Column: Rattling the Cage: Jews of power, Jews of truth

October 21, 2007
Source: The Jerusalem Post (Israel)

By Larry Derfner

How long are Israel and its lobby in Washington going to go on living this ridiculous, transparent lie? How long are they going to hock the world about the Holocaust while acting as Turkey's number two accomplice, number one being the White House, in denying the Armenian genocide? Again, Congress has demonstrated it won't recognize that the Ottoman Empire, Turkey's predecessor, deliberately wiped out about 1.5 million Armenians in 1915-17. Again, the president of the United States has scared Congress off with a big assist from the Anti-Defamation League and other American Jewish "defense" organizations. (Historically, the American Jewish Committee has led the Israel lobby's effort to shut Congress up about the genocide and the Ottoman Empire's culpability.)

This time, the main reason given was American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Without Turkey's good will and cooperation, it was argued, the US would not be able to get weapons and equipment to its soldiers in battle. This is obviously a serious concern - but the White House, Israel and the Israel lobby have been hushing up the Armenian genocide for decades, when there were no American troops in Iraq or Afghanistan. This is not the real reason.

The real reason is that in war and peace, Turkey is a critical strategic ally and economic partner of the US and Israel, and the US and Israel do not want to risk upsetting this ally, so, with help in Congress from the ADL, AJC and the like, they enforce the lie that there was no Armenian genocide. Or if there was a genocide, it is not clear who was responsible. Or if it is clear that the Ottoman Empire was responsible, it is not clear that Turkey should inherit the guilt.

"This is a matter for historians to decide," goes the Israeli and American Jewish establishment line.

The historians, however, decided a long time ago. More than 125 Holocaust scholars - including Elie Wiesel, the late Raul Hilberg, Deborah Lipstadt, Daniel Goldhagen and Yehuda Bauer - have signed ads in The New York Times demanding acknowledgment that the Ottoman Turks committed genocide against the Armenians.

Wiesel testified in Congress on behalf of such a resolution. The International Association of Genocide Scholars - which is studded with Jewish names - holds the same view as a matter of course.
SOMEWHERE around three reputable historians disagree. They are led by Bernard Lewis, who may be the world's foremost scholar of Islam, but who, among world scholars, is certainly the foremost enthusiast of Turkey.

There are probably fewer historians who doubt the Armenian genocide than there are scientists who doubt evolution. Maybe we should reserve judgment on evolution, too.

A key Jewish argument for continuing this policy of denial is that breaking it would endanger the 20,000 or so Jews of Turkey, whose leaders have warned against crossing their government on this matter. But if Israel and its lobby in Washington really believe this, then they've as much as sentenced the 25,000 Jews in Iran to death, haven't they? Is anyone in the Israeli government or AIPAC suggesting that they lower the volume on Iran for the sake of Iranian Jewry? So the Turkish Jewish community isn't a real reason for denying the Armenian genocide, it's another excuse.

The one and only genuine moral argument for public Jewish denial of the Armenian genocide is the Jewish people's historical debt to Turkey. For 500 years, up through the time of the Nazis, Turkey gave life-saving refuge to Jews running from persecution, and did so in a welcoming spirit.

This historical truth can't be denied, either. And it presents Jews with a heavy moral dilemma. For Jews to recognize the Armenian genocide is an undeniable act of disloyalty to Turkey, to which we owe an unpayable debt of gratitude.

But I don't think it's terminal disloyalty, I don't think it's unforgivable disloyalty. With time, it's not something that can't be made up for with other acts of Jewish or Israeli gratitude.

Denying the Armenian genocide, on the other hand, is an unforgivable, terminal betrayal not only of the Armenians, but of truth, of decency, of the legacy of the Holocaust, of ourselves as Jews, of ourselves as people.

What's more, the Jewish moral debt to Turkey is at best a secondary motive in Israel's and the Israel lobby's campaign of genocide denial. Their overriding concern is Israeli security and economics.

Which, of course, is a 100% legitimate concern. Security and economics are the primary concern of every nation, and Israel is part of the family of nations. But the thing is this: If Israel and the Israel lobby can pursue practical self-interest alone, they can't insist that the rest of the world act like Righteous Gentiles.

They can't go on intoning that "the world stood silent" during the Holocaust when they - the leaders of the Jewish world - act as front-line enforcers of silence on the Armenian genocide.

It's one or the other: morality or realpolitik. As a nation of the world, Israel, along with its lobby in Washington, have always chosen realpolitik. What they may not know, however, is that by now the world sees through them.

The world doesn't take seriously what an Israeli leader or an American Jewish macher has to say about the Six Million, not when it sees that same Israeli leader and American Jewish macher shushing everyone over the murders of 1.5 million other innocents.

Thankfully, those politicians are not the only Jewish voices on the Armenian genocide, or on the Holocaust. There is also Wiesel, Lipstadt, Goldhagen, Bauer, Congressman Adam Schiff, Yossi Sarid and many, many others.

Either you value truth first, or you value power first. Every Jew, every person, makes the choice.