I’ve always advocated action, participation, doing something over doing nothing, in a word, activism.
But all along, I’ve held a bias that’s now been revealed to me. I suppose I owe everyone an apology. I’d just always assumed that activists, especially any who survive into their twenties and beyond, also develop/have good judgment. At the very least, I’ve observed most organizations checking the overzealousness of some of their members/activists in the interest of not doing damage to their cause. It seems I am dead wrong on this front.
Some time within the past month or so, Annie Totah, who sits on the Armenian Assembly’s Board of Directors (and has even been its chair and vice-chair) and is ARCA’s National Chair (the Armenian Rights Council of America, is the ADL/Ramgavars’ version of the ANC), sent out an e-mail that could have negative repercussions for the Armenian community. She is also heavily involved in the Jewish community, having married into it. Check this and more of her credentials out on the Assembly’s and ARMENPAC’s (the Assembly’s political arm) web sites.
Normally, this is exactly the kind and level of participation I’d be advocating and lauding. But, here that judgment thing pops up again. The e-mail she sent negates many of the positives of her involvement. I have not been able to secure a copy of the e-mail, and that’s secondary. What’s more important is a piece by Ed Lasky with references found on the "American Thinker" web site. You can find the reference to this on Ben Smith’s Blog, Politico.com.
The problem is the nature of Lasky’s piece and being associated with it. Eyeballing some of his other writings quickly conforms his conspiracy mongering approach. The piece in question, titled "Barack Obama and Israel," does a smear job on that candidate. There’re subtle and overt references to Obama’s choice of religion and denomination; attempts to assign guilt by association using some of Obama’s supporters alleged transgressions against Israel; and even an attack based on Obama’s opposition to John Bolton’s nomination as U.N. Ambassador. The article even takes potshots at members of Congress, some of them H.Res.106 sponsors, among these Adam Schiff, one of our strongest Congressional supporters.
Totah’s e-mail, presumably sent to a Jewish audience, to demonstrate the superiority of her chosen candidate (Hillary Clinton), may or may not sway its intended readers. Frankly, I don’t care. In fact I wouldn’t even care if the other candidate were targeted. That’s not the point. Totah and ARMENPAC have chosen to support Clinton. That’s actually good. This way regardless of who wins, with the ANC’s endorsement of Obama, one faction of our community is still plugged in.
But, resorting to sleazy, innuendo-laden tactics like using this article reflects poorly on us as a community. It certainly reflects poorly on the organizations in which Totah holds high positions. But then, in the Assembly’s case, perhaps this is to be expected. Remember, they won the "coveted" SpitRain Award last August. In case you think I’m overreacting, here’s how Ben Smith describes Totah: "a Washington society figure and Armenian-American activist who’s also a member of Clinton’s finance committee". Those who don’t personally know any other "Armenian-American activists" might, given human nature, attribute to the rest of us a love of gutter politics.
I’m not starry-eyed, nor delusional. Politics is a blood sport. Of course these kinds of things will be done. But there’s a wisdom that’s expected of those holding visible positions in organizations. They cannot be associated with this kind of activity because it reflects poorly on the organization. For all I know, the Clinton campaign may have been following exactly this line of thinking by feeding Totah Lasky’s piece to disseminate.
Please call on Annie Totah, ARCA, ARMENPAC, and the Armenian Assembly to apologize for this embarrassing gaffe. If she refuses, those organizations, and others she serves, should remove her from any offices she holds. If they don’t, then we the community will know how to judge and not support them in the future.