November 5, 2019
Source: The Jerusalem Post
By Shmuley Boteach
On October 29, after decades of putting realpolitik over principal, the House of Representatives voted 405-11 to recognize and denounce the Turkish genocide of the Armenians in 1915. The willingness to finally acknowledge the historical fact that the Turks killed as many as 1.5 million Armenians appears to be a reaction in part to the Turkish invasion of Syria and their possible intention to reenact its genocide against the Kurdish people.
Better late than never.
The Senate and the president can make history by following suit.
Historically, the reason for silence was simply a matter of politics. The Turks become apoplectic anytime anyone recites the facts about the Ottoman policy of extermination – and countries that wish to have good relations with Turkey have been compelled to remain silent. This includes Israel, the United Kingdom and Australia. Since Turkey is a NATO ally, fellow members have been especially reluctant to risk angering the Turks; nevertheless, France, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Greece, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Slovakia have all recognized the Armenian genocide in some way.
Only antisemites and kooks deny the Holocaust, but no country is worried about offending the Germans, because they acknowledge their responsibility for the murder of six million Jews. The Turks, however, deny that the killings were intentional, insist it occurred in the context of war, remind everyone that Turks were also killed, and maintain that the number of Armenians who were murdered is exaggerated. Historians, however, long ago concluded that the systematic massacres and forced deportation of Armenians committed by the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1923 constituted genocide. The facts of the mass killings are established as historical and are absolutely undeniable.
POLITICS, I understand – but rank hypocrisy is something different. Consider that one of two Democrats to vote “present” was Ilhan Omar, the Minnesota congresswoman who has distinguished herself primarily by her antisemitic remarks and vitriolic criticism of Israel. Omar’s explanation for her vote, intimating that there is no “academic consensus” about what happened, was denounced by Aram Hamparian, executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America who said that she “effectively denies the Armenian genocide” and has taken “a page from the Turkish Embassy’s denial playbook.”
Even more outrageous, however, was an op-ed in The New York Times by my friend Samantha Power, in which she said that the House vote, “is also a reminder of how important truth-telling is to American foreign policy, and how ultimately self-defeating it is for the United States to bend to autocratic pressure tactics, whether from Turkey or anywhere else.”
This is the same Samantha Power who condemned those who turned a blind eye to the slaughter of innocents in her 2002 Pulitzer-prize winning book, A Problem from Hell: America in the Age of Genocide, and then proceeded to do just that after joining the Obama administration. In 2014, she called allegations that Bashar Assad had used chlorine gas to murder Syrian men, women and children “unsubstantiated.” She said that the administration was examining diplomatic “modalities” to respond. The Wall Street Journal observed wryly: “Surely nothing terrifies brutal Arab tyrants more than diplomatic modalities.” Ultimately, president Barack Obama idly threatened Assad if he used chemical weapons again – and then did nothing.
Though candidate Obama pledged to do so, the Obama administration did not recognize the Armenian genocide during Powers’ four years as UN ambassador. Now that she is hawking a book and pontificating about human rights, she admits that the administration was “played a little bit” by Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Power said during a recent podcast that Obama “always thought, ‘OK, I could feel good, I could meet a campaign promise and deliver for the Armenian Americans to whom I’ve made this promise. And then what? What if it sets back this thing [the diplomatic dialogue] that could be much more promising?’ I think he really believed that it could have that perverse effect, because he was told that by people who studied the region and knew the region.”
Did this champion of human rights protest? She doesn’t say. We do know she remained in the administration, though she had praised people who resigned in protest of past inaction.
AS I WROTE in The Washington Post in April 2015, “The greatest disappointment of all is how Power has refused to challenge Obama’s broken promises to recognize the Armenian Genocide that began 100 years ago this week. In 2008, when he was campaigning and trying to attract Armenian votes, then-Senator Obama famously said, “The Armenian Genocide is not an allegation, a personal opinion or a point of view, but rather a widely documented fact supported by an overwhelming body of historical evidence. The facts are undeniable. As president, I will recognize the Armenian Genocide.”
Power, too, went to extraordinary lengths to get Armenian Americans to vote for Obama, recording a five-minute video telling them that he alone would never break his promise to recognize the Armenian slaughter – in which 1.5 million innocents died – as genocide.”
Well, break his promises he did. And so did Samantha Power, thereby destroying the considerable moral authority she had built as one of the world’s leading voices against genocide.
Now, from the sidelines, Samantha preaches, “Just tell the truth. It’s safer in the long run,” and sanctimoniously writes, “The House vote was overdue. Now the Senate and President Trump should follow suit. The facts of what occurred a century ago demand it.”
Obama’s betrayal of the Armenians is a black mark on his presidency, as is his and Power’s failure to stand up to the genocidal threats of the Iranian regime against the world’s only Jewish state. Instead, he signed a catastrophic nuclear deal with Iran and rewarded the regime with tens of billions of dollars – much of it in cash, flown on palates in airplanes to the Mullahs – to pursue its agenda of sponsoring terrorism, developing ballistic missiles, seeking a nuclear weapon and destabilizing the Middle East.
What is even more disturbing, however, is what a future administration may do in reaction to real and threatened genocide. The Democratic candidates for president, for example, want to reward Iran for its misbehavior and violation of the nuclear deal by rejoining the agreement. Following the House vote, I have not yet heard any of them say they would recognize and condemn the Armenian genocide as president. The senators in the race have not said they would seek a resolution similar to the one in the Senate. Under Turkish pressure, they might revert to the previous position of ignoring historical truth.
President Trump – who, unlike President Obama, punished Assad with missile strikes when the Butcher of Damascus used poison gas against Arab children – should speak out in favor of recognizing the Armenian genocide. This is an opportunity for Trump, who defended innocent Arab life as Assad rained death from the air, to show that in his foreign policy, principle comes before politics. In destroying Obama’s catastrophic Iran nuclear deal, he has already done so. In recognizing the Armenian genocide, he would take this vital anti-genocide legacy even further.
The writer, “America’s Rabbi,” whom The Washington Post calls “the most famous rabbi in America,” is the international bestselling author of 30 books, including the upcoming Holocaust Holiday: One Family’s Descent into Genocide Memory Hell. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @RabbiShmuley.