BY GAREN YEGHPARIAN
“1915 Never Again,” we chant at our Genocide related actions. It’s my recollection that the Jewish community had invented that notion regarding genocide. We’ve lifted it and used it extensively and appropriately. But it looks like we’ve been scooped again, at least by some sectors of the Jewish community who seem to have adopted the concept of “Never Before”. They appear to suffer from a “the Holocaust is unique” complex. After all, no one but the Germans and Jews could have been locked in such a murderous relationship, right?
I’m convinced this foolishness is partially driving the show that’s now playing. It began with the scrutiny given to Watertown, MA’s affiliation with the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) “No Place for Hate” (NPFH) program. In fact, if the ADL, its National Director Abraham Foxman, and “uniquists” within the US Jewish community keep up their unconscionable mindset and actions, they’re in line for a SpitRain Award.
Not only the Watertown Tab, but the Boston Globe and even the Los Angeles Times have reported on this mess. The Globe has even editorialized and run op-ed pieces about it. We now have a scandal of countrywide proportions. Besides the obvious benefits to our cause, this case is an excellent example of why it’s important to have Armenia’s with a committed, activist bent in places and positions that matter.
In April, Foxman had been quoted in the LATimes article covering the Genocide resolution in Congress, essentially toeing Turkey’s denialist line. (Remember, this is the same “replacement article” which filled in for the Mark Arax piece killed by the Turkophile editor Doug Frantz). The ANC in Watertown noticed the disconnect between Foxman’s shenanigans and that city’s partnering with the ADL’s NPFH program. Watertown pulled out of the program, but not before the ADL’s New England Regional Director Andrew H. Tarsy first defended the national ADL’s position. However, Tarsy’s conscience prevailed and he spoke out in favor of the ADL adopting an unequivocal recognition of the Armenian Genocide. That cost him his job. In response to Tarsy’s firing by Foxman, two ADL regional board members resigned in protest. Finally, Foxman “after consulting” with people he trusts, as if that’s what it ought to take to do something this basic and decent, has put the ADL on record recognizing the Genocide. But;
Of course, in politics nothing is that clear cut, simple, and decent. Foxman’still opposes passage of a Congressional resolution on the Armenian Genocide, deeming it counterproductive to improved relations between Armenia’s and Turks. He fears for the well being of Turkey’s Jewish community. Here, he’s joined by David Harris, Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee (AJC). Harris issued a lengthy statement about this situation and Armeno-Turkish relations, even offering to mediate. Along with Foxman, he sheds crocodile tears over the state of relations between the two nations. Both note the importance of Israel’s relationship with Turkey. Clearly, these two factors– Jews in Turkey and Israeli-Turkish relations– are what’s driving this mess, since a broad spectrum of Jews, be they elected officials, organizational representatives, or average people, support Armenian concerns. They do so from a place of conscience and a place of realism, recognizing that Holocaust denial is but a generation away should Turkish efforts at erasing history succeed.
At this point, it’s tempting to ooze sarcasm directed at these American-Jewish-realpolitik players, but that’d be counterproductive. More appropriate might be an example from Armenia’s international relations. It is on good terms with both the US and Iran, something that is no mean feat considering the levels of antipathy and distrust that poison Iranian-American relations. Armenia could easily have found itself stuck in the middle. But both the US and Iran are reasonably mature, civilized states, unlike Turkey. So the folks in the US Jewish community and Israel’s political elites who have been cowering and kowtowing to Turkey’s whims and tantrums must come to realize that they’re playing the role of Neville Chamberlain appeasing the Nazis.
The double standard being applied by the Foxmans of the Jewish community is unsustainable, immoral, and ultimately dangerous even to Jewish interests. This scandal provides an opportunity for the Jewish community to rid itself of the notions of exclusiveness some apply to the Holocaust. Once and for all the stain that sullies the moral high ground Jews can otherwise claim as survivors will be consolidated. The same applies to the concern about the fate of Jews in Turkey. Once the Turks see that threatening their own Jewish community gets no results, and in fact backfires, they will stop. Remember, Turkey’s behavior is much akin to that of a schoolyard bully. Once challenged, confronted, meekness prevails.
It may be a more difficult step for Israel and its most ardent D.C. lobbyists to shed their double standard since the relationship with Turkey is what drives their policy and actions. But this very relationship is what provides the opportunity to shake the moral blemishes that have begun to accrue to Israel’s reputation. Pushing Turkey in the right direction will only enhance Israel’s stature and undercut criticism directed at it.
The NPFH/ADL scandal must not be allowed to fade into oblivion. We must push until Jewish organizations in the US unreservedly do the right thing. The time is right and attention is focused. If it takes advocating more cities’ withdrawal from the NPFH program, so be it, whether Philadelphia or Santa Barbara is next. Let’s do what it takes to get Foxman and his ilk to stop fighting the Genocide resolution and start supporting it. Perhaps we should be advocating Foxman’s dismissal. This is an excellent opportunity to consolidate our position in the US and deny Turkey its occasional ally in denial. And, it all started with someone in our community being politically alert and of an activist mindset.