Genocide, Realpolitik, and the ADL

The Plank
The New Republic


Anyone who read my recent story about the explosive Washington politics of
the Armenian genocide will be interested in this dramatic flare-up in
Massachusetts: The Anti Defamation League has fired its New England
regional direction for insisting that the group recognize as genocide the
circa-1915 slaughter of perhaps a million Armenians by the Ottoman
Turks. (Two regional board members, including a Boston City Councilor and
the former chairman of Polaroid, have subsequently resigned.)
A resolution pending in Congress would make it official U.S. policy to
recognize that the Armenians were genocide victims. But the ADL, along with
other leading Jewish-American groups, apparently considers friendly
relations between Israel and Turkey–whose government takes genocide claims
as a massive provocation–more important than the underlying historical
question. As the ADL is explaining via an open letter in Boston newspapers:

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.

Meanwhile, the House resolution mentioned above now has 226 co-sponsors
(see the list here)–eight more than a majority. The only question now is
whether House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who had ardently supported the Armenian
cause in the past, wants to press ahead with a vote–one that the Bush
administration opposes and which is sure to infuriate the Turks, possibly
even with consequences for the war in Iraq.

Update: I’d missed Alan Wolfe’s posting over at our Open University blog
yesterday calling the ADL "tone deaf." Check it out here.
–Michael Crowley