Thursday, August 31, 2006

Jewish Senator Backs Recognition

Addendum: On Thursday, September 7, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the nomination of Richard Hoagland as ambassador to Armenia. The vote was 13-5 with Democrats Paul Sarbanes (MD), Chris Dodd (CT), John Kerry (MA) and Barbara Boxer (CA) , and Republican Norm Coleman (MN) voting against.

The Forward reports that US senators from the Republican and Democratic Parties are threatening to block the confirmation of Richard Hoagland as ambassador to Armenia. Hoagland was designated as the successor to John Evans, fired last spring after giving a speech in which he used the term genocide to describe the mass killings of Armenians by the Ottoman Turks during WWI. Hoagland, it turns out, has avoided acknowledging the extent of the massacres. Now, the bipartisan group of senators is challenging Hoagland's appointment in an effort to reverse the American policy of non-recognition.

The article notes that a number of Jewish organizations have traditionally opposed recognition bills, because of their fear that such resolutions would damage US and Israeli relations with Turkey, an important strategic ally for both countries. There is a chilling quotation from a member of the Jewish Institute of National Security Affairs (JINSA), a Jewish-American thinktank, to the effect that
The Jewish lobby has quite actively supported Turkey in their efforts to prevent the so-called Armenian genocide resolution from passing.
Interestingly enough, that same group has recently ceased opposition recognition because of Turkey's recent criticism of Israel and lack of cooperation with the United States. This bodes well for recognition efforts.

Furthermore, Norm Coleman, a Republican Jewish senator is among those opposing to the Hoagland appointment and making recognition a key issue:

Coleman, one of the GOP’s two Jewish senators, has emerged as an outspoken advocate of changing American policy on the issue. He has said that he will continue to oppose Hoagland’s nomination in protest of the government’s unwillingness to recognize the Armenian genocide.

“I continue to be deeply troubled by the United States refusal to recognize the historically documented mass killings of Armenians in 1915 as ‘genocide,’” Coleman said in a statement released in early August. “As someone of the Jewish faith, I bring great sensitivity to the issue of recognizing the reality of genocide.”

Coleman’s view is reflective of a belief, held by many in the community, that Jews have an ethical obligation to recognize another ethnic group’s genocide. Others take a more pragmatic approach, placing Israel’s strategic interest over other moral considerations.

I am hoping that Coleman's efforts will signal a penetration of the support for recognition among most American Jews into the thinktanks and lobby groups, who have so far shown themselves to be myopically "strategic" (or immoral) in their thinking . My own experience indicates that the grassroots simply do not accept the excuses of the foreign policy experts.