Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

April 19, 2015

Israel, Armenians and genocide denial

Filed under: Armenians,genocide,Roma,Turkey — louisproyect @ 6:30 pm

People like me who continue to read the NY Times print edition could not help but notice a full-page ad that appeared this week:

This is now the second ad that attacks the Obama administration for what amounts to genocide denial. In February, it was Susan Rice’s “refusal” to refer to a Rwandan genocide that was the subject of another NYT ad, once again sponsored by “Shmuley Boteach: America’s Rabbi” and “The World: Values Network” that amount to the same thing. The purpose of such ads is to smear the White House as being in league with Iran, which according to Zionist ideologues like Boteach is committed to murdering every last Israeli and—who knows—maybe every Jew in the world.

These ads cost $104,000 and Boteach has run plenty of them. You might ask yourself how a rabbi can come up with the dough. Here’s the answer. They are being paid for by Sheldon Adelson, the 8th richest man in the world who is worth $36.4 billion according to Fortune Magazine. Adelson has become rather infamous for lavishing huge sums of money on the most reactionary Republican Party politicians, including the bellicose miscreant Senator from Arkansas Tom Cotton who wrote an open letter to the Iranian leaders telling them that a treaty with the USA would be nullified after Obama left the White House. He has followed up with a statement that a bombing attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would be a cakewalk.

The most recent ad is notable because it tries to position the Zionist establishment as arch-defenders of Armenians trying to make Turkey pay for the genocide that occurred exactly 100 years ago. Like Obama, the current president of Turkey is willing to admit that there were massacres of Armenians in 1915 but balks at calling it genocide.

The Pope made news recently for calling it exactly that. Not one to back way from challenges, President Erdogan counter-attacked by reminding the Holy Father that his church backed the Crusades and the Inquisition. (He didn’t mention it but I would have also referred to Pope Pius XII’s refusal to condemn Hitler’s murder of six million Jews.)

One might think based on the most recent ad that Israelis would have been staunch defenders of Armenian claims given their shared victimization. As it turns out, this was not the case at all. In 2007, Mark Arax, a LA Times reporter of Armenian descent (LA has a very large Armenian population) wrote an article that exposed Israel’s tilt toward Turkey over the 1915 genocide and that riled up the Israel lobby for simply quoting them. David Twersky of the American Jewish Congress admitted to him: “As Jews, we have a tremendous reverence for the moral imperatives of history. But then there is the aspect that no Muslim country is closer to Israel than Turkey. So we feel paralyzed by a set of conflicting emotions.” Others were not so conflicted:

Other Jewish leaders, believing the security needs of the U.S. and Israel trump distant history, are siding with Turkey.

“I don’t think a bill in Congress will help reconcile this issue. The resolution takes a position. It comes to a judgment,” said Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. “The Turks and Armenians need to revisit their past. The Jewish community shouldn’t be the arbiter of that history,” he said. “And I don’t think the U.S. Congress should be the arbiter either.”

So egregious was Israel’s indifference to the Armenian genocide that one Israeli historian was moved to write the aptly titled “The Banality of Indifference: Zionism and the Armenian Genocide” in 2000, a work that states:

But the State of Israel has consistently refrained from acknowledging the genocide of the Armenian People. Government representatives do not participate in the memorial assemblies held every year on April 24 by the Armenians to commemorate the Armenian genocide. The public debate in the State of Israel about the attitude toward the Armenian genocide has focused on four prominent media events: in 1978 the screening of a film about the Armenian Quarter in Jerusalem was canceled, In 1982, the Israeli Government intervened in plans for an inter-national conference on the subject of the Holocaust and genocide. In 1989, the Israeli Government was apparently involved in preventing the commemoration of the Armenian genocide by the American Congress in dedicating a memorial day in the American calendar. In 1990, the screening of an American television documentary film. “Journey to Armenia,” was canceled. In later years, a controversy also developed over teaching about the Armenian genocide, in general, in Israeli schools.

Leaving aside Israel’s realpolitik ties to Turkey, there’s another factor that weighed heavily in genocide denial, namely the refusal to accept the possibility that any other people except the Jews were so victimized in the 20th century. On a state visit to Turkey in 2001, Israeli foreign minister Shimon Peres put it this way: “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 Armenia’s went through but not a genocide.”

It was not just the Armenians who got short shrift. Elie Wiesel, one of the worst apologists for Zionist brutality, was adamant that the Roma were not as elevated as the Jews. Serving as gatekeeper for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, Wiesel said that the Roma were not allowed. Writing for RADOC, a Roma website, Ian Hancock—one of the world’s foremost Roma scholars—described Wiesel’s intransigence:

In July, 1988, I was invited to present a paper entitled “Uniqueness of the victims” at the Remembering for the Future: Responses to the Holocaust conference at Oxford University. I was accompanied by a gentleman named Leland Robison who recently reminded me of a startling confrontation I had with Professor Wiesel at that event—though I’d scarcely forgotten it. It remains very clear in my mind to this day. Professor Wiesel, surrounded by cameras and journalists, was being interviewed on the university grounds. During a break between questioning, I approached him and said “Professor Wiesel, please don’t forget the Gypsies!” He turned aggressively towards me, glared, and barked “Mister Hancock! I have read what you have written! And I don’t like it! I don’t like it at all!!” and turned away.

It is probably not too hard to figure out why Israel has changed its mind about the Armenians. It has everything to do with the feud with Turkey’s AKP over its condemnations of the worst features of the occupation of the West Bank and its solidarity with Gaza, no matter how limited. Once Erdogan began to be seen as Israel’s enemy, the Armenians became Israel’s friends in a maneuver whose cynicism was obvious to all. Writing for Huffington Post in 2011, Harut Sassounian, the Armenian publisher of the California Courier, reported on how “Israel May Retaliate Against Turkey by Recognizing the Armenian Genocide”:

Finally, Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Majalli Whbee angrily lashed back at the Prime Minister of Turkey. Several Turkish media outlets quoted Whbee as stating: “Erdogan says that genocide is taking place in Gaza. We [Israel] will then recognize the Armenian related events as genocide.” Whbee, a member of the Israeli Knesset and a close confidante of Prime Minister Olmert, issued the following warning to Turkey: “We, as Israel, hope that Prime Minister Erdogan’s statements will not damage our relations. But, if Turkey does not behave fairly, this will have its consequences.”

In a sense, it is baffling why Israel would not consider Turkey’s genocide of the Armenians as anything but a nation-building necessity that countries such as Turkey, the U.S. and Israel were forced to adopt in their infancy. Israeli historian Benny Morris defended the Nabka this way: “Even the great American democracy could not have been created without the annihilation of the Indians. There are cases in which the overall, final good justifies harsh and cruel acts that are committed in the course of history.”

Morris has a point even if it is malevolent. When the Turkish army forced the Armenians to take a “long march” into Syria, was that any different than Andrew Jackson’s treatment of the Cherokees in the “trail of tears”? Was it really the responsibility of the Turks or the Americans to feed and provide water for a nationality that was inimical to its own economic well-being? After all, some Armenians had allied themselves with Russia, Turkey’s long-time enemy. Was this any different from FDR herding Japanese-Americans into concentration camps? Mind you, I don’t believe any of this bullshit myself; I am just trying to give you a sense of how sleazy bastards like Benny Morris think.

8 Comments »

  1. Yet again, Louis hits the head of the nail precisely and with sledgehammer force.

    Comment by jeffreymarlin — April 19, 2015 @ 8:06 pm

  2. An added dimension here is that during 1948 Haganah and Irgun shelling displaced the Armenian Palestinians of Jaffa, Haifa and West Jerusalem, most of whom were refugees from the WWI genocide. Israel should not be allowed to portray itself as a friend of the Armenians.

    (see last page of article)
    http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1121&context=historyfacpub

    Comment by andrew r — April 20, 2015 @ 1:45 am

  3. It’s long been made clear by Mahmood Mamdani, Edward Herman, and others that the label of genocide is a political tactic, whether regarding Armenia, Bosnia, or Darfur. I wrote the following letter to the Daily Illini in 2005:

    The Daily Illini has in the past two weeks published four letters denying the Armenian genocide, which were in response to a news story covering the 90th anniversary of the genocide. They have also published three letters in protest of this denial.

    Turkey’s denial of the Armenian genocide by has been supported by the U.S. and Israeli governments. Elie Wiesel, after following the Turkish/Israeli/U.S. party line in the 1980s, has recently signed a letter in support of recognition of the genocide. But as one DI letter in response to the deniers asserts, one can only imagine the response if one letter denying the Nazi holocaust were printed by the DI–no less four. Instead, there has been silence from the leaders of the local Jewish community. This silence is consistent, however, with the calculated manner in which the Nazi holocaust has been manipulated in the service of American and Israeli ambitions.

    The manner in which the denial of the Armenian genocide is treated in the student newspaper of a world class university raises several immediate issues: the truth about the genocide itself, its treatment in our schools, and its relation to the current plight of Armenia and the Armenian Diaspora.

    This treatment also leads inevitably to U.S. foreign policy, Israel, the Arab world, and the Holocaust Industry. The denial of the Armenian genocide—officially legitimized by the U.S. government and Israel—are met without a hysterical response from those who know the facts and have worked assiduously to disseminate the historical record. In contrast, the denial of the Nazi holocaust, while a fringe and ineffectual phenomenon, has been met with utter hysteria by Jewish organizations and leaders, and is related to what many claim is an increase in anti-Semitism that threatens all Jews (while, of course, being unrelated in their eyes to Israel’s behavior).

    But these contradictions are of a piece in the cynical coinage of the current realm of Middle Eastern politics. On one side of the coin, the Nazi holocaust is sanctified as unique, incomparable, and beyond historical understanding—a consequence of eternal Jew hatred which is used to justify Israel’s actions, since that hatred (however unique to Germans) has now been adopted by Arabs and Muslims.

    On the other side of the coin, the denial of the Armenian genocide is maintained as policy by the governments of the U.S. and Israel for reasons baldly related to their relations with Turkey in the current power game. This apparent (but not real) contradiction is not only symptomatic of distorted political perceptions, but prevents a serious consideration of the comparative historical contexts of genocide—including those perpetrated in this hemisphere. As Howard Zinn argues, this bodes poorly for the prevention of future genocides around the world.

    Comment by David Green — April 20, 2015 @ 5:40 pm

  4. Larry Derfner, Jerusalem Post, April 21, 2005

    ‘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, the 90th 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 Elie Wiesel, 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 to the murders and human tragedies that occurred during the years 1915 and 1916.”
    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 come back – 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 outnumbered 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 90 years 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

    Comment by David Green — April 20, 2015 @ 5:51 pm

  5. First off, it is said that Turkey has used everything, but the “G” word in this day and age. Second, Armenia is a country and there is a powerful lobby in the US. That is probably why the Armenian Genocide is an issue in congress, but not say the 1.5 million Circassions, plus other massacres/genocides committed by other states over the past 150 years. I personally think it’s a cesspool, because there is a lot of alliance here and there, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Turkey, Russia and Iran. Israel may be the least important player. I’m not sure why that is even addressed, because we all know they’re cynical bastards. Whatever, I find the Armenian lobby in the US very racist, right wing, and not helpful. And there’s more. There’s the dispute w/Azerbaijan w/”population exchanges” w/Armenia. There are hints of territorial designs addressed by Armenian diplomat in article below. And the small issue of murder of Turkish diplomats.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/can-armenia-move-past-its-hatred-of-turkey/2015/04/17/5c63a136-e385-11e4-81ea-0649268f729e_story.html

    Comment by mui — April 21, 2015 @ 12:54 am

  6. Washington Post contends that Armenian lobby does not have Armenia’s best interests in mind.

    Comment by mui — April 21, 2015 @ 12:56 am

  7. […] shame of the Zionist state that it sided with the Turks in dismissing Armenian claims. In an article dated April 19, 2015 I referred to the work of an Israeli […]

    Pingback by The Cut | Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist — September 17, 2015 @ 7:40 pm


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