Here’s something pretty ugly percolating just beneath the surface of Jewish politics these days.
For years, Armenian Americans have appealed to the Jewish community for help in their efforts to get official U.S. recognition of the World War I era Armenian Genocide by Turkey.
Jews were their natural allies, they thought, because of our own history, but pro-Israel leaders had different ideas.
Turkey was Israel’s best and only friend in the Muslim world, they reasoned. So why jeopardize that relationship by siding with the Armenians in this seemingly endless dispute?
I always found that argument offensive. The fight against genocide is supposed to be absolute – not a matter of politics but of basic morality, a core lesson we have sought to teach the world through Holocaust remembrance.
So is the need to preserve historical accuracy. Jews are rightfully offended by those who say the Holocaust never took place or who minimize its devastation, and devote considerable resources to fighting the revisionists and deniers.
Because memory and historical accuracy matter.
So why were we so willing to treat Armenian memory as something that could be modified according to the immediate needs of pro-Israel politics?
But it gets worse.
Suddenly, Turkey is no longer a friend. It instigated the violent portion of the recent Gaza flotilla, Israel charges; it harbors Muslim “charities” connected to terror groups that want to wipe Israel off the map.
And in blogs and discussions we’re hearing this: if the Turks don’t mend their ways, maybe it’s time we should start supporting Armenian demands for official U.S. recognition of the genocide committed against them 95 years ago.
We’re hearing it in Congress, too, where longstanding opposition to resolutions recognizing the genocide may give way to ire over Turkey’s role in the Middle East today.
A Jerusalem Post story this week includes these appalling lines:
Rep. Mike Pence (R-Indiana) said he recently warned the Turkish ambassador that “With regard to Congress of the United States, there will be a cost if Turkey stays on its current path of growing closed to Iran and more antagonistic to the State of Israel.”
Among other issues, he said, he was now likely to switch his vote to support a resolution recognizing the mass killing of Armenians during the Ottoman empire as a genocide, a move he had voted against in the past because he thought relations with Turkey were more important.
It was offensive when we defended Turkey because it was somehow “good for Israel,” and it’s doubly offensive when we use the threat of ending that protection as just another political bludgeon in the pro-Israel wars. You want to punish Turkey with scaled-back diplomatic ties? With an end to military cooperation? With economic sanctions? Fine. But threatening to change your position on an issue as fundamental as genocide – that’s crossing a line the Jewish community should never cross.