkish government has its reasons for not admitting that the Young Turks, and later the Turkish Nationalists, murdered about a million and a half Armenians during and after World War I. The Israeli government also has its reasons for not wanting to irritate the Turks. Even the US [Bush] administration seems to feel that Turkey is too strategically important to annoy by using the word ‘genocide’ to describe the events. But the truth is the truth.

When I first came to Fresno in 1971, you could meet people in the supermarket who had been adult eyewitnesses to the murders, rapes, torture, dislocation, disease and  starvation that characterized the Armenian Genocide. Now it’s not so easy, even harder than finding Holocaust survivors.

Survivors sometimes feel that denial is the final stage of extermination. First the physical forms of the victims were destroyed, and then their memories are erased. Most Jews are familiar with the rage that comes over them when confronted with Holocaust denial. But — at least in the West, if not in Iran or the Arab world — deniers are marginal. After all, the present government of Germany has officially accepted responsibility for the Holocaust.

One can imagine how Armenians feel — actually, you don’t need to imagine, they will tell you — when, almost 100 years after the fact, the Turkish government still insists — against the huge preponderance of historical evidence — that while something happened to the Armenians, it wasn’t genocide, the Turks were not responsible, and it might even have been the Armenians’ fault. (“A little irony for the Turks“, 8/2008)

So let’s leave aside the facts that antisemitism in Turkey has reached new heights and Turkey’s Islamist government supports Hamas.

The reason for recognizing the Armenian Genocide is that it happened.

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From the folks that gave us the Armenian Genocide

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

News item:

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday reiterated his harsh criticism against Israel Operation Cast Lead aimed at restoring calm to the South of Israel.

Speaking to the Turkish Parliament in Ankara in a session that was carried by local television, Erdogan said his words were “less harsh than the white phosphorous shells used by the Israeli army.” [The IDF categorically denies using WP ammunition — ed.]

“Whoever does not express resentment over the killing of civilians, including women and children, loses his self respect,” Erdogan was quoted by Israel Radio as saying.

Erdogan said his criticism did not stem from anti-Semitism and emphasized that in the past he had termed anti-Semitism a crime against humanity.

But he then continued to say that “media outlets supported by Jews are disseminating false reports on what happens in Gaza, finding unfounded excuses to justify targeting of schools, mosques and hospitals.” [Watch IDF video here of weapons found in a mosque yesterday — ed.]

No antisemitism, just a problem with the Jewish media. I see.

But the situation is more worrisome than just a certain crudeness of expression on the part of Erdogan. It appears that Turkey has joined Iran as a country for which antisemitism has become a matter of policy.

Here is the text of an email received by our contributor Barry Rubin from a reliable correspondent in Turkey:

The Prime Minister in Turkey has encouraged hatred against Israel in his speeches which has become obvious anti-Semitic propaganda among the general public.

There are people around the clock besieging the Israeli consulate in Istanbul shouting their hatred against Israel and Jewish people. All around Istanbul billboards are full of propaganda posters against Israel like; “Moses, even this is not written in your book” and “Israel Stop this Crime.” On the streets the people are writing such graffiti as:  “Kill Jews,” “Kill Israel,” “Israel should no longer exist in the Middle East,” and “Stop Israeli Massacre.”

The week-end before, some people wrote, “We will kill you” on the door of one of the biggest synagogues in Izmir resulted in the closing down of synagogues. Near Istanbul University, a group put a huge poster on the door of a shop owned by a Jew: “Do not buy from here, since this shop is owned by a Jew.” A group put posters on his wall saying that: “Jews and Armenians are not allowed but dogs are allowed.”  Some young people are even threatening others with violence if they are seen as pro-Israel in social networking websites such as Facebook and Hi5.

The document attached is the official statement by the minister of education stating that tomorrow [January 14] at 11am in all the high schools and primary schools the students will pay homage to the women and children dead during the war and furthermore, the teachers of art will organize the session of painting and writing on the subject: “Humanity Drama in Palestine” and the winners will receive awards.

The Jewish community can do nothing in response to what has been going on for the last few weeks, except giving vague statements that the Turkish Jewish Community does not want the war to be continued any more.

We have previously faced some strong reaction regarding previous operations in Gaza and the West Bank but this time is really different from former ones. I feel open anti-Semitism and hatred from all these people. Nobody understood, even some widely read columnists in Turkey are writing things that lead all these groups toward this hatred becoming much more dangerous day by day.

But I know one thing: that the world should know about the widespread and openly anti-Semitic propaganda which far exceeds anything happening in Europe.

Keep in mind that what’s happening in Europe isn’t chopped liver, either. Erdogan has been described as a ‘moderate Islamist’, which is apparently an oxymoron.

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An little irony for the Turks

Thursday, August 7th, 2008

Ha’aretz reports:

Israel has officially protested against the planned visit of Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Turkey next week.

Israel’s ambassador to Turkey, Gabi Levy, presented the protest to officials in Ankara, and the Turkish ambassador to Israel was summoned to Jerusalem.

“Israel is disappointed that Turkey has invited for an official visit a leader who denies publicly the Holocaust, and thus grants him legitimacy,” was the message given to the Turkish ambassador to relay to his government.

Will the Turks will see the irony in being asked to shun a Holocaust denier, when they themselves officially deny that their predecessors committed genocide against the Armenians?

Israel and American Jews have been caught between a rock and a hard place in regard to the Armenian Genocide. I’ve written a number of posts on the subject.

The Turkish government has its reasons for not admitting that the Young Turks, and later the Turkish Nationalists, murdered about a million and a half Armenians during and after World War I. The Israeli government also has its reasons for not wanting to irritate the Turks. Even the US administration seems to feel that Turkey is too strategically important to annoy by using the word ‘genocide’ to describe the events. But the truth is the truth.

When I first came to Fresno in 1971, you could meet people in the supermarket who had been adult eyewitnesses to the murders, rapes, torture, dislocation, disease and  starvation that characterized the Armenian Genocide. Now it’s not so easy, even harder than finding Holocaust survivors.

Survivors sometimes feel that denial is the final stage of extermination. First the physical forms of the victims were destroyed, and then their memories are erased. Most Jews are familiar with the rage that comes over them when confronted with Holocaust denial. But — at least in the West, if not in Iran or the Arab world — deniers are marginal. After all, the present government of Germany has officially accepted responsibility for the Holocaust.

One can imagine how Armenians feel — actually, you don’t need to imagine, they will tell you — when, almost 100 years after the fact, the Turkish government still insists — against the huge preponderance of historical evidence — that while something happened to the Armenians, it wasn’t genocide, the Turks were not responsible, and it might even have been the Armenians’ fault.

Turkey wants to join the EU. It would only be fair to ask them to follow the example of Germany.

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Antisemitism plays well

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

I knew this was going to happen.

The Jews are now in trouble with both the Turks and the Armenians: the Turks because we are blamed for the genocide resolution’s Oct. 10 approval by the House Foreign Relations Committee, and the Armenians because several Jewish organizations opposed it.

It looks now as though the resolution will not pass the full House, thanks to Turkish threats to complicate the situation in Iraq. Does this mean that the Turks will like us? Fat chance. Antisemitism always plays well when a government wants to change the subject.

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Turks threaten Jews, Israel, over Armenian Genocide resolution

Saturday, October 6th, 2007

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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An open letter to the Turkish Ambassador to Israel

Monday, August 27th, 2007

Ambassador Namik TanDear Mr. Ambassador,

You have asked Israel to “…’deliver’ American Jewish organizations and ensure that the US Congress does not pass a resolution characterizing as genocide the massacre of Armenians during World War I”.

Israeli officials tried to explain to you that Israel did not control American Jewish organizations such as the ADL, whose chairman recently issued a statement that (at least obliquely) recognized the Armenian Genocide committed by your Ottoman predecessors.

But you refused to accept this, saying “On some issues there is no such thing as ‘Israel cannot deliver'”.

Possibly you think that there is an international Zionist conspiracy which takes orders from Jerusalem, and it’s just a question of Israel issuing them. Coming from a country where journalists are jailed for ‘insulting Turkishness’, you expect orders to be obeyed.

Well, Mr. Ambassador, I have news for you.

The government of Israel (sometimes to its sorrow) does not control Jewish organizations, either right-wing or left-wing, in America, Israel, or anywhere else. Abe Foxman cannot be arrested for ‘insulting Jewishness’.

Your attempt to hold Turkish-Israeli relations hostage in order to force Jews to take a position that is contrary to their conscience is reprehensible, and in any event doomed. Jews will be Jews, they will not take orders, and they have very strong feelings about genocide denial.

My expectation is that the pressure will backfire, and Jews will close ranks and support the congressional resolution — even those who had previously stood aside for ‘practical’ reasons.

Update [28 Aug 1027 PDT]: The ADL has rehired Andrew Tarsy as New England regional director. Tarsy had been fired last week for opposing the (then) national organization’s position on the Armenian Genocide. See what I mean?

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Turks to ADL: ‘It ain’t over’

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007

Apparently even the carefully calibrated statement made yesterday by the ADL, which stopped short of saying “the Ottomans committed genocide”, was too much for the Turks:

The Turkish ambassador is set to end his vacation two weeks early to return to Israel and register Turkey’s concerns about the Anti-Defamation League’s statement that Turkish actions toward the Armenians from 1915-1918 were “tantamount to genocide,” The Jerusalem Post has learned.

The decision to send Namik Tan back on Thursday came at a high-level meeting at the Turkish Foreign Ministry in Ankara on Wednesday. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is also expected to call Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in the coming days to discuss the matter.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a statement calling the ADL statement “unfortunate,” and said Turkey expected that the statement would “be corrected.”Jerusalem Post [my emphasis]

What exactly does Erdogan have to say to Olmert about this? Or, more precisely, what will he threaten to do if Olmert can’t get Abraham Foxman of the ADL to take back his statement?

The thuggish Turks are also irritated that Foxman implied that a lack of Jewish support for the Turkish position might endanger the Turkish Jewish community:

“The Turkish Jewish community is part and parcel of our society, and there is no reason for them to have concerns,” the ministry said in its statement.

Keep in mind that the ADL’s original statement was made after a meeting with representatives of the Turkish Jews.

There is no question that Turkey is employing a “Jewish strategy”: What could be more effective than to get the Jews, victims of one of the most widely known genocides in history, to deny that the Ottomans had committed genocide? And how easy: Israel will do almost anything to be able to say that they have good relations with at least one Muslim nation, and the Turkish Jews are already hostages — it’s not even necessary to kidnap them Hamas-style.

But the Turks have made at least two serious miscalculations. First, Foxman is a very stubborn man. It is surprising to me that he went as far as he did to take the original statement back, even in the somewhat legalistic formulation that he used. He is not likely to recant at this point.

And this brings us to the second miscalculation. Why did Foxman change his stance? Because, like most Jews today, he has learned something from the Holocaust, and perhaps also from the denial of the Holocaust that is supported today by the greatest enemies of the Jewish people: there is a limit. Genocide is genocide. A Jew simply must be on the right side of this question.

So I doubt that the Turks’ “Jewish strategy” will work.

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