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 ErdoÄŸan 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 ErdoÄŸan 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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