Monday, August 20, 2007

ADL Continues to Stumble

Throughout this week, an "Open Letter to the New England Community" will appear as a paid advertisement in various newspapers in the region. The advertisement is an attempt by the national ADL to justify its ongoing position of "neutrality" on U.S. House resolution 106. As R., who brought this to my attention, points out, the document smacks of inconsistency and poor logic. I was flabbergasted, for example, upon reading this paragraph:
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.
The first sentence is a staple of those who oppose the recognition of the Armenian Genocide as genocide by foreign governments. I'm not at all convinced by this claim.

Yes, recognition resolutions may make large sectors of the Turkish population more intransigent on this issue, but how has inaction on this front helped matters? If anything, we have ample evidence from the past 9 decades proving that neutrality by foreign powers on this question has actually increased the strength of the denialist camp. Several generations of Turks have grown up reared on textbooks and popular mythologies that deny not just the genocide but massacres of Armenians in toto.

Furthermore, it seems rather unfair to extend this kind of courtesy to Turkey, while frustrating the aims of Armenians and non-Armenians who want recognition of this genocide. Isn't the continued frustration of attempts to achieve recognition also counter-productive to these people's attempts to come to terms with their past?

The second sentence of this paragraph, which claims that the ADL "takes no position" on H.R. 106 strikes me, with all due respect, as a blatant lie. If the ADL is indeed "neutral" on this matter, why does the same paragraph invoke fears about the safety of Turkey's Jewish community, as well as Turkey's importance as a strategic ally?

I sympathize with the fears of the Turkey's Jews as much as I sympathize with the anxieties of some Armenians living in Turkey, who have also expressed opposition to genocide recognition resolutions abroad. But the kind of argument that is being made here is extortion pure and simple. It reminds me of some of the claims made by early-19th-century German legislators who refused to grant civic emancipation to Jews in their territories because they believed this would lead to attacks against Jewish people by the hostile population. Turkey is responsible for the safety of its citizens - it is a modern state with all the powers of an advanced security apparatus at its disposal.

I do agree with the ADL that it
is regrettable that such an important program as ADL’s No Place for Hate® Program, which provides a framework for fighting hatred and bigotry while increasing diversity awareness and fostering respect, has been mired in a controversy having nothing to do with the program.
But the ADL knows very well that if an educational program had been launched by a group that it perceived as hurtful, it would do everything possible to shut it down, no matter how beneficial it may have been to the community. If large segments of the population in New England find the position taken by a sponsor of a program on a certain issue to be objectionable, they have the right to oppose the program too. NGOs do not have immunity from public pressure.

I do have a question for my perpetually pessimistic friends. Is there not some grounds for optimism when one reads the following line?
We will continue to work to convince Turkey to pursue recognition and reconciliation, and we will seek ways to encourage this process [emphasis added].

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Why should the modern government of the Republic of Turkey accept blame for the result of warfare between the Ottomans and the Armenians anyway? And, since it has been established that this was a brutal and tragic war, and that both sides suffered greatly, why are the Armenians fostering a political claim? Even without answering these questions, the never ending ranting by the Armenians against the savage Turks has fallen upon the ears of the Western world and has been responded to in knee-jerk fashion. The Armenians have not only gained the support of the Christian world, but also the main stream Jewish establishment. Even when esteemed historians with no Ottoman or Turkish allegiance, such as the late Prof. Stanford Shaw (UCLA), Prof. Bernard Lewis (Princeton University), and Justin McCarthy (Univ. of Louisville), all agree that the so-called Armenian genocide was no genocide.