Abe Foxman put his foot in it during his interview with the Jewish Forward discussing the Armenian genocide. His tortured defense of his actions continue to ring false. First he claims he didn’t make a mistake when everybody and their bubbe knows he did. In this explanation, he makes it appear that the Armenian community, rather than historical truth or moral justice, forced him to concede to using the word “genocide:”
We’ve never denied that there was a massacre, we [just] didn’t engage in the g-word,” Foxman said. “Now, they’ve insisted on the g-word. Fine.
The problem for Abe Foxman is that everything is a political consideration and nothing is a moral consideration. For him, there are interests, but not values. How can the ADL continue to allow itself to be led by such a morally vacuous personality?
And furthermore, Foxman makes the astounding contention that the Armenian genocide is not an issue with which the ADL should deal:
I still don’t think it’s our issue, but so many people believe it is our issue… I said okay,” Foxman said.
Not “our issue?” If genocide is not an issue for the ADL then what is? What were they created for? If Leo Frank’s lynching was worth protesting in 1913 why isn’t Armenian genocide?
I can’t begin to explain how misplaced Abe Foxman’s priorities are. At least one senior ADL leader understands this:
“Are we an organization of principle? Are we an organization that will stand up for what’s right and wrong? Or are our principles put through some kind of filter that involves Israel’s self-interest?”, said a member of ADL’s national executive committee who requested anonymity. There is “that subtext here.”
Dan Sniderman says
A Shanda. I wonder what Foxman has to say about Sudan and Chad – and whetherRuth W. Messinger and the American Jewish World Service would say whether non-Jewish “g-words” “belong to us”…
The greatest “honor” in the world today is to be considered a “victim”. I don’t know why this is. As a Jew, I don’t feel “honored” because we can go around complaining about the Holocaust to non-Jews. I don’t see why foreign dignitaries who visit Israel are automatically taken to the Yad VaShem Holocaust memorial-our identity as Jews is not defined by the Holocaust, but rather by 4000 years of a common religion, history and culture. It is more important to take them to the Ma’arat HaMachpela (Tomb of the Patriarchs) in Hevron, since that is where Jewish identity really started, not in the death camps.
To show how ridiculous the “victimization industry” has become, in Britain, when the government proclaimed a “Holocaust Memorial Day” recently, the Arabs/Muslims complained because they want to be recognized as victims also. They think it is “unfair” that only the Jews get to be victims (although some would like to make more).
The importance of the Holocaust in my conciousness is the importance of learning what WE can from it, not to use it as a weapon against others. I read once that these “dialogue groups” various “peace” groups use to bring together Jews and Arabs to supposedly overcome the Arab/Israeli conflict usually end up always degenerating into each side claiming they are the bigger “victims”.
So now the Armenians are demanding that we recognize them as victims. Of course they were victims of a terrible massacre, but what difference does it make to them what we call it? Armenians should worry about themselves and their community instead of going around demanding others giving them the “honor” of the “g” word. They now have an independent state and what they make of it is not dependent on what Jews say about what happened to them. The same applies to us.
That scumbag Ahmendinejad is right about one thing…..if Israel bases its right to exist as “compensation” for the Holocaust, he is right, it is not fair on the Arabs/Muslims . In reality, Israel’s right to exist has NOTHING to do with the Holocaust, and those of us who defend Israel in international forums had better learn the sources of the Jews rights in Eretz Israel instead of playing the “victim” card as has increasingly become the case in recent years.
Zhu Bajie says
What does Foxman think about the Armenians in Israel? Are they good guys or bad guys?
More on “victimization”—-
The biggest aggressors in the world consider themselves victims.
The Germans, in the period of Bismarck, after several successful wars of expansion and the establishment of a colonial empire in Africa and the Far East, still considered themselves “victims” of an “unfair” policy of encirclement by the British, French and Russians.
Of course, after World War I, they got to really enjoy feeling like “victims” because of the Versailles Treaty (which was very mild compared to the harsh terms of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk which they imposed on Russia in early 1918 before they collapsed) and they felt that they were victims of a gigantic conspiracy by “World Jewry”.
In today’s Ha’aretz newspaper there is an article about a book by an Israeli professor who shows how today’s Germans are reverting to feeling like “victims” because of Dresden and the like, instead of being “perpetrators” and it is “unfair” that the Jews get to hog all the “victimization” for themselves. Here is the link:
Similarly, many Muslims view themselves as “victims”, even though Muslim states control a big swath of the earth’s surface and much of its oil supply. Bin Laden, after 9/11 put out a message saying that attacks like that are “justifiable” because the Muslims were victims of gigantic conspiracies by “world Jewry” (sound familiar?) and the Christian “Crusader” states like the US, UK, etc. because of their colonial period (which BTW ended decades ago and didn’t last very long in the first place).
In Time Magazine, August 13, 2007 edition, there is an article about the attitude of Pakistani Muslims (found on page 27) to the partition of India. They quote a Pakistani Islamic scholar who feels like a “victim” because Muslims don’t control all of (Hindu majority) India. Here is the quote “we Muslims were the legal rulers of India, and the British took it away from us. In 1947 they should have given it back to us” The scholar expresses a “fervent desire to see |ndia, Pakistan and Bangladesh reunited under Muslim rule”. I can imagine what he things about Israel.
Thus, we see even the most aggressive people and culture will cultivate a mindset of “victimization” because they feel they have a right to conquer and rule everyone else, and so if they are prevented from doing this, they are “victims”.
This cultivation of a “victim” mindset is very unhealthy and can lead to dangerous things.
Richard Silverstein says
ImJudy: It’s quite strange that I find myself agreeing with some of yr argument but diverging fr. you radically as you proceed. There is no doubt that the ADL and others in the Jewish community have done a great disservice to Judaism & Jewish identity by focussing on the Shoah and anti-Semitism as the be all & end all of our existence. You are right in criticizing this.
But to say that because these groups abuse the Shoah means that no one else has a right to take on the mantle of a victim of genocide seems preposterous to me. Of course the Armenians suffered genocide & of course they have every right to study it, note it, tell the world about it & fight those who deny them their history.
I’m not very interested in victimization & who feels like one & whether or not they have a right to feel like one. YOU’ve left out the extremist settlers as those who have raised victimization to a high art form wearing their disgusting yellow Stars of David as they’re evicted from Gaza settlements.
I’m much more interested in historical truth. That proves who has a real right to call themselves a victim. But the essential thing isn’t being a victim, it’s how you proceed from this knowledge. Do you do anything constructive to make the world a better place?
Karen Vrtanesyan says
To imjudy86, RE: [QUOTE]Armenians should worry about themselves and their community instead of going around demanding others giving them the “honor” of the “g” word.[/QUOTE]
Well, Armenians wouldn’t ever worry to put pressure on any Jewish organization if some Jewish organizations weren’t offering their services as Turkish advocates on the American soil.
Foxman says: “Let’s leave it to historians”, why doesn’t he follow his own advice?
Turkey says the same, yet considers the Armenian questions as the most serious threat along with the Kurds and Cyprus to its national interests. They call it “history” and put so much highest level effort in denying it.
By the way, something slightly off-topic: as an Armenian I feel ashamed that we, Armenians, while demanding justice for our cause, forget to mention other victims of the same genocide: Assyrians (incl. Nestorians, Chaldeans and other confessions within the Assyrian nation), Pontic Greeks, Yezidis and Kurds.
Thank you for this post, Richard. I’m just now finding it after googling various Armenian Genocide terms in light of the current congressional resolutions.
In your comment I think you nail the iissue right on its head. There is no “honor” in victimhood, and this is not what the vast majority of Armenians are after (and not what Jews are after in making sure the Holocaust is not forgotten). I would offer Santayana’s most famous and relevant quote here but I don’t think Judy is going to be reading this, months after the blog post was published.
The fact is that the education on genocide is sorely lacking, with most people’s knowledge being limited to the Holocaust, and maybe that of Rwanda. With such dithering about nomenclature and countries like Turkey actively campaigning against the term genocide, what constitutes genocides gets watered down and open to interpretation. This is probably why there seems to be little energy towards doing something about Darfur – we in power can’t seem to say definitively what genocide is, so it gives us a collective escape hatch to yet again turn our heads away in feigned ignorance.
Richard Silverstein says
Jason: I think this is very true. Genocide is such an enormous concept & so monstrous that we find it difficult as humans to acknowledge it when it’s happening. This in turn means we find it neigh unto impossible to do anything about it or stop it often until it is too late. Darfur is a perfect contemporary example as you note. All it takes is a little opposition from Sudan and its Chinese allies & the effort to combat genocide is stopped cold in its tracks.