Slavish loyalty to Israel can do strange things to one’s internal moral compass. And in the ADL’s case it involved weird contortions that prevented it from acknowledging that the Armenians suffered genocide in 1915 at the hands of the Turks. Abe Foxman’s calculations are that Turkey is perhaps the largest Muslim country to have relations with Israel and that such relations are too important to jeopardize over an issue like whether Armenians were exterminated sometime in the deep dark past.
The deepest irony here is perhaps the most obvious. That Jews suffered perhaps the greatest genocide in world history themselves and therefore might be expected to be sensitive to the similar fate suffered by Armenians. But, as I said. logic goes out the window when you are fettered by cold, hard political calculations as Abe Foxman was. Was, that is, until he made the disastrous decision to fire his New England regional director, Andrew Tarsy for declaring the obvious–that the ADL position was “morally indefensible.” Bravo, Andrew. You stated the obvious, but at what a cost.
Abe Foxman has always been bullet proof in the ranks of leaders of major American Jewish organizations. He runs the ADL with an obsessive focus on the issue of anti-Semitism that leaves many American Jews cold and leads them to believe the organization no longer has much relevance to many of the real issues affecting our community. But despite his dinosaur status, he hasn’t paid a price–until now.
No less a figure than Steven Grossman, former senior official in the Clinton Administration and leading Jewish figure in New England, took Foxman to task for his imperiousness. Alan Dershowitz (no moral paragon himself) resigned from the ADL’s regional board in protest.
Foxman bowed to the inevitable and swallowed a bitter pill in releasing this oddly imprecise statement:
We have never negated but have always described the painful events of 1915-1918 perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire against the Armenians as massacres and atrocities. On reflection, we have come to share the view of Henry Morgenthau, Sr. that the consequences of those actions were indeed tantamount to genocide. If the word genocide had existed then, they would have called it genocide.
I have consulted with my friend and mentor Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel and other respected historians who acknowledge this consensus. I hope that Turkey will understand that it is Turkey’s friends who urge that nation to confront its past and work to reconcile with Armenians over this dark chapter in history.
Having said that, we continue to firmly believe that a Congressional resolution on such matters is a counterproductive diversion and will not foster reconciliation between Turks and Armenians and may put at risk the Turkish Jewish community and the important multilateral relationship between Turkey, Israel and the United States.
What is odd is that Henry Morgenthau, who was U.S. ambassador to the Ottoman Empire during the Armenian genocide could not have used the term since it had not been invented:
When the Turkish authorities gave the orders for these deportations, they were merely giving the death warrant to a whole race; they understood this well, and, in their conversations with me, they made no particular attempt to conceal the fact.”
But “death warrant to a whole race” certainly sounds like he’s describing genocide. This begs the question: if Henry Morgenthau knew it was genocide when he made this statement in a book published in 1919, why, 90 years later, hadn’t Abe Foxman gotten the memo?? And why, all of a sudden is Elie Wiesel his “rabbi” on this subject when Wiesel has acknowledged Armenian genocide for ages? It strikes one as disingenuous and self-serving in the extreme.
Finally, IF Foxman now accepts Armenian genocide why doesn’t he support a Congressional resolution that affirms the identical position? You can’t have it both ways, Abe. If it’s genocide then Congress has a right to call it that too and you should support that. Why should Turkey’s support for Israel blind us to what is the morally right thing to do? Do we think Turkey will turn its back on Israel if we call a spade a spade? And if Turkey would do so is it’s support worth having??