05/06/05: Intermountain Jewish News: Shame on Israel and Turkey for desecrating Yad Vashem

Should Pol Pot have been invited to Israel to place a wreath at Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust memorial? If the murderer of millions of Cambodians were escorted by Israeli officials to a Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, wouldn't blasphemy be the perfect word for the act?

Should Idi Amin have been allowed to appear at Yad Vashem?

What about the leaders of the Rwandan genocide, who took their machetes to 800,000 innocent human beings in 1994? Should Israel walk them down the aisle, wreaths in hand, to the Hall of Remembrance at Yad Vashem? Blasphemy, indeed.

Unlike Pol Pot and the other mass murderers, the prime minister of Turkey has no blood on his hands, but the moral stench was the same this week when Israel had Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan place a wreath at Yad Vashem. Israel might as well have brought along convicted Holocaust denier David Irving for the ceremony. Shame on Israel for engaging in its own form of Holocaust denial. Turkey is the perpetrator of the first genocide in modern times, the Armenian genocide. And Turkey is no Germany: Germany is repentant. Turkey is not. Germany paid reparations. Turkey did not. Modern-day Turkey never acknowledged the Armenian genocide, never said, we're sorry. There are Holocaust memorials all over Germany; don't go look for Armenian memorials all over Turkey.

The vilest form of realpolitik governs Israel-Turkey relations and, to their eternal shame, some in the American Jewish community join in the ugly charade of exonerating modern-day Turkey for the Armenian genocide. Precisely the kind of tendentious (not to mention outright false) "scholarship" that makes Jews livid when used by Holocaust deniers to diminish the Holocaust, Israel turns a blind eye to when Turkey uses it to diminish the Armenian genocide.

What moral credence should Jews attribute to a head of state and Nobel Peace Prize winner, if he were to state that "whether" there was a Holocaust is a "matter for historians to decide"? No moral credence whatsoever. Yet, this is just what Shimon Peres, the former prime minister of Israel and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, said about the Armenian genocide.

We have here a prime case of politics trumping truth. Israel needs a positive relationship with Turkey. And to get it, Israel will engage in the same form of genocide denial that it acidly resents when others put it in the form of Holocaust denial. The national American Jewish Committee tags along, engaging in every from of sophistry to deny the undeniable: the Turkish attempt to wipe out the Armenian people during World War I.

If Jews don't want the world to forget the Holocaust, how can the Jewish state forget the Armenian genocide? As time goes on, the 25-year gap between the Armenian genocide and the Holocaust will shrink to the merest dots on the historical map. If one dot is deniable, the next one will also be very easy to deny.

The rationalizations for denial of the Armenian genocide are flimsy, indeed excruciating.

* Rationalization #1: It is said that the current Turkish government was not responsible for the Armenian genocide. This is 100% true -- and 100% irrelevant. Was the current German government responsible for the Holocaust? Of course not. But it is this German government that has openly acknowledged the truth, openly repented, and paid extensive reparations. Turkey does none of this.

This is highly dangerous. As time passes, no direct responsibility will be attributable to any government for any past genocide. Does this mean that Germany will gradually be exempt from honesty over its country's role in the Holocaust, or exempt from furthering Holocaust education? For Israel and the national American Jewish Committee to let the current Turkish government off the hook for the Armenian genocide 90 years ago -- which it is obviously not directly responsible for -- is to endanger all future education about all past genocides. Needless to say, the main point of genocide education is to prevent it. By the logic of exempting present-day Turkey from the Armenian genocide, genocide education will gradually halt. This is highly dangerous.

* Rationalization #2: It is said that the Armenian deaths weren't really a "genocide," just a "tragedy." Not so. Of the reams of evidence to the contrary -- thousands of independently gathered testimonies -- here is one from Hans Morgenthau, the (Jewish) US ambassador to Turkey during the first part of WW I, in a cable to the State Department:

"Deportations of and excesses against the peaceful Armenians is increasing, and from harrowing reports of eyewitnesses it appears that a campaign of race extermination is in progress under a pretext of reprisal against rebellion."

Note the key phrase: race extermination. That's genocide.

Morgenthau, as quoted in a recent report by Larry Derfner, also wrote: "Reports from widely scattered districts indicate a systematic attempt to uproot peaceful Armenian populations and . . . arbitrary efforts, terrible tortures, wholesale expulsions and deportations from one end of the empire to the other, accompanied by frequent instances of rape, pillage and murder, turning into massacre, to bring destruction and destitution on them."

Note the key adjective: systematic. That's genocide.

And yet, here we are: Turkey is allowed an honored place at Yad Vashem. And the national American Jewish Committee won't call the Armenian genocide by its name. This is a desecration.

Unlike the national American Jewish Committee, the US Memorial Holocaust Museum and especially the Museum of Tolerance, affiliated with the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, tell the truth. The Holocaust Museum in Washington mentions the Armenian genocide three times. The Museum of Tolerance does much more.

The truth, the whole truth, includes this: Turkey served as a haven for Jews after the expulsion from Spain in 1492, and for more than 500 years afterward. Turkey is a secular state in a Moslem region, an important trading partner with Israel and an important strategic partner with the US. All true, deserving of recognition and indeed gratitude -- but not deserving of lies. The Armenian genocide is a fact. If you argue otherwise, you have to argue against the evidence not only of Hans Morgenthau but of Elie Wiesel, Deborah Lipstadt, Daniel Goldhagen, Raul Hilberg, Yehuda Bauer and countless other authorities.

It should not be hard for present day Israel or Turkey to acknowledge the Armenian genocide, or for Turkey to commit to Armenian-genocide education. After all, if the present Turkish government was not responsible for this genocide, why the denial of the past?

Whatever the social-psychological answer might be, it is not Israel's role to aid and abet genocide denial. Right now, there is genocide in Darfur. Directly abetting the indifference over it are those who deny genocide in the past. If there is anything in community and state relations that must be above all political considerations, it is genocide. Our humanity -- and the existence of humanity -- depends on it.

Source: http://www.ijn.com/archive/2005%20arch/050605.htm#story12

04/22/05: The Jewish Week: ‘The Hidden Holocaust’

‘The Hidden Holocaust’
On anniversary of 90-year-old genocide that paved the way for the Final Solution, campaign for recognition draws limited attention in the Jewish community.
Steve Lipman - Staff Writer

“Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”

Adolf Hitler, to his generals,

before the invasion of Poland in 1939

In the coming days, a people nearly annihilated during the last century will pause to remember its losses.

In commemorations here, in Jerusalem and in other cities around the world, relatives of survivors will discuss painful memories, members of the clergy will offer prayers for the victims and leaders of the dispersed community will call for justice. Historians will reflect on a legacy of hatred that led to mass killings. Stories of brutality and statistics about the murder of a third of a people will be cited.

And hardly a Jew will be present.

The people who died in what has come to be called “The Hidden Holocaust” are the Armenians, Indo-Europeans with roots in the area between the Caspian and Mediterranean seas. They lived for two millennia, until their national tragedy, as citizens in the Ottoman Empire, which fell when Turkey was on the losing side in World War I.

The country of Armenia — the first Christian nation, formerly a republic in the Soviet Union, independent since 1990 — now occupies only 10 percent of the Armenians’ historic homeland, the rest of which is part of neighboring Turkey.

April 24, this year the first day of Passover, is alternately known as Martyrs’ Day or Genocide Commemoration Day. It marks the start of the planned destruction of the Armenian community in Turkey 90 years ago during WWI.

Of the 2 to 2.5 million Armenians there on the eve of the war, an estimated 1 million to 1.5 million were killed by Turkish soldiers and sympathetic Kurds in a campaign that peaked in 1915-16. The carnage lasted sporadically until 1923 and the ascension of Kamil Ataturk, who did not share an animus toward Armenians.

The Armenian losses in those years represented at least a third of their total population in the world — the same percentage as the Holocaust took from the Jewish people.

Front-page news in the 1920s, largely forgotten in the West within a decade, as Hitler’s documented 1939 statement testified — his words are inscribed on a wall of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, despite Turkish pressure — the Armenian experience was overshadowed by the Six Million victims of the Shoah. Holocaust survivors’ efforts to remember the Six Million and obtain reparations served as a model for the Armenians’ belated campaign for recognition.

Historians call the slaughter of Armenia “the forgotten genocide.” Israeli historian Israel Charny called it “a dress rehearsal for the Holocaust.” Raphael Lemkin, the Polish-born Jewish lawyer who coined the term genocide in the 1940s, did so in part on the basis of what happened to the Armenians.

Each year the Jewish and Armenian communities commemorate their 20th century tragedies within a few weeks of each other, but few members of one group attends the other’s events.

“We finally came to the conclusion that we were not going to get participation of the establishment Jewish organizations,” says Samuel Azadian, a longtime leader of the local Knights of Vartan fraternal group that has organized the April 24 Times Square memorial ceremony for 19 years.

This year that’s 11 days before Yom Ha-Shoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The parallels between the Armenian Genocide and the Nazis’ Final Solution are chilling, but the issue of the Armenian Genocide and Armenian efforts for international acknowledgement of their tragedy has received little support from the organized Jewish community.

The Armenian Genocide issue presents the Jewish community with a classic conflict: realpolitik (Turkey is a strategic ally of the United States and Israel) vs. ethics (sympathy for an oppressed minority).

Realpolitik has triumphed, and Armenians recognize this.

“Jews and Armenians are linked forever by Hitler,” Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian said during the UN’s recent special assembly marking the 60th anniversary of the Auschwitz liberation. “After Auschwitz, one would expect that no one any longer has a right to turn a blind eye or a deaf ear. As an Armenian, I know that a blind eye, a deaf ear, a muted tongue perpetuate the wounds.”

While Jews traditionally participated in disproportionate numbers in such causes as civil rights and South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement, “I have not seen any major involvement of the Jewish community in this issue,” says Haik Gugarats, assistant to the Armenian ambassador in Washington. “It’s surprising.”

Doug Geogerian, director of the Eastern Region of the Armenian National Committee, adds: “We don’t really understand; we’re a little surprised.”

Veteran Israeli politician Yossi Sarid, who as education minister declared at a Genocide commemoration ceremony in Jerusalem’s Old City in 2000 that “for many years, too many, you were alone on this, your memorial day,” will attend an international conference in Yerevan, Armenia’s capital, on April 24 as a private citizen.

“As opposed to many other nations, Israel has never recognized the murder of the Armenian people, and in effect lent a hand to the deniers of that Genocide,” Sarid wrote in a recent essay in Haaretz. “The Israeli Foreign Ministry, and not only it, is always afraid of its own shadow and thus it casts a dark shadow over us all as accomplices to the ‘silence of the world.’ ”

The Genocide — 20 years after an estimated 200,000 Armenians were killed during the reign of Turkey’s Sultan Abdul Hamid II — was carried out by the Ittihad government that took power in 1913. The Ittihad claimed it feared the “infidel” Armenians, the only remaining major Christian group in the Muslim Ottoman Empire, taking up arms for Russia, Turkey’s enemy in WWI.

Already the Armenians “were lobbying for basic guarantees, for civil rights,” says Peter Balakian, an English professor at Colgate University and author of two books with an Armenian theme.

Like the Jews in Nazi Europe, the often prosperous Armenians, pilloried as a Fifth Column, earned the enmity of the majority population, often former neighbors and co-workers. Like survivors after World War II, Armenians tried to put their recent past behind them.

Like the Jewish community today, the Armenians face a problem of keeping the memory of their tragedy alive after the last survivors die.

In 1915, under the cover of war, Armenian soldiers in the Turkish army were disarmed and conscripted into labor battalions. On April 24, 1915, Armenian political and intellectual leaders were arrested and killed. The remaining Armenians — mostly women, children and elderly men — were rounded up by army units composed of violent criminals released from prison.

The Armenians were marched to what they were told would be new homes in the desert hundreds of miles away; most of the captives were killed along the way, or they starved to death, or they were fatally beaten upon arrival. Some were herded into caves and burned alive, or placed on barges that were sunk on the Black Sea, or thrown into gorges.

Reports of rape and theft were common.

James Russell, professor of Armenian studies at Harvard University, calls the Turks’ treatment of the Armenians during WWI “the model that Hitler used.” Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s deputy, was among the German soldiers stationed in Turkey during the Genocide, Russell points out. “Germans assisted the Turks logistically,” he said.

Turkish denials of responsibility offer “a picture of what might have happened [after World War II] if Germany had not been held to account or if Germany had not been defeated,” Russell says.

Henry Morgenthau, the American ambassador in Constantinople during World War I, said in his memoirs that Turkish leaders made no attempt to deny reports of the violence against the Armenians.

“One day I was discussing these proceedings with a responsible Turkish official, who was describing the tortures inflicted,” Morgenthau wrote. “He made no secret of the fact that the government had instigated them, and like all Turks of the official classes, he enthusiastically approved this treatment of the detested race.”

“The great powers did little to prevent the mass murder of the Armenians,” Israeli historian Yair Auron writes in “The Banality of Indifference: Zionism and the Armenian Genocide.”

“Germany, an influential ally of Turkey, although able to do much to stop the murders, had no interest in doing so and was involved directly and indirectly in the Armenian Genocide,” Auron writes. “England and France remained on the sidelines. The United States, and Ambassador Morgenthau in particular, tried to help by diplomatic and monetary means, limited by the fact that the U.S. was neutral during most of the war.”

In Turkey, only Damad Ferit Pasha’s government immediately after the war was forthcoming about the massacres, holding war crimes trials that condemned to death the architects of the Genocide, who had fled the country.

While now-independent Armenia and activists in the Armenian community abroad seek Turkey’s recognition of the Genocide – Turkish governments since the 1920s have denied that genocide occurred, have claimed that the number of victims is exaggerated, have attributed the deaths to disease and famine, have claimed Turks were provoked by attacks by Armenians, have opposed artistic or political efforts to document the tragedy, and have refused to consider the type of reparation payments made by Germany after World War II to Israel and individual Holocaust survivors – the government of Israel and many prominent Jewish organizations in the United States have challenged Armenian claims about their early 20th-century history and have lobbied on behalf of Turkey.

“It’s a wrong-headed view,” says Dr. Robert Jay Lifton, visiting professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and author of “The Nazi Doctors.”

“Often in official Jewish groups there can be insensitivity to others’ suffering,” says Dr. Lifton, who has written his support of the Armenian cause.

The Turkish Embassy in Washington, the Israeli Consulate here, and major Jewish organizations contacted by The Jewish Week did not respond to requests for comment on this issue.

Few Jewish schools in Israel or abroad teach about the Genocide, few rabbis preach about it, few Holocaust institutions pay more than passing attention to the subject.

“Yad Vashem’s mandate is to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive,” a spokesman for the Holocaust memorial center in Jerusalem says. “As such we are dedicated to educating, researching, studying and memorializing the Shoah. However, in the course of our educational and research activities, other instances of genocide, ethnic cleansing and mass murder are raised, including the case of Armenia.”

“It is a Jewish issue and should be a Jewish issue,” says Yair Auron, the Israeli historian who has written two books about the Armenian Genocide. “The world committed genocide before the Holocaust.

“We have to be with the Armenians on their memorial day,” says Auron, who attends the annual commemoration in Jerusalem. “We have to be at the front of the struggle for recognition of the Genocide.” Otherwise, he says, “We’re doing exactly what the deniers of the Holocaust do.”

Israel’s small Armenian community, based in the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, sponsors a commemoration ceremony there each year on April 24. Few Israelis attend.

In this country, while most major Jewish organizations have distanced themselves from the Armenian Genocide issue, a few groups, notably the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center, and individual Jewish politicians and intellectuals have lobbied for recognition of the Genocide, Armenian and Jewish spokesmen agree.

“You can’t be silent when you see injustice,” says Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center.

“Armenian community leaders ask me about this,” says Rep. Adam Schiff, a three-term congressman from California who represents a district with a large Armenian population and serves each year as a sponsor of a non-binding resolution that urges Turkey to admit its past.

“There is a sense that the Jewish organizations lobby actively against the resolution,” Schiff says.

The apolitical Joint Distribution Committee, which assists Armenia’s small Jewish community, provided humanitarian aid when a devastating earthquake struck the country in 1988.

Besides Schiff, and Morgenthau, who alerted the American government to the Genocide, individual Jews associated with the Armenian cause include Franz Werfel, a Czech-Jewish novelist whose “The Forty Days of Musa Dagh,” about Armenian resistance to the Genocide, was passed from hand to hand as inspiration among Jewish resistance fighters in World War II ghettos; New York filmmaker Andrew Goldberg, who has produced three documentaries about aspects of Armenian life and is working on a major project about the Genocide that will appear on PBS within a year; and Harvey Weinstein, who, as president of Mirimax, agreed in 2002, despite reported threats from Turkey, to distribute “Ararat,” a film centered around the Genocide.

“Some of the strongest defenders of the Armenians are the Jews” – individual Jews, not heads of Jewish organizations, says Holocaust historian Michael Berenbuam, who has written and spoken extensively on the subject.

“This was a sense of tzedakah for me … a sense of justice,” Goldberg says.

Weinstein, who had not heard about the Genocide until he read the Ararat script, said he agreed to back the project because “the denial of the Armenian Holocaust reminds me of the denial of our own Jewish Holocaust.”

Weinstein “felt it was time to tell the story,” The Los Angeles Times reported. “Having lost eight relatives at Auschwitz, Weinstein related well to the subject.”

The Jewish community has been cautious about embracing the Armenian Genocide issue, observers say, for several reasons. The two primary ones are:
• Pressure by Turkey. Turkey, a political, economic and military ally of Israel, was the first majority-Muslim nation in the Middle East to establish diplomatic relations with Israel. A refuge for endangered Jews from the Inquisition to the Holocaust, the country is hospitable to the 27,000 Jews who still live there.

Turkey consistently challenges any Armenian assertions of Turkish responsibility for a genocide. As far back as the 1930s, it pressured the State Department to block an MGM movie version of “The Forty Days of Musa Dagh.” In 1982 Turkey, according to many media reports, pressured Israel – with threats against the safety of Turkish Jews and indications that it might close its borders to Jews fleeing Iran—to cancel an academic conference on genocide that was to include references to the Armenian experience; a scaled-down gathering was eventually moved from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv.
• The uniqueness of the Holocaust. Many protectors of the Holocaust’s legacy resist attempts to compare the scope of the Shoah to any other mass extermination of a people, feeling that references to such examples as Rwanda, Cambodia or Sudan would diminish the Jewish suffering’s unique status.

The Turkish Daily News in 2001 quoted Shimon Peres, then Israeli foreign minister, as saying, “We reject attempts to create a similarity between the Holocaust and the Armenian allegations. Nothing similar to the Holocaust occurred. It is a tragedy what the Armenians went through but not a genocide.”

“We are teaching the Holocaust in too particularistic a way,” Auron says.

What do the Armenians want?

“We want Turkey to acknowledge the genocide,” Haik Gugarats of the Armenian Embassy says. “All we want from Turkey is the establishment of normal diplomatic relations and the opening of borders.”

Armenia has no territorial or monetary demands, Gugarats says.

“The Turks feel they are unjustly accused,” says Taner Akcam, a Turkish historian and sociologist who is a visiting professor at the University of Minnesota. He is among a handful of Turkish scholars to challenge his homeland’s denial of responsibility for the Genocide.

Though Turkey’s leadership since the 1920s had no direct ties to the slaughter of the Armenians, “some of the founders of the state were members of the party who organized the Genocide,” Akcam says. “The Turks glorified these people as founding heroes.”

Admission of Turkey’s role in the genocide would “question the very foundation of the state,” he says.

Armenian- Americans tell of being raised on stories of the Genocide, like American Jews who heard about the Holocaust while growing up. But the Armenian Genocide did not become a public issue in the Armenian community for a few generations because émigrés here and in other countries lacked the numbers or political clout of Jewish Holocaust survivors who raised public consciousness of the Shoah, starting in the late 1970s.

“After any genocide, the victims don’t like to talk about it – it happened after the Holocaust,” Gugarats says.

Thousands of people, including politicians, are expected to attend Sunday’s memorial ceremony in Times Square. As Turkey seeks membership in the European Union, demands by EU countries, especially France, that Turkey admit responsibility for the deaths of Armenians during the Genocide will focus increased attention on the subject. And the recent $20 million settlement by the New York Life Insurance Company to descendants of Armenians who held insurance policies at the turn of the last century adds to the historical record.

In recent decades the European Parliament, the UN Committee on Human Rights, the Vatican and several European governments and scholarly organizations have acknowledged the Armenian Genocide. In June 1998 the Association of Genocide Scholars defined the Armenian tragedy as the 20th century’s first genocide.

Israel took a neutral position until 1994, when Deputy Foreign Minister Yossi Beilin declared in the Knesset that “it was not war. It was most certainly massacre and genocide … We will always reject any attempt to erase its record, even for some political advantage.”

Apparent Jewish indifference to the issue has drawn Armenian criticism, and, three years ago, a protest rally outside the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles.

The Armenian National Committee in 2002 criticized “nine major Jewish organizations” – including the American Jewish Committee, the American Jewish Congress, the Anti-Defamation League, and Hadassah – for signing a letter that urged President Bush to provide Turkey with economic and military aid.

The letter, the committee said, “appears to represent a retreat from the Jewish American community’s proud tradition of standing up for human rights, universal values, and the cause of international justice.”

Next year, the Jewish and Armenian communities will be closer, symbolically – Yom haShoah and Genocide Commemoration Day occur on consecutive days in 2006.

04/22/05: Jewish Journal: Jewish Split Marks Armenian Genocide


Jewish Split Marks Armenian Genocide
by Larry Derfner, Tel Aviv Correspondent

In the cemetery of the 1,500-year-old Armenian Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem there rises a memorial to genocide — the Armenian genocide. This horror set the stage for the Jewish Holocaust, but as a human calamity, it also stands alone.

George Hintlian, a 58-year-old Armenian historian, grew up in the quarter. He’s interviewed hundreds of exiled survivors; two are left in the quarter, he said, the oldest, is a 100-year-old woman.

“My grandfather and uncle were killed in the genocide, and so were many other members of my family,” Hintlian said.

His friends include Hebrew University professors who attend the quarter’s genocide memorial ceremony each year. They’ll be hosting a memorial conference at the university later this month, but such attention is the exception rather than the rule.

Armenians “would expect a natural alliance [with Israelis and Jews], or at least empathy,” Hintlian said. “But in the end, a kind of indifference has set in.”

There’s always been a strong Jewish angle to the story of the Armenian genocide, whose 90th anniversary is commemorated this weekend. At the beginning, Jews numbered disproportionately among those who called attention to the atrocities, among those who tried to provoke the conscience of the world.

Then, in the nine decades after, Jewish intellectuals and scholars worked to expose and commemorate this brutal episode — out of a sense of decency, of historical accuracy and also with an understanding that genocides are not a Jewish phenomenon alone, and that the tragedy of a single people is a tragedy also for all humanity.

But there’s been another quite different strain of Jewish reaction to the Armenian genocide. American and Israeli Jews also have been prominent among those who refuse to define the slaughter of more than 1 million Armenians as genocide. They refuse to blame the Turkish regime of old for the crime — largely out of respect for Turkey’s long history of protecting Jews and out of deference to the current pro-Israel Turkish government.

Turkish governments for more than 80 years have denied that any genocide took place, claiming instead that a war was on and Armenians weren’t its only victims. This view holds that Turks weren’t responsible for Armenian suffering then and certainly are not now. In its public relations battle vs. Armenians, Turkey has had no greater ally than Israeli governments and elements of the U.S. Jewish establishment, notably the American Jewish Committee.

The official Israeli line, stated most authoritatively in 2001 by then-Foreign Minister Shimon Peres on the eve of a state visit to Turkey, is that what happened to the Armenians “is a matter for historians to decide.”

Peres didn’t stop there. Speaking to a Turkish newspaper, Peres said, “We reject attempts to create a similarity between the Holocaust and the Armenian allegations.”

Hebrew University professor emeritus Yehuda Bauer, Israel’s leading Holocaust scholar, minces no words: “Frankly, I’m pretty disgusted. I think that my government preferred economic and political relations with Turkey to the truth. I can understand why they did it, but I don’t agree with it.”

Witness to History

Henry Morganthau, the U.S. ambassador to Turkey through the first half of World War I, was an early, crucial witnesses to the Ottoman Turks’ slaughter of 1 million-1.5 million Armenians, and the permanent exile of approximately 1 million more from 1915 to 1916.

In a cable to the U.S. State Department, Morganthau wrote: “Deportation of and excesses against peaceful Armenians is increasing, and from harrowing reports of eyewitnesses it appears that a campaign of race extermination is in progress under a pretext of reprisal against rebellion.”

Morganthau, one of a few Jews then in U.S. government service, also wrote that the “persecution of Armenians is assuming unprecedented proportions. Reports from widely scattered districts indicate a systematic attempt to uproot peaceful Armenian populations and ... arbitrary efforts, terrible tortures, wholesale expulsions and deportations from one end of the empire to the other, accompanied by frequent instances of rape, pillage and murder, turning into massacre, to bring destruction and destitution on them.”

Years later, Prague-born Jewish author Franz Werfel immortalized the scattered, desperate Armenian acts of resistance against Ottoman marauders in his classic 1933 novel, “The Forty Days of Musa Dagh.” Today, numerous Jewish Holocaust scholars, including Elie Wiesel, Deborah Lipstadt, Daniel Goldhagen, Raul Hilberg and Bauer, are among the most prominent voices calling for recognition of the Armenian genocide and Turkish historic responsibility for it.

The forces that carried out the killing included Kurds and Circassians, as well as Turks, Bauer said, but the decision-making leaders behind the onslaught were the Turkish rulers of the Ottoman Empire.

“There’s no doubt about it whatsoever — it’s absolutely clear,” said Bauer, citing “thousands” of testimonials from U.S. consuls, missionaries, social workers, nurses, doctors and businessmen present at the time, as well as thousands more from Austrian and German officials who were there. The various sources tell “the same story, and they were completely independent of each other,” Bauer said.

Decades of Denial

A post-World War I Ottoman Turk government convicted and executed many perpetrators of the Armenian massacre, Bauer added, but the Turkish leadership that overthrew that post-war government, and every Turkish regime since, has denied the genocide.

“Many of these denials say, ‘Yes, there was terrible suffering on both sides, the Turkish vs. the Armenian, these things happen in war,’” Bauer said. “But that’s nonsense. This was a definite, planned attack on a civilian minority, and whatever Armenian resistance there was came in response to the imminent danger of mass murder.”

The Turkish version has sympathizers among university historians, including UCLA’s Stanford Shaw, University of Louisville’s Justin McCarthy and Princeton’s Bernard Lewis, but they are a distinct minority.

Israel’s reaction to the Armenian genocide has become an academic focus of Israeli Open University professor Yair Auron. His books include “The Banality of Denial: Israel and the Armenian Genocide.” Israel’s Education Ministry blocked his 1990s attempt to introduce the Armenian genocide and other genocides into Israeli schools out of concern for “objectivity.”

Auron contends that the Israeli government’s abetting of Turkey’s denial is not only a “moral disgrace,” it also “hurts the legacy and heritage of the Holocaust. When we help a country deny the genocide of its predecessor, we also help the deniers of the Holocaust, because they watch what’s happening. They see that in this cynical world, if you invest persistent efforts in denial, then denial, to some extent at least, succeeds.”

But Jewish and Israeli silence is about more than a misguided attempt to preserve the Holocaust’s “uniqueness.” There’s also the pragmatic issue of Israel’s all-important military, economic and political relations with Turkey. Israeli Foreign Ministry sources, who insisted on anonymity, characterized the official Israeli approach to the Armenian genocide as “Practical, realpolitik”

Repeated requests to the Turkish Embassy in Tel Aviv for an interview went unanswered. But Turkey remains a major customer of Israel’s defense industries, and the two countries share considerable military and anti-terrorism expertise. Turkey also stands as a bulwark of moderate Islam in the Middle East, a vital regional site of U.S. and NATO military bases, as well as an ally of America and an enemy of Iran and Syria.

Then there’s Turkey’s historical treatment of Jews, beginning with the Spanish Inquisition more than 500 years ago, when it provided a safe haven for Jewish refugees fleeing murderous persecution.

Officially, Israel doesn’t use the word “genocide” to describe the slaughter of the Armenians, preferring the word “tragedy.”

In contrast to some 20 other countries, the United States also has never recognized the Armenian genocide. Congressional resolutions to that effect have repeatedly failed to pass, despite backing from Jewish congressmen such as Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Stephen Rothman (D-N.J.).

Israel and Jewish lobbyists in the United States have opposed these efforts. For its part, the American Jewish Committee has taken no official position on a proposed congressional resolution urging President Bush to use the term “Armenian genocide” in his own upcoming remarks related to the genocide’s 90th anniversary.

Barry Jacobs, director of strategic studies at the American Jewish Committee’s Washington office pointedly refused to agree or disagree with the judgment of Holocaust and genocide scholars on who was responsible for the slaughter of Armenians.

The L.A. Story

In Los Angeles, the Museum of Tolerance “has educated more people about the Armenian genocide than any other institution in America,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean at the affiliated Simon Wiesenthal Center.

The calamity is included in a map of 20th century genocides in the museum’s permanent exhibition, and the museum’s library has numerous books and videos discussing it, Cooper noted. He employs the term “Armenian genocide,” but he will not place responsibility for it on troops of the Ottoman Empire or on Turkish leaders, past or present.

Two years ago, a handful of young Armenian activists targeted the center in a six-day hunger strike, demanding greater representation of their people’s victimization. Talks between the Wiesenthal Center and Armenian community officials ended that dispute, Cooper said.

Summing up the center’s approach, Cooper said: “We try to take a stand that is true to history, but which is also true to our friends, and hopefully our Armenian and Turkish friends understand. That a genocide of the Armenian people took place is a fact, and that for hundreds of years, the Turkish people [aided Jews in danger], when Christian and Muslim nations did not is also a fact, and that Israel needs close relations with Turkey is also a fact. That’s not an easy triangulation, but it’s our responsibility to make it.”

Despite Turkish and Israeli lobbying against including any mention of the Armenian genocide, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., makes three mentions of the genocide in its permanent exhibit. One is Hitler’s infamous exhortation urging his invading troops to be merciless: “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”

Armenian in Jerusalem

Armenian historian Hintlian takes Israeli school groups on tours of Jerusalem’s Armenian Quarter. One stop is the memorial in the cemetery. It’s something he can do to keep the memory and lessons of that history alive.

Hintlian appreciates the support he gets from well-known Jewish Holocaust historians. Bauer and Auron will be among four Israelis traveling to the Armenian capital of Yerevan to participate in an academic conference on the genocide. Still, Hintlian is “distressed” at the overall Jewish response. It has regressed, he said, from Morganthau’s valiant example of 90 years ago.

“Armenians expect that Jews would have a natural sympathy for them,” the historian said. “We are two ancient nations with the same diaspora problems of survival. We’ve suffered the same kind of persecution. And fate decided that our two nations would both be victims of genocide in the last century.”

Source: http://www.jewishjournal.com/home/preview.php?id=14011

04/21/05 Jerusalem Post: Rattling the Cage: Playing politics with genocide

Rattling the Cage: Playing politics with genocide


Jerusalem Post

Apr. 21, 2005 1:52 | Updated Apr. 21, 2005 6:45

"And the world stood silent." This is one of the most indelible Jewish memories of the Holocaust, and one of our most bitter accusations.

On Sunday, in the Armenian capital of Yerevan, the90th anniversary of the Armenian genocide - the slaughter of at least 1 million Armenian civilians by the Turkish Ottoman regime - will be memorialized.

What does the State of Israel and many of its American Jewish lobbyists have to say about it, about this first genocide of the 20th century? If they were merely standing silent, that would be an improvement. Instead, on the subject of the Armenian genocide, Israel and some US Jewish organizations, notably the American Jewish Committee, have for many years acted aggressively as silencers. In Israel, attempts to broadcast documentaries about the genocide on state-run television have been aborted. A program to teach the genocide in public schools was watered down to the point that history teachers refused to teach it.

In the US Congress, resolutions to recognize the genocide and the Ottoman Turks' responsibility for it have been snuffed out by Turkey and its right-hand man on this issue, the Israel lobby.

Jeshajahu Weinberg, founding director of the US Holocaust Museum, wrote that when Armenians lobbied to show the genocide in the museum, Turkey and Israel counter-lobbied to keep out any trace of it. The museum decided to make three mentions of the genocide, including Hitler's call to his troops to be merciless to their victims: "Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?"

Over 125 Holocaust scholars - including ElieWiesel, Deborah Lipstadt, Daniel Goldhagen, Raul Hilberg and Yehuda Bauer -have signed ads in the New York Times demanding acknowledgement of the Armenian genocide and the Ottoman Turks' culpability for it. Wiesel testified in Congress on behalf of such a resolution. The International Association of Genocide Scholars - which, by the way, is studded with Jewish names - holds the same view as a matter of course.

In the face of all this, Israel's position, as articulated by then-foreign minister Shimon Peres before a 2001 visit to Turkey, says the Armenian genocide is "a matter for historians to decide."
The American Jewish Committee's position is that of "the US government, the government of Israel, and the Turkish Jewish community: that this is an issue best left to historians, not politicians," says Barry Jacobs of the AJC's Washington office.

Off the record, a Foreign Ministry official describes Israel's approach to the issue as "practical, realpolitik.Whoever sees our position in this region can understand how important our relations with Turkey are."

And that's what determines the Israeli and US Jewish establishment stand on the Armenian genocide - Israel's crucial military, economic and political ties with Turkey.

Then, along with the "realpolitik" considerations, there's the Jewish people's weighty moral debt to Turkey, a safe harbor for Jews since the Spanish Inquisition over 500 years ago.

Finally, on a petty level, there's the worry that letting the Armenian genocide out of history's closet might diminish the "uniqueness" of the Holocaust in people's minds.

"Frankly, I'm pretty disgusted. I think that my government preferred economic and political relations with Turkey to the truth. I can understand why they did it, but I don't agree with it."

That's Yehuda Bauer talking. He's Israel's leading Holocaust historian, an Israel Prize winner, and now academic adviser to Yad Vashem. He began studying the Armenian genocide about 25 years ago as a natural outgrowth of his study of the Holocaust.

For 80 years, says Bauer, Turkey has been "denying the genocide... saying, 'Yes, there was terrible suffering on both sides, the Turkish versus the Armenian, these things happen in war.' But that's nonsense. This was a definite, planned attack on a civilian minority, and whatever Armenian resistance there was came in response to the imminent danger of mass murder."

To Turkey's claim, backed by Israel and its Washington lobby, that there's no conclusive proof of a Turkish Ottoman order for the mass murder of Armenians, Bauer says, "Oh, there's no doubt about it whatsoever. It's absolutely clear." He cites "thousands" of testimonials from US, German and Austrian officials who were in Turkey and what is now Armenia when it happened.

One of the most important of those witnesses was US ambassador to Turkey Henry Morganthau - a Jew, incidentally. He wrote that the "persecution of Armenians is assuming unprecedented proportions. Reports from widely scattered districts indicate a systematic attempt to uproot peaceful Armenian populations and... arbitrary efforts, terrible tortures, wholesale expulsions and deportations from one end of the Empire to the other, accompanied by frequent instances of rape, pillage and murder, turning into massacre, to bring destruction and destitution on them."

Israel and the Israel lobby fully acknowledge that the Armenians suffered a terrible "tragedy." A Foreign Ministry statement even notes that "the Jewish people have a special sensitivity tot he murders and human tragedies that occurred during the years 1915 and1916."

They just won't say who was to blame, or whether Turkey bears historical responsibility. Mention Wiesel and all the rest of the Holocaust and genocide historians, and the Israeli and US Jewish officials comeback - off the record - with the renowned Bernard Lewis. Along with a few other American historians, Lewis says it wasn't a genocide at all, that World War I was going on and Armenians were fighting with Russia against the Turks, and that you can't blame Turkey for what happened, not then and certainly not now.

Thus the official Israeli/Jewish line: "It's a matter for historians to decide."

Fair enough. Even though Lewis's side is terribly out numbered among Western historians, let's say the burden of proof lies with Wiesel, Bauer, Lipstadt et al, who say the Ottoman Turks ordered the massacre of 1 million-1.5 million Armenians. Let's say Israeli and US Jewish leaders aren't competent to judge who's right and who's wrong.

And let's even give their declared neutrality the benefit of the doubt because of Israel's relations with Turkey, and Turkey's long history of welcoming Jews in distress.

The point is this: Israel and the US Jewish establishment may say they're neutral over what happened to the Armenians 90years ago, but their actions say the opposite. They've not only taken sides, they're on the barricades. They've done everything they can to cover up what the great majority of historians, including the entire community of Holocaust scholars, say was a clear-cut case of genocide.

Jews shouldn't do this - for any reason. Ninety years after the Armenian genocide, there is a decent Jewish response to the sickening behavior of the State of Israel, the American Jewish Committee and other US Jewish organizations:

Not in our name.

Source: http://www.genocidewatch.org/rattlingthecageplayingpoliticswithgenocide21april05.htm