ADL’s national director, Abraham Foxman, only made things worse when he said, in an interview published in the Los Angeles Times: “The Turks and Armenians need to revisit their past. The Jewish community shouldn?t be the arbiter of that history. And I don?t think the U.S. Congress should be the arbiter either.”
How astonishing for a major Jewish figure to take this view! How would we Jews react to, say, an Iranian group lobbying Congress against recognition of the Shoah on the grounds that “the Jews and the Germans need to revist their past” and that “the Iranian community shouldn’t be the arbiter of that history?”
Foxman even had the chutzpah to say it would be “bigoted” to dismantle NPFL in Watertown merely (merely!) because the ADL does not recognize the Armenian genocide as a genocide.
I asked Bob Trestan, the ADL’s Eastern States Civil Rights Counsel, for an explanation of the ADL’s position. He sent me a statement for which I don’t have a link, but here it is:
The Anti-Defamation League has acknowledged and never denied the massacres of hundreds of thousands of Armenians –and by some accounts more than one million –at the hands of the Ottoman Empire in 1915-1918. We believe that the Turkish government must do more than it has to confront its history and to seek reconciliation with the Armenian people. We have said that to the Turkish government and its officials, we will continue to do so, and we take this opportunity to repeat it publicly. We will continue to work to convince Turkey to pursue recognition and reconciliation, and we will seek ways to encourage this process. We believe that legislative efforts outside of Turkey are counterproductive to the goal of having Turkey itself come to grips with its past. We take no position on what action Congress should take on House Resolution 106. The Jewish community in Turkey has clearly expressed to us and other major American Jewish organizations its concerns about the impact of Congressional action on them, and we cannot ignore those concerns. We are also keenly aware that Turkey is a key strategic ally and friend of the United States and a staunch friend of Israel, and that in the struggle between Islamic extremists and moderate Islam, Turkey is the most critical country in the world.
This statement fails to meet the mark for two reasons. First, it fails to use the word “genocide.” “Massacres” happen all-too-often, but not every massacre is a genocide. Now, I do not personally regard the Holocaust as a primary constituent of my identity as a Jew, but many Jews do, and I imagine that many Armenians similarly feel the same way about their catastrophe. So language matters.
Second, for goodness’s sake, what does Turkey’s role as an ally of Israel and a bridge between moderate and extreme Islam have to do with the issue? Iran is a major regional power in an area of vital strategic importance to the U.S., but we do not kowtow to President Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial for that reason.
ADL, get with the program!