09/14 Armenian Weekly: Abe Foxman Defies His Own Advice

Abe Foxman Defies His Own Advice

By Narini Badalian

"The Armenian Weekly", Volume 73, No. 37, September 15, 2007

NEW YORK—“Be credible, be careful, but never be intimidated” when struggling against anti-Semitism, urged Abraham Foxman on Sept. 6 to the nearly 300 mostly elderly Jewish members of the audience at the 92nd Street Y in New York City during “Modern Anti-Semitism: A Conversation with Abraham Foxman and Stuart Eizenstat.”

Moderator Thane Rosenbaum, professor of law, human rights and literature at Fordham University, recalled the recent victimization of Jews—from the 1994 bombing of the Israeli embassy in Argentina, to the 2002 conspiracy theory that accused Mossad of plotting the September 11 attacks, to the kidnapping and brutal murder of Ilan Halimi, a Parisian of Jewish decent, and finally to John Mearsheimer’s and Stephan Walt’s publication on the Israeli Lobby, which first appeared in the London Review of Books in March 2006, concluding that there is no moral reason for the U.S. to lobby for Israel in its foreign policy. Rosenbaum asked whether “we [Jews] are being too touchy.” Eizenstat, who has worked for the State Department under the Carter and Clinton administrations, agreed with Abraham Foxman who said that there is a new modern anti-Semitism, “a very serious situation not to be taken lightly.” But the Jews today are not in the same situation as they were in the 1930’s, they are not silent against threats as they were back then, for three main factors, according to Eizenstat. First, Jews have organizations like the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and leaders like Foxman. Secondly, world representatives are taking anti-Semitism more seriously than ever before, especially those in Europe—like Tony Blair, Nicolas Sarkozy and his predecessor Jacques Chirac, who in November 2003 said that “an attack on a Jew is an attack against France” when arsonists attacked a Jewish school in the middle of the night. Third, they have the state of Israel, which, Eizenstat argues, if it had existed during WWII would have prevented the Holocaust from happening.

Rosenbaum asked if one can still criticize Israel without being called anti-Semitic. “Questioning Israel’s right to exist is a camouflage for anti-Semitism,” explained Foxman, adding that anti-Semitism is now “parading under critisism” of Israel. When the Jimmy Carter card was pulled, regarding his latQest book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, Foxman adamently said that although Carter is not an anti-Semite, his book was anti-Semitic. “Why do only Jews see this as anti-Semitism? Why don’t non-Jews see it?” Foxman asked.

Eizenstat, who was Jimmy Carter’s domestic policy advisor, stunned the audience when he said that although the book was “unfortunate,” Foxman should “stick to running the ADL, and don’t try to become a psychologist, because you really are dead wrong.”

Regarding Jewish celebrities who are critical of Israel, like Tony Judt, or who poke fun at anti-Semitism like Larry David, Sarah Silverman and Sasha Baron Cohen, the creator of “Borat,” Abe Foxman said that they trivialize and minimize anti-Semitism. “it hurts somehow—the first time is OK, freedom of speech, but it’s damaging how the enemies of Jews and Israel use it to legitimize their position,” Sasha made a “hero out of a bigot,” Foxman said. “Borat makes [anti-Semitism] laughable.” Another not so funny issue brought up was Iran’s cartoon drawing contest regarding the Holocaust and its conference last year debating the facts of the Holocaust. Foxman called for the isolation of Iran and its leader, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Asked if the Israeli lobby has too much power, Eizenstat pointed out that there is a Jewish lobby “like there is a black lobby, but the notion that there is a monolithic one is wrong.” In the U.S., he said, people are debating “Jewish loyalty” and it’s a debate that “Jews are disproportionately powerful.” Foxman reminded the audience that “Hitler began by saying Jews are not loyal” to Germany, and that Stalin reiterated such rhetoric.

Outside the 92nd Street Y, approximately 75 protesters held signs that read, “Apologize to the Armenians, Abe,” “Foxman, why does ADL support Genocide Denial?” and “Fire Foxman.” The participants of the protest organized by Jewcy.com (an online Jewish magazine and community) were young, articulate and loud, and turned heads chanting, “Kars, Auschwitz, Rwanda, Sudan! Millions murdered, when will it end?” They were passionate in their calls for genocide recognition, saying, the “ADL must support Resolution 106,” “Don’t deny Genocide” and “Foxman must resign.”

The protest was in response to the ADL’s ambiguous stance on the Armenian genocide. Watertown, Mass., along with other towns in the state recently severed ties with a local program called No Place For Hate (NPFH) because it was sponsored by the ADL. Town Human Rights Commissions and Councilors found they could no longer be associated with an organization that promoted tolerance while denying genocide. In response to Watertown severing ties with the NPFH, the ADL came out with a press release on Aug. 21 stating that they always acknowledged the events of WWI against the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as massacres and that “on reflection, we have come to share the view of Henry Morgenthau, Sr. that the consequences of those actions were indeed tantamount to genocide.” The ADL, however, found any Congressional Genocide Resolution (like H.R.106 currently in Congress, with an overwhelming 225 supporters) to be a “counter-productive” measure toward Armenian-Turkish reconciliation.

Activists and members of both the Jewish and Armenian communities were outraged at the half-hearted “recognition,” which intentionally used the term “consequence” rather than “intent” in describing the killings. A few days later, it was revealed that Foxman apologized to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for any pain the issue may have caused the Turkish people. Erdogan along with the Turkish and Jewish presses reported that Foxman had corrected his mistake of acknowledging the genocide. In its August 23rd press release, the ADL stated that “although independent scholars may have reached a consensus about the genocide, in an effort to help accomplish reconciliation there is room for further dispassionate scholarly examination of the details of those dark and terrible days.” Finding this rhetoric among Holocaust deniers and revisionists, the new generation of Jewish writers, leaders and intellectuals, such as those from Jewcy.com, organized a protest to urge Foxman to either unambiguously recognize the genocide or resign for his shameful denial.

Attending the protest was Dan Sieradski, founder of JewSchool.com, who was proud that they were “one of the first Jewish websites to pick up on the story and rage against ADL’s position demanding more than just an apology from Foxman.” Sieradski continued, “He has really crossed the line this time and its time for him to step down.”

Eli Valley, a contributor and cartoonist for Jewcy.com, held a poster in his hand with a caricature of Foxman and the words, “It’s not Genocide unless I say it is!” Valley expressed his disappointment with the ADL, saying, “Foxman’s denial is both damning and shameful—shameful to the Jewish community that the chief of American Jews is selling out the Jewish soul for denial of genocide, for that which he is paid to testify against.” When asked if he felt the protest might have an effect on Foxman, Valley concluded that the protest amongst other actions would get the point across, “he [Foxman] feels he’s untouchable but his board will hopefully realize he is more of a liability then an asset.” A young student with hope and idealism in his eyes held a sign that read, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

I wondered if this message got across to the director of the ADL. “Mr. Foxman,” I approached him after the discussion in the 92nd street Y, “what do you think about the protestors outside?” “What?” he responded aloofly. “I didn’t see them.” I asked him, “If you feel that Americans are being anti-Semitic by assuming that Jewish organizations are not loyal to the U.S. and are loyal to Israel, how do you explain your stance regarding the Congressional Resolution affirming the Armenian genocide, which is a benefit to America?” Upon hearing my words, he budged toward the door and without a glimmer of compassion stated, “I’m not here to discuss this.” Rejected by the man who is the leader of an organization that claims to “secure justice and fair treatment for all,” I walked toward the staircase, turned around and faced his security, the organizers and the remnants of the handful of audience members, and said, “So much for human rights. I guess not everything deserves equal treatment.” I can only assume Abe Foxman was serious when he responded, “That’s for you to decide.”

In 1915, when Armenians were marched into the deserts of Der-Zor, Henry Morgenthau, who did not consider the “consequences” of the events “tantamount to genocide,” wrote: “When the Turkish authorities gave the orders for these deportations [of the Armenians], they were merely giving the death warrant to a whole race; they understood this well, and, in their conversations with me, they made no particular attempt to conceal the fact.”

When he implored the Ottoman authorities to end the slaughter, Grand Vizier, Talaat Pasha reacted: “Why are you so interested in the Armenians anyway? You are a Jew, these people are Christians. what have you to complain of? Why can’t you let us do with these Christians as we please?”

Mr. Morgenthau responded: “You don’t seem to realize that I am not here as a Jew but as the American Ambassador. I do not appeal to you in the name of any race or religion but merely as a human being.”

When in February 2006, a week after the brutal murder of Halimi, my history professor walked into the classroom at the American University of Paris and announced that the Austrian courts had issued a jail sentence to David Irving for his trivialization of the Holocaust, I was appalled that many students in the room defended his right to “free speech.” In my view, his sentence was nothing less than just. I do not consider any form of historical revisionism free speech. When an individual, especially under the guise of “scholarly work,” intentionally tampers with historical facts and attempts to draw attention to another side of a story, when no such side exists, he has forfeited his right to free speech by attacking the collective memory of humanity.

Perhaps Mr. Foxman should take his own advice “to be credible, to be careful, but never be intimidated.” For, marginalizing the pain of another traumatized group is sacrificing moral credibility; working against a Congressional resolution that affirms a “crime against humanity” is failing to be careful toward the legacy and lessons of the Holocaust; and paying ransom to perpetrators of genocide denial—the Turkish government—is being intimidated.

Concerned writers, genocide scholars and Holocaust chairs have consistently affirmed the historical validity of the Armenian genocide, have petitioned for official governmental recognition of it, and have categorically rejected any politically motivated call for a “joint-commission” from Turkey. They have done their work. It’s time for us to do ours. If human rights organizations make this issue fade into oblivion, the future of humanity is in jeopardy.

Source: http://www.hairenik.com/armenianweekly/com09150707.htm