When Genocide Becomes A Political Football

Blake Hounshell

Foreign Policy

Aug 21 2007

Alan Wolfe weighs in on the debate raging in Boston over the
Anti-Defamation League’s stance on whether there was, in fact, an
Armenian genocide in Turkey during WWI. When the ADL’s New England
regional director recently said, yes, there was genocide, he was
summarily fired. The national ADL holds no position official on the
genocide or non-genocide itself, but the organization all but opposes
a pending Congressional resolution that would label the deaths of
some 1.5 million ethnic Armenians a genocide. Writes Wolfe:

To say that the ADL’s position is incomprehensible to most Bostonians,
including many of its most prominent Jews, is an understatement. Wild
speculation exists about its reasons, ranging from Turkey’s support for
Israel to a desire not to allow the term genocide to become overused.

If it’s the latter, then how does one explain the ADL’s position
on Darfur, which is probably an even murkier case for genocide than
was the Armenian massacre? More likely, the ADL is being perfectly
transparent about its motives, as expressed in its open letter on
the subject:

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.

Michael Crowley of the New Republic interprets this to mean that "the
ADL, along with other leading Jewish-American groups, apparently
considers friendly relations between Israel and Turkey … more
important than the underlying historical question."

To which I would reply: The ADL is a political player, not some
neutral arbiter of historical disputes. As much as we might like to
see the legal term "genocide" be rigorously applied at all times,
the real world simply doesn’t work that way. And on the merits,
I would say that the national ADL is justified in pointing out that
such a resolution would have consequences-failing to achieve concrete
results, needlessly provoking Turkey at a fragile time in its politics,
and yes, risking blowback for Turkey’s Jewish community.

Whether the ADL should be in the business of protecting Israel’s
strategic allies from criticism is another question, however.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress


Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS