The Gaza flotilla, Turkey - and some ugly talk about the Armenian Genocide
06/17/2010 - 07:42
James Besser

Here's something pretty ugly percolating just beneath the surface of Jewish politics these days.

For years, Armenian Americans have appealed to the Jewish community for help in their efforts to get official U.S. recognition of the World War I era Armenian Genocide by Turkey.

Jews were their natural allies, they thought, because of our own history, but pro-Israel leaders had different ideas.

Turkey was Israel's best and only friend in the Muslim world, they reasoned. So why jeopardize that relationship by siding with the Armenians in this seemingly endless dispute?

I always found that argument offensive. The fight against genocide is supposed to be absolute – not a matter of politics but of basic morality, a core lesson we have sought to teach the world through Holocaust remembrance.

So is the need to preserve historical accuracy. Jews are rightfully offended by those who say the Holocaust never took place or who minimize its devastation, and devote considerable resources to fighting the revisionists and deniers.

Because memory and historical accuracy matter.

So why were we so willing to treat Armenian memory as something that could be modified according to the immediate needs of pro-Israel politics?

But it gets worse.

Suddenly, Turkey is no longer a friend. It instigated the violent portion of the recent Gaza flotilla, Israel charges; it harbors Muslim “charities” connected to terror groups that want to wipe Israel off the map.

And in blogs and discussions we're hearing this: if the Turks don't mend their ways, maybe it's time we should start supporting Armenian demands for official U.S. recognition of the genocide committed against them 95 years ago.

We're hearing it in Congress, too, where longstanding opposition to resolutions recognizing the genocide may give way to ire over Turkey's role in the Middle East today.

A Jerusalem Post story this week includes these appalling lines:

Rep. Mike Pence (R-Indiana) said he recently warned the Turkish ambassador that “With regard to Congress of the United States, there will be a cost if Turkey stays on its current path of growing closed to Iran and more antagonistic to the State of Israel.”

Among other issues, he said, he was now likely to switch his vote to support a resolution recognizing the mass killing of Armenians during the Ottoman empire as a genocide, a move he had voted against in the past because he thought relations with Turkey were more important.

It was offensive when we defended Turkey because it was somehow “good for Israel,” and it's doubly offensive when we use the threat of ending that protection as just another political bludgeon in the pro-Israel wars.  You want to punish Turkey with scaled-back diplomatic ties? With an end to military cooperation? With economic sanctions? Fine. But threatening to change your position on an issue as fundamental as genocide - that's crossing a line the Jewish community should never cross.

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Good article, but you're off the mark on one important point. Armenians didn't ask the "Jewish Community," as you put it, for advice in casual the resolution. What we asked is for the "Jewish Community" to stop obstructing access of the resolution, which is what has been accident for the accomplished three decades. I anticipate it would be abundant for the Armenian Community if the Jewish Community just did nothing. That would even be bigger than the accepted accompaniment of affairs.

Anna, American Jews and the Jewish people of Israel have long been for recognizing the Armenian Genocide. However the Israeli Government and the Jewish Lobbyists of America have stopped the formal recognition of the Armenian Genocide. Turkey and Israel have lucrative contracts with one another. They make strange bedfellows.
I am a bit lost here. I don't live in the US (I used to, though). But for as much as I know, American Jews have always pressed the Armenian genocide issue. Moreover Mike Pence, the guy quoted by the J Post, is an Evangelical Christian. On the other hand, the guy who presented the resolution on the Armenian genocide in 2007 -Adam Schiff, a Democrat- was Jewish Pleae don't get me wrong: I'm not sayng Evangelicals are bad, Jews are nice. I'm just sayin I don't see no line crossed here. all best
This argumentation is flawed. It has always been an outrage that Turkey has not recognized the Armenian Genocide, just as it is an outrage that the PRC does not admit that it committed atrocities on a massive scale during the "Great Leap Forward" and the "Cultural Revolution" and Saudi Arabia does not admit that its entire Sharia-motived system of justice is a travesty. Other examples of such outrages are legion, and indeed the norm throughout history. The United States and other Western powers have frequently ignored crimes against humanity (even in their own histories) for political and geostrategic gain -- indeed, that has always been, and always will be, an unfortunate feature of international relations. Nevertheless, a "holier than thou" approach to this problem is a mistake. Rather, one should seek to minimize it -- because despite passages one could cite from religious texts, there is a difference between crimes on a limited scale and mass murder involving millions and eliminating entire peoples on racial or ethnic grounds (combating ideologies is an entirely different matter -- ideologies are not people, humans are free to abandon them, and those that adhere to and violently propagate barbarian ideologies or "religions" need to reckon with destruction, because it the right of open societies to defend themselves). That the "Gaza flotilla incident" could serve as a reason to re-open one's eyes is not surprising, and one should not condemn people like Rep. Pence for doing so. Rather one should call on him to go further and ask him: Why has the U.S. accepted constitutions in Iraq and Afghanistan that are built upon Sharia law? Why does the United State not take a more forceful stance on North Korea? Why do we accept the creeping re-introduction of the notion of "blasphemy" in European legislation that allows Islamists to restrict freedom of speech? Why are we ever-so-subtly cosing up to Sudan, ignoring the crisis in Darfur and Southern Sudan? So: Yes, recognize the Armenian Genocide, together with the genocide against the Pontian Greeks. And move further down the road to recognizing the persecution of Christians, Hindus, Jews and many peaceful religious and ethnic minorities around the world. But stop cozying up to their oppressors -- for example Muslims, who, if their claim to number one and a half billion in the world is true, are no longer a minority in any meaningful sense of that word, and thus are entitled only to their usual human rights but do not merit any special privileges or protection of any kind, anywhere.
Good article, but you're off the mark on one important point. Armenians didn't ask the "Jewish Community," as you put it, for help in passing the resolution. What we asked is for the "Jewish Community" to stop obstructing passage of the resolution, which is what has been happening for the past three decades. I think it would be enough for the Armenian Community if the Jewish Community just did nothing. That would even be better than the current state of affairs.
Dear New York Jewish Week: Your readers may wish to know about a related story. The Turkish foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, is actually receiving an award from the Woodrow Wilson Center. Of course, he does not deserve it, for a variety of reasons. The Wilson Center is knee-deep in highly questionable Turkish-affiliated cash, and the second link below explains that and a lot more. (And if you did not know, former Cong. Lee Hamilton is director of the taxpayer-funded Wilson Center, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sits on its board and approved of the award. The Wilson Center is part of the Smithsonian Institution.) In the following article, Pres. Wilson's descendant, Donald Wilson Bush, objects to giving an award to Turkey's foreign minister (please copy and paste the link if you can't click it): Here is an investigative report published several weeks ago about the Woodrow Wilson Center and the Turkish foreign minister (please copy and paste the link if you can't click it):
Very well said! Kudos!
So, therefore, according to you, to correct an appalling act of "crossing of the line" the Jewish community should never recognize the Armenian Genocide, because that would be a "political bludgeon" against Turkey, which is a morally repugnant thing to do. Am I missing something about the morality of things in this noxious circle? How about admitting a wrong ( the shameless act of Jewish kowtowing to Turkish dictates) and come clean and recognize a genocide that was perpetrated against the Armenian nation, period. It would seem the moral thing to do.
Your point of view is typical American. Europe is seeing an occupated territory with a wall around GAZA: ghetto. We see a very right-wing government in Israel, many politicians even do not want to meet Liebermann (we see him as a fascist, I do not like this word) Did you ever think for once as a Jew what this means, you should be more critical about Israel itself. You should be more concerned for the fact that millions of Europeans are turning their backs on Israel. The many peole who are positive about Israel are voting the extreme right-wing close to the neo-nazies who are a bit more extreme right and who have their own views about Israel... What does this say about Israel now. How will you ever have peace creating new terrorist living in a ghetto in poor conditions, being attacked by helicopters firing rockets at terrorists. Just proceed believing your own fantasies about the bad guys and moral issues about the genocide. The more you repeat it the more you think it is real and reality and fantasy gets mixed:magical realism Nazi Germany also had many defending (and eliminating)reasons for putting Jews in ghetto's, Christian Europa also had many reasons for hundreds of years putting the Jews in een different territory (bigger ghetto's) not allowing them to integrate in their cities, having many prohibitions for Jews (like many jobs that were forbidden) as there are for palestinions in the Jordan territory and using progroms for political reasons as Israel does with GAZA. Why did many chassidim understand this more then you do? That is the question you should ask yourself. Forget Turkey and Armenia, you even will help the Government in Turkey on the long term by voting for a resoluton recognizing the genocide. NExt year the opposition will winn the election in Turkey. They are pro-European and were pro-Israel. You just lost millions of friends in Turkey too. Extreme conditions in Israel created extreme point of views By the way I am Jewish, before you call me anti-semitic.