TURKEY AND ARMENIA: WHAT JEWS SHOULD DO
By Lenny Ben-David
Sept 4 2007
As one of the first authors and editors of Myths and Facts, a Record of
the Arab-Israeli Conflict I know what it means to instinctively jump
to defend Israel’s reputation. In the face of barrages of canards
and accusations, we countered that Israel did not expel millions
of Palestinians, did not commit wanton massacres, and did not use
an omnipotent Washington lobby to subvert American interests in the
I was one of the founders of HonestReporting.com, where we encouraged
tens of thousands of activists to leap to Israel’s defense when
publications and networks failed to label terrorists correctly,
blamed Israel unfairly or distorted Israel’s defensive campaign to
stop suicide bombing attacks.
Israel’s defenders intuitively denounced and challenged the
Ahmadinejads and David Irvings of the world, who denied the fact of
a genocidal campaign against the Jews that we call the Holocaust. We
recognize that these anti-Semitic deniers seek to delegitimize the
Jewish state of Israel and lay the groundwork for another attempt to
wipe out the Jewish people.
All nations have sacred memories and traditions surrounding their
creation and their sacrifices. These are national legends that take
on mythic proportions about the nations’ founding fathers and the
circumstances of the nations’ formation. Sometimes, and often after
difficult introspection, citizens recognize that their histories and
heroes are not all black-and-white, and that a true national narrative
involves a rich palette of greys as well. But that realization requires
a national maturation, one that also demands the cognitive involvement
of all parties to the narrative.
SUCH AN introspection took place among Americans in their historical
narrative some 35 years ago. The publication of Dee Brown’s Bury
My Heart at Wounded Knee in 1970 upset a nation used to Hollywood’s
version of valiant and white Indian-fighters taming the Wild West.
The slaughter of Native Americans – "Indians" – and the military
campaigns against the Navajos, Apaches, Sioux and Cheyenne tribes
between 1860 and 1880 were eventually woven into the American
historical tapestry. Finally in 2004 the National Museum of the
American Indian opened on the National Mall of Washington D.C.
A similar museum to the African-American experience is still missing
on the Mall. While the American public obviously knew of the history
of slavery in the United States and Abraham Lincoln "setting slaves
free," it probably wasn’t until the release of Alex Haley’s Roots and
its romanticized television version in the 1970s that many Americans
came to grips with the nation’s racist, supremacist past.
Indeed, American historians still debate the nature of the relationship
between the iconic Founding Father Thomas Jefferson and his quadroon
slave and purported mistress, Sally Hemings. It is difficult for
some Jefferson idolaters to fathom such a pairing. Two hundred years
after Jefferson and Hemings spent time together, Hemings’s descendants
underwent DNA testing to determine whether Jefferson sired Hemings’s
National legends and myths are not easily shaken.
IN ISRAEL, some of our national beliefs were stirred by the
so-called new historians, who challenged many of our basic historical
narratives. Perhaps the Israeli public is mature enough to examine
the country’s origin, but the rejection of the new historians’
broad-stroke claims also reflects the failure of our Palestinian
interlocutors to accept the notion that our intertwined histories
are not black-and-white. Most Palestinians see no grey.
"There comes a stage in any revolutionary process when the movement
relaxes its hold on the official narrative," historian Benny Morris
told The Washington Post earlier this year. "The difference is that
when that moment came in Israel, our long struggle with the Arabs
remained an existential threat, as it still does today."
For the Palestinians, their nakba is their Truth; their "right of
return" is their messianic vision; and their concept of any Jewish
history in the land is that it is a total fabrication. To confront
such absolutist, irredentist claims, Israel’s defenders cannot afford
AS AN adviser for five years to the Turkish embassy in Washington,
until earlier this summer, I understood why the Turkish government and
people jump to deny claims that their ancestors committed a "genocide"
against Armenians some 90 years ago.
It occurred during a maelstrom of battles and massacres. It was
allegedly carried out by founding fathers who were bringing their
country into an enlightened 20th century. And it was waged against
an enemy guilty of the still unspoken crime of massacring hundreds
of thousands of Muslims and thousands of Jews.
Armenians and Turks see no shades of grey, and for now, at least,
demands are made only of Turkey to change its monochromatic narrative.
Israel’s government and Jews in the United States must be careful
when treading through the minefield of Armenian claims against
Turkey. Jewish leaders in Armenia reported that they have heard
local claims that Jews organized the 1915 massacres of Armenians
There are accounts of Armenian massacres, between 1914
and 1920, of 2.5 million of Armenia’s Muslim population
Recently, Mountain Jews in Azerbaijan requested assistance
in building a monument to 3,000 Azeri Jews killed by
Armenians in 1918 in a pogrom about which little is known
AND WITHIN our own lifetime – just some 15 years ago – Armenian
troops massacred hundreds of Azeri Muslims. This from Newsweek,
March 16, 1992:
"Azerbaijan was a charnel house again last week: a place of mourning
refugees and dozens of mangled corpses dragged to a makeshift morgue
behind the mosque. They were ordinary Azerbaijani men, women and
children of Khojaly, a small village in war-torn Nagorno-Karabakh
overrun by Armenian forces on Feb. 25-26. Many were killed at close
range while trying to flee; some had their faces mutilated, others
Both Turks and Armenians have their grisly tales of persecution and
their vehement denials of genocidal designs. It is the task of the
Jewish community to express sympathy for all the victims and outrage
at all the perpetrators on both sides of the conflict. The US Congress
and the Jewish community should encourage historians on both sides
to objectively examine what took place.
Nations mature when they can look at themselves in the mirror and
see the grey, the wrinkles and the blemishes.
From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress