American Jewish Community Grappling with Armenian Genocide

-

armenia_genocidememorial.jpg
Marc Perelman, writing for The Forward, has just released an important summary of the diplomatic back-and-forth currently in progress between major American Jewish organizations and the governments of Turkey, Israel, and the United States. What I’ve been hearing privately jives pretty well with what Perelman has published.
I’ve long been amazed by the position taken by the organized American Jewish community on the Armenian genocide. While a legal case for genocide would not be completely guaranteed of success (genocide is amazingly difficult to establish legally – for reference, the UN couldn’t do it in Darfur), it can and should be properly applied to the events of 1915-1917 given the spirit and popular meaning of the word.
I should say at the outset that I am not writing this post as an employee of Citizens for Global Solutions, which is generally more concerned with contemporary global problems than regional disputes; I am writing as a concerned Jew and citizen.
The most recent minor shake-up on this issue began when Andrew Tarsy, the Anti-Defamation League’s New England Regional Director, made reference to the Armenian genocide. His firing prompted a public outcry and caused Abe Foxman, its director, to rehire Tarsy and, after extensive consultations, to describe the atrocities as “tantamount to genocide.”
The ADL is the only one of the major establishment Jewish orgs. to make any reference to genocide of Armenians. And still, the ADL, as well as most major Jewish organizations, opposes Congressional action.
Yet, the positions of these organizations seem to be very much in flux. The American Jewish Committee, which had lobbied heavily against the Armenian genocide resolution in Congress, has not devoted extensive resources to opposition this year. AIPAC is the subject of mixed reports: Perelman says they have lobbied heavily against the resolution with help from Dick Gephardt, Bob Livingston, and Steve Solarz, while an AIPAC spokesman tells Ynet News, “…AIPAC is not – and I can say this unequivocally – not lobbying on this issue at all.” Like Perelman, I had heard that AIPAC was involved.
The Forward, which published Perelman’s piece, also published an editorial – against recognition. It reads:

There’s no doubt that collisions between fighting genocide and defending Israel cut the heart of Jewish identity in the post-Holocaust era. What, we may ask, is the point of fighting for a Jewish state if it will not act in a Jewish manner – that is, serve as a beacon to us and the world?

Amazingly, for The Forward editorial board, the answer is no. Instead, they argue, Jewish post-Holocaust ethics come second to political calculation and Jewish self-interest.
AJC Executive Director David Harris – an old personal and family friend of mine – tries to articulate a middle ground on the Jerusalem Post blog. Harris identifies this correctly as a choice for Jews between principle and pragmatism, and then almost brings himself to choose principle. It’s a valiant effort and an important step forward, but with due respect to my friend, still not good enough yet in my view. Either way, it’s worth a read.
Some Jews will find the most persuasive argument for accepting the Armenian genocide the possibility that if we do not, our calls of outrage with Holocaust denial will ring hollow – a very real possibility. There’s a better reason: it’s the right thing to do and it’s consistent with Jewish ethics.
All of the Jews I know who are engaged in this debate feel sincere compassion for the relatives of murdered and displaced Armenians. Their good intentions are not at issue. And, for that matter, no one should deny the implications of recognizing the Armenian genocide for Turkish and Israeli Jews.
However, the consequences of obscuring historical realities and disregarding fundamentally Jewish ethical principles – to the meaning of being Jewish – are far greater. It’s time to end this controversy, even if it is 90 years too late.
— Scott Paul

Comments

21 comments on “American Jewish Community Grappling with Armenian Genocide

  1. American says:

    Armenians and jews have very good relations in the ottoman empire.They were equaly discriminated and called “millet” by the turks.There were few problems between the two comunities mainly caused by the turks in order to control them.There are lots of historical facts about it.The jews and the armenians were all infidels for the turks.One should simply read the lows of the ottoman empire regarding the minorities to find this out.

    Reply

  2. American says:

    Armenians and jews have very good relations in the ottoman empire.They were equaly discriminated and called “millet” by the turks.There were few problems between the two comunities mainly caused by the turks in order to control them.There are lots of historical facts about it.The jews and the armenians were all infidels for the turks.One should simply read the lows of the ottoman empire regarding the minorities to find this out.

    Reply

  3. kirkor says:

    I should say the Jews may dislike the Armenians would be more appropriate rather than hate .the main cause of denying Armenian holocaust is purely serves Jewish interest national in general which is closely related with Zionist movement from the very beginning which its main focus controlling the silk road which still preserves its economic and strategic importance (if you look to the caucasian map).The silk route was in control by Armenian businessmen since 1300 where Jews had no access whatsoever,meanwhile the Armenians built their huge amount of capital and richness obviously this attracted business jealousy which is the hidden base of Zionist doctrine (kill the christians and loot their belongings)..finally there is no any change in orthodox Jews mentality they will put every effort to wipe out the remaining few Armenians out of the region using the “so called Turks”(in the past were young Turkes now Azerbeycan) as a tool… God bless you

    Reply

  4. moyra says:

    When the Nazis came for the communists, I remained silent; I was not a communist. When they locked up the social democrats, I remained silent; I was not a social democrat. When they came for the trade unionists, I did not speak out; I was not a trade unionist. When they came for the Jews, I remained silent; I was not a Jew. When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out.

    Reply

  5. moyra says:

    APPENDIX II: Excerpts from the Lochner Version of the August 22, 1939, Obersalzberg Speech Dealing with the Planned Invasion of Poland Lochner, 1942, p.2: Our strength consists of our speed and in our brutality. Genghis Khan led millions of women and children to slaughter ñ with premeditation and a happy heart. History sees in him solely the founder of a state. It’s matter of indifference to me what a weak western European civilization will say about me.
    I have issued the command ñI’ll have anybody who utter one word of criticism executed by a firing squad – that our war aim does not consist in reaching certain lines, but in the physical destruction of the enemy.
    Accordingly, I have placed my death head formations in readiness ñ for the present only in the East ñ with orders to them do send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women and children of Polish derivation and language. Only thus shall we gain the living space [lebensraum] which we need. Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?

    Reply

  6. ece yasar says:

    Armenian Anti-Semitism in the Ottoman Period
    Dr. Sedat LACINER
    Saturday , 21 May 2005
    The Ottoman experience proves that anti-Semitism is an ‘old Armenian habit’. The main reason for anti-semitism among the Ottoman Armenians was mainly religious biases. For the Christian Armenians the Jews were in great sin. It was a common belief among the Armenians that the Jews slaughter young Christian Armenians and use their blood at the Passover feast. In Amasya province for instance local Armenian priests and notables claimed that an Armenian woman had seen Jews slaughter a young Armenian boy and use his blood for religious purposes. Stanford J. Shaw describes the following events:
    “Several days of rioting and pillaging and attacks on Jews followed, with Armenian mobs devastating the Jewish quarter of the city, beating men, women and children alike. The Armenian notables convinced the local Ottoman governor to imprison several Jewish leaders, including Rabbi Yakub Avayu, who was accused of having supervised the blood letting.
    They were said, after undergoing severe torture, to have confessed to their crimes and were hanged. Later, however, the Armenian boy who supposedly had been murdered was found and a new Ottoman governor punished the accusers, though nothing could be done about the Jews who had suffered in the process.”[3]
    As Abraham Ben-Yakob put it, the Armenian and Greek attacks against the Armenians continued in the following years:
    “There were literally thousands of incidents in subsequent years, invariably resulting from accusations spread among Greeks and Armenians by word mouth, or published in their newspapers, often by Christian financiers and merchants who were anxious to get the Jews out of the way, resulting in isolated and mob attacks on Jews, and burning of their shops and homes.”[4]
    Apart from the religious prejudices, the Jewish community in the Empire dramatically rose in numbers and their influence over the administration and economy increased, and this development made the Christian subjects (Armenians, Greeks etc.) worried. Unfortunately this competition between the Jews and Christians resulted in a long series of attacks against the Jews by the Armenians and Greeks, who simply did not want to lose their influential position in terms of politics and economy. In these assaults many Jews were assassinated. When the Europeans increased their economic and political influence over the Ottoman Empire they publicly supported the Ottoman Christians and the Armenians and Greeks gained a clear privilege in trade, which was unfavourable to the Jews. The local Armenians and Greeks had the American and the European diplomats and businessmen with them, while the Jews had to rely on their own sources and their good relations with the Ottoman bureaucracy. In addition, as the Armenians and Greeks got richer and more influential, harassments and the constant attacks against the Jews increased as witnessed in Izmir during the 19th century. The competition between the Armenians and the Jews was severe in Palace and the financial system in particular. When the Armenian bankers sustained monopoly over the Ottoman financial system they did everything to get the Jews out of the Palace, and even libelled Jews by accusing the Jews of not being loyal to the Sultan. As a result of these slanders, many Jews lost their life.[5]
    Another dramatic development for the Jews was the impact of the European military victories and conquests of Ottoman territories by the European armies, because when the Christian European armies occupied the Ottoman possessions they were supporting their Christian ‘brothers’, Armenians, Greeks and Bulgarians, and punishing the Jews and Muslims alike.[6] Consequently the Jews became the most loyal ones to the government in the 19th century and this also worsened the relations between the nationalist Armenians and the Jews. The radical Armenians perceived the Jews as the agent of the state against their ‘revolutionary’ movement. Even some Armenians would claim that some of the responsible officers for the 1915 events, which the Armenians see these events as ‘genocide’, were Jews, freemasons or supported by the Jews or freemasons. Although this kind of claims cannot be considered as serious or scholarly, they are useful to understand the degree of the Armenian anti-semitism.
    The fourth negative development for the Ottoman Jews was the nationalist-separatist movements in the Arab territories, the Balkans and in Anatolia. The only protector of the Jews in these regions was the Ottoman state and its governor because the Arabs and the Christians hated the Jews due to the tradition and religion. That is why the Jews became more and more loyal to their state, and this more annoyed the nationalist groups, particularly the Greeks and the Armenians. In many Greek uprisings for instance the Jews supported the Ottoman State against the rioters as witnessed in the Ottoman – Greek War in 1897 for Crete island. The Ottoman security forces had to intervene to protect the Jews from the Armenians, Greeks and the Arabs especially in the 19th century. In Syria in particular the Christian Arabs and Armenians hated the Jews as a result of the religious biases.[7]
    In summary, the Armenians continually attacked the Jews for the religious reasons and for personal and ethnic interests. In the words of Shaw, ‘the attacks were brutal and without mercy. Women, children, and aged Jewish men were frequently attacked, beaten and often killed’.[8] These attacks inevitably caused a severe tension and nourished mutual hate between the Armenians and the Jews. As a result the Jews sometimes co-operated with other ethnic groups against the Armenians as Shaw puts it:
    “Jewish resentment against the continued persecution and ritual murder attacks by Greeks and Armenians led to such hatred that, for example, many Jews actively assisted the attacks of Kurds and Lazzes on the Armenian quarters of Istanbul in 1896 and 1908, showing the Kurds where Armenians lived and where many of them were hiding and joining them in carrying away the booty. The result was even greater Armenian hatred for Jews than had been the case before, leading to further persecution and attacks in subsequent years'”[9]
    In addition to the assaults against the Jewish people the Armenians and Greeks made enormous efforts to keep the Jews out of the Palace and other important official places. Furthermore they tried to prevent constructing new synagogues in Istanbul. Guleryuz’s research on Turkish Jewry’ gives an example:
    “Greeks and Armenians agitated widely to prevent Jews from constructing new synagogues when needed in the Empire. The best example of this came with Greek and Armenian opposition to the construction of a new Jewish synagogue at Haydarpasha in 1899. Sultan Abdul Hamid II allowed the synagogue to be built, and assured its opening despite the protests by sending a contingent of soldiers from the nearby Selimiye barracks, leading the contregation to adopt the name Hemdat Israel synagogue, but also the word Hemdat was close to the name of their benefactor, Sultan Abdul Hamid.”[10]
    In conclusion, anti-Semitism was a strong tradition among the Ottoman Armenians, and as will be seen it would be revived in the modern ages.
    Also see: http://www.turkishweekly.net/articles.php?id=3

    Reply

  7. Nikol says:

    Good point. And what do you think of, for example, Shoher’s attitude like here http://samsonblinded.org/blog/shame-of-the-jdc.htm ?

    Reply

  8. S. Davis says:

    Ignoring all the comments made previously, I just wonder what negative effect on the Jewish community do the Jewish organizations anticipate by acknowledging an Armenian Genocide? I’m surprised that they are not leading the call for recognition. They should consider that historically, the Armenian people have been one-third Jewish and are treated similarly to Jews by their neighbors. I think it has been made into a very confusing situation, when it is really quite clear. The Turks committed genocide in trying to kill all or as many Armenians as they possibly could. It is ridiculous for this truth to still not have been acknowledged.

    Reply

  9. Amare says:

    Interesting that anybody could deny the extent of the slaughter of the Armenians. My family on my mother’s side is Armenian, and at least 90% of my grandmother’s family was killed by the Turks. Whatever you want to call it, it’s worth acknowledging as a horrible tragedy.

    Reply

  10. ... says:

    no response from paul on lurkers post. that is telling.

    Reply

  11. matter says:

    What this is about is the slippery slope (for the Zionists) of recognizing the holocaust they perpetrated against the Palestinians. Recognizing the Armenian genocide will help open up the discussion. Naturally, the Zionists don’t want open discussion; that’s why they are running scared and furiously pushing back against both recognition of the Armenian genocide and the Walt/Mearsheimer book, to cite another example.
    Open discussion and any rational examination of the facts leads to the obvious conclusion that the invading Zionists perpetrated a holocaust against the Palestinians, one that is still ongoing. A just solution would require sending all the Jews in Israel back where they came from (excluding, of course, those with provable ties going back before the Jewish invasion).
    A more realistic solution is a South African style one state solution, but of course, the Zionist thieves don’t find this acceptable, as they want to keep what they stole. I believe that the numerous lawsuits by (nazi) Holocaust survivors against German companies for return of their property set an admirable precedent that should be applied with similar vigor in Palestine.

    Reply

  12. Matthew says:

    Patience: The Palestinians long ago forfeited any moral right they had to their own state? Really?
    I would love to know your standard. And using that standard which countries are entitled to have their own state: The Turks who committed the Armenian genocide? The Germans who committed the Holocaust? The Cambodians who committed the Killing Fields? The Rwandans….?
    And don’t get me started on the Slave trade and the genocide of Native Americans….
    Frankly, only the Andorrans would probably be entitled to a state under your “criteria.” And I can only say that because who knows what mischief they have been up to.

    Reply

  13. Carroll says:

    Now here is an example of Jewish…no not Jewish… not any “hyphen”-ethics…just plain ethics….ordinary human ethics. He has balls and he’s honest and he doesn’t see the whole world in terms of Israel and being a Jew. Most of the jewish orgs call him a self hating jew because he speaks out against the “is it good for the jews” mentality of those orgs. Actually if anyone is going to save Israel or protect the Jews it is Weiss and others like Rosenberg and Levy who are the real “pragmatist” about the fact that the zionist obession with themselves and “only” themselves is what is going to cause their demise…not the opposite.
    Go Mondo, you got guts my man.
    http://www.philipweiss.org/mondoweiss/

    Reply

  14. Carroll says:

    I found this an interesting tidbit:
    “The decades-long ties between Turkey and Israel’s supporters in the United States strengthened considerably during the 1990s, when Jerusalem and Ankara reached a number of business and military agreements.
    In recent years former congressmen Richard Gephardt, Bob Livingston and Steve Solarz joined the American Israel Political Affairs Committee in lobbying Washington to give military aid to Ankara and to fight off congressional efforts to pass a resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide, according to several sources familiar with the issue.
    Turkey’s ambassador to Israel, Namik Tan, made clear to The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that Ankara expects at least as much from Israel, demanding that Jerusalem “”deliver”” American Jewish organizations and “ensure” that Congress does not pass the genocide resolution.”
    >>>>>>>
    I remember something in the Sibel Edmunds affair, the Intelligence translator who the CIA put a gag order on, I think about Turkey/ Israel/ US congress intersection in crime and payoffs and various other things. Waxman wanted to pursue it further after she testified to a closed hearing on it but somehow it got called off.

    Reply

  15. Carroll says:

    O.K. I read them all.
    Someone get the Forward editor to a doctor. He has twisted himself into prezel trying to justify why the Armenian genocide should not be acknowledged because it could create problems for the Jews and Israel.
    “Pragmatic ethics” I think is the correct term for this.

    Reply

  16. arthurdecco says:

    “Amazingly…The Forward(’s) editorial board…argues Jewish post-Holocaust ethics come second to political calculation and Jewish self-interest.” Posted by Scott Paul
    Stop kidding us. You can’t be as surprised, (or mystified), by this admission as you appear to be claiming.
    It’s ALWAYS about political calculation and Jewish self-interest. And not just over the issue of the Armenian genocide, either.
    (psst …It’s the editorial board of The Forward, Scott! Pass it on!)

    Reply

  17. Dan Kervick says:

    I understand that groups like AIPAC and the American Jewish Committee are straightforward advocacy groups involved in the rough and tumble of politics, and all the horse-trading that involves. That can certainly involve trading public advocacy of one position in exchange for assistance on another position, or sacrificing some otherwise worthy concerns and aims for the sake of political expediency and larger goals.
    But what is the ADL doing engaging in “back and forth diplomacy” over its positions? I had always thought the ADL presented itself as something like a human rights organization, with a particular interest in the causes of Jewish human and civil rights. Isn’t it then part of the ADL’s self-ascribed purpose that it should stay above this sort of political fray? Aren’t they just supposed to call it the way they see it?
    For example, I don’t think you would find a group like Amnesty International announcing that it was not going to issue a report this year on political prisoners in China, simply because China had been helpful to Amnesty International in other areas, or had contributed aid to some poor African nations. Nor would you see them openly “negotiating” with people over what their positions are going to be.
    For me personally, the ADL has pretty much lost most of whatever credibility it used to have, with its kneejerk persecutions of all critics of Israel. But I imagine there are some people who still respect them. Episodes like this one will undermine their believability on everything else, because people will always wonder whether the statements they issue represent positions they actually believe, or are the result of some sort of negotiation with other groups and governments.
    It looks like the ADL has succumbed to the temptation to be a “player” in the Israel advocacy game, and has thus drifted away from their main purpose.

    Reply

  18. Patience says:

    I’m of two minds about this: on the one hand, does the stance of the major American Jewish organizations mean that, when push comes to shove, Israel trumps genocide? On the other hand, why should Jewish organizations feel a special burden to denounce any and all instances of genocide in the past? Do we demand the same from, say, Tutsi groups in Rwanda seeking Western aid? The idea that Jewish groups are acting improperly, or unethically, if they do not endorse official recognition of the Armenian genocide (which I believe occurred) is founded, it seems to me, on the idea that the Jewish/Israeli geopolitical point of view is only tolerated on sufferance, so long as those groups and Israel make their claims on the world’s attention on the basis of the suffering the Jewish people endured during the Holocaust.
    The debate over the role of the U.S.’s Jewish community in the current Armenian genocide debate carries the implication that, should those groups fail to act in solidarity with other victims of genocide, then the rest of the world has the right to withdraw its stance of “tolerance”… in other words, that the historic Western attitude of anti-Semitism has not been eradicated, it’s merely been on probation for the last 62 years, and now is one of those moments when Jewish personhood is being weighed in the balance and, potentially, being found wanting. (And I wonder if the flippant tone of my first question shows that I’m just as guilty of this as anyone else.)
    I say this is as someone who has minimal sympathy for either side of the Palestine-Israel conflict: I find Israel’s military and aggrandization tactics appalling, and I believe that Palestinians long ago forfeited any moral right they might have to their own state. (I think there should be a Palestinian state, but only for the sake of rectifying the legal wrongs that occurred in the course of the creation of the state of Israel.)

    Reply

  19. Carroll says:

    I have been reading about this and looked up the history of the Armenian genocide. I would say slaughtering a million and a half to two million people in the manner and for the reason it was done is definitely genocide.
    I have a question though about this post because Scott repeats the same thing I have seen put forth frequently…”Jewish ethics”.
    What exactly are “Jewish” ethics?
    Are Jewish ethics different from Gentiles ethics? Or say Asians? Or Catholics or Bhuddist ethics?
    There is one ethic here, the genocide is true, it happened, it should be acknowledged and the victims even be compensated in the same way as the Jews have been compensated for the past 60 years.
    I am going to go read these articles now and see if there are any ‘ethics” on display besides the fellow who actually stood on his “priciples” and got fired for it.

    Reply

  20. Lurker says:

    Why don’t Jews in Israel, as well Israel’s supporters in the U.S., stop disregarding “fundamental Jewish ethical principles” and allow the Palestinians to come back to the land that they’ve owned and lived on for millenia? Instead of slaughtering the Palestinians using U.S. tax dollars?
    This website, between Steve defending David “House Rules Are My Rules” Dreier, and Scott Paul slyly making the case that only Jews count when it comes to deciding what is a genocide, is rapidly becoming disgusting.

    Reply

  21. Matthew says:

    I’m sure lots of Vichy French and others who did nothing during WWII had to make a choice between “principle” and “pragmatism.” It’s sad, funny even, watching apologists for ADL’s shame try to explain away the obvious: Their silence on the Armenian genocide erases any moral credibility that the ADL has.
    I hope people keep that in mind the next time that blowhard Foxman lectures the Catholic Church on anything.

    Reply

Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *