Archive for the ‘Jews and Armenian Genocide’ Category

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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ADL’s new statement struggles, fails

Tuesday, August 21st, 2007

ADL's Abraham FoxmanAbraham Foxman of the ADL has issued a new statement regarding the Armenian Genocide, which includes the following truly remarkable paragraph:

We have never negated but have always described the painful events of 1915-1918 perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire against the Armenians as massacres and atrocities. On reflection, we have come to share the view of Henry Morgenthau, Sr. that the consequences of those actions were indeed tantamount to genocide. If the word genocide had existed then, they would have called it genocide. [my emphasis]

Does Mr. Foxman think he is writing some kind of international treaty whose language must be creatively ambiguous? Or perhaps one of those software licensing agreements?

What he should be saying is that the ADL was wrong in not applying the word ‘genocide’ to the aforesaid events, which in fact were a genocide committed by the Ottoman Empire. It would have been much easier to write than the tortured prose above, which is not going to win him a lot of friends among either Turks, Armenians, or Jews who understand the importance of calling genocide by its name.

The statement also includes the following explanation:

Having said that, we continue to firmly believe that a Congressional resolution on such matters is a counterproductive diversion and will not foster reconciliation between Turks and Armenians and may put at risk the Turkish Jewish community and the important multilateral relationship between Turkey, Israel and the United States.

Of course I don’t know what threats the Turkish government has made. However, if they are attempting to hold the Turkish Jewish community hostage for actions taken by the US Congress, this should be exposed as a clear violation of their human rights, and Turkey should be censured for it.

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The ADL needs the moral high ground

Thursday, August 16th, 2007

I am embarrassed by the way the ADL continues to dig itself deeper into a moral morass by opposing legislation recognizing the Armenian Genocide.

Here is part of a letter by Andrew H. Tarsy, New England regional director of the ADL, reponding to a critical article in the Jewish Advocate:

We don’t understand why you are singling us out. ADL’s position on this issue is in line with that of a number of other major American Jewish organizations, who believe, like us, that efforts in Washington to enact legislation on the Turkey-Armenian question are counterproductive to the goal of having Turkey itself come to grips with its past. That is why we have taken no position on what action Congress should take on the measure.

We continue to believe this is the best way to proceed, particularly because Turkish Jews have expressed concerns about the impact on them of a U.S. Congressional resolution, because Turkey is a key strategic ally and friend of the United States, because Turkey is a critical friend of Israel and because Turkey is the most critical country in the world in the life and death struggle between Islamic extremists and moderate Islam. We also believe that legislative efforts outside of Turkey will continue to be counterproductive.

A few points:

First, any implication that this view is shared by a majority of Jews in the US is false. Yes, the ADL and a few other organizations took this position, but others did not, including some of the largest. The ‘singling out’ is because they are in the minority, not the majority.

Second, the only mitigating circumstance is the question of the Turkish Jews. The ADL and others took their position after meeting with a delegation from the Turkish Jewish community, who expressed anxiety about possible reprisals if they didn’t succeed in getting support for the Turkish government’s stance against the resolution. This sort of issue has tormented Jewish leaders for 2000 years. Most of the time, appeasement of tyrants has been a poor strategy, and doesn’t result in better treatment for a Jewish minority in the long run. This is one of the reasons for the existence of the State of Israel.

Third, the argument that efforts to force the Turks to accept the truth will be ‘counterproductive’, that one is somehow preventing them from “coming to grips with their past” by supporting such resolutions — please. This argument is disingenuous, and is enough to make me blush on behalf of Tarsy and the ADL.

But having said that, I am horrified by the venom being poured on the ADL by leftwing critics, who are using this as a club to beat the steadfastly pro-Israel ADL.

The ADL is a unique organization whose lack would be sorely felt. But it can only be effective from the moral high ground. If it are to keep from being regarded as just another pressure group, it must firmly renounce its  indefensible position on this issue.

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The ADL and the Armenian Genocide

Wednesday, August 1st, 2007

Recently I wrote about attending a lecture by a Holocaust denier at a local church. It was upsetting to listen to the speaker’s repeated statements that yes, a lot of Jews died, it was war after all, but there was no concerted effort on the part of Hitler and the Nazis to wipe out the Jewish people.

The speaker had an answer for everything, and it’s impossible to respond to every ‘fact’ that someone can invent. It takes painstaking research, and by that time they have invented another ‘fact’. So even though historical facts — this happened or it didn’t — are absolutely true or false, there is no absolute proof in history the way there is in mathematics.

But after a while the weight of the evidence, the preponderance of the research, becomes so overwhelming that we can say that we know, beyond a reasonable doubt, that such-and-such did occur. At this point, ‘revisionist’ history stops being constructive, and we need to look for motives behind it other than a disinterested search for truth. This is the way it is with the Holocaust.

And this is the way it is for the Armenian Genocide.

Which brings me to Watertown Massachusetts, where local Armenians are asking the city to remove itself from an ADL program (“No Place for Hate”) because the ADL does not take a position on the Armenian Genocide and lobbied against a congressional resolution calling on the US to recognize it:

[ADL director Abraham] Foxman said he is surprised that he has become a target of Armenians. The ADL, a group founded in 1913 to fight anti-Semitism, has no official position on the Armenian genocide, he said.

“I’m not going to be the arbiter of someone else’s history,” he said in the interview, adding that he does not believe that Congress should either. When asked specifically if what happened to Armenians under the Ottoman Empire was genocide, he replied, “I don’t know.” The ADL only takes positions, he said, on current events, not on something that happened in the past.

Many groups oppose the resolution, including of course the Turkish Republic — although the resolution makes it quite clear that the guilty party was the Ottoman Empire. However, general international recognition of the genocide might make it possible for Armenians to claim compensation from Turkey. Turkey has applied pressure in many directions, including that of the US State Department which is concerned about Turkey’s relations with the Kurds in northern Iraq, and the State of Israel which sees Turkey as its only Muslim ‘ally’ (although in my view it’s a pretty poor ally).

It’s also possible that the ADL was influenced by an implied threat to the Turkish Jewish community.

Nevertheless, Foxman’s position is not supportable:

“You would never ever say that about the genocide in Darfur; you would never ever say that about the Holocaust,” said [Sharistan] Melkonian. “You need to stop genocide anywhere you can, and the only way to stop genocide in the future is to acknowledge that it happened.” — Boston Globe

It is contradictory for the ADL to oppose Holocaust denial vigorously, as it should, while refusing to take a position on another historically documented genocide.

And it doesn’t set a good precedent, either, in a practical sense. Today, pseudo-historical revisionism is being used by Israel’s enemies to claim that Jews dispossessed Palestinian Arabs unfairly from their lands, that Israel engineered the war in 1967 for expansionist motives, etc.

The ADL is wrong about this issue and should change its position.

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