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Jewish Weekly Features Major Article On Genocide

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  • Jewish Weekly Features Major Article On Genocide


    July 5, 2005

    The Jewish Week, a weekly newspaper published in New York City, published an article written by a staff writer, Steve Lipman, entitled “The Hidden Holocaust,” about the Armenian Genocide. The article, published in the April 22nd issue, describes how the Armenian Genocide receives little if any support from the organized Jewish community. It describes how “Realpolitik” has triumphed over ethical considerations. The article spans nearly three full pages of the tabloid newspaper. Lipman notes: “The Turkish Embassy in Washington, the Israeli Consulate here, and major Jewish organizations contacted by The Jewish Week did not respond to requests for comment on this issue.” -


    ‘The Hidden Holocaust’
    On anniversary of 90-year-old genocide that paved the way for the Final Solution, campaign for recognition draws limited attention in the Jewish community.

    “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”

    Adolf Hitler, to his generals,

    before the invasion of Poland in 1939

    In the coming days, a people nearly annihilated during the last century will pause to remember its losses.

    In commemorations here, in Jerusalem and in other cities around the world, relatives of survivors will discuss painful memories, members of the clergy will offer prayers for the victims and leaders of the dispersed community will call for justice. Historians will reflect on a legacy of hatred that led to mass killings. Stories of brutality and statistics about the murder of a third of a people will be cited.

    And hardly a Jew will be present.

    The people who died in what has come to be called “The Hidden Holocaust” are the Armenians, Indo-Europeans with roots in the area between the Caspian and Mediterranean seas. They lived for two millennia, until their national tragedy, as citizens in the Ottoman Empire, which fell when Turkey was on the losing side in World War I.

    The country of Armenia — the first Christian nation, formerly a republic in the Soviet Union, independent since 1990 — now occupies only 10 percent of the Armenians’ historic homeland, the rest of which is part of neighboring Turkey.

    April 24, this year the first day of Passover, is alternately known as Martyrs’ Day or Genocide Commemoration Day. It marks the start of the planned destruction of the Armenian community in Turkey 90 years ago during WWI.

    Of the 2 to 2.5 million Armenians there on the eve of the war, an estimated 1 million to 1.5 million were killed by Turkish soldiers and sympathetic Kurds in a campaign that peaked in 1915-16. The carnage lasted sporadically until 1923 and the ascension of Kamil Ataturk, who did not share an animus toward Armenians.

    The Armenian losses in those years represented at least a third of their total population in the world — the same percentage as the Holocaust took from the Jewish people.

    Front-page news in the 1920s, largely forgotten in the West within a decade, as Hitler’s documented 1939 statement testified — his words are inscribed on a wall of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, despite Turkish pressure — the Armenian experience was overshadowed by the Six Million victims of the Shoah. Holocaust survivors’ efforts to remember the Six Million and obtain reparations served as a model for the Armenians’ belated campaign for recognition.

    Historians call the slaughter of Armenia “the forgotten genocide.” Israeli historian Israel Charny called it “a dress rehearsal for the Holocaust.” Raphael Lemkin, the Polish-born Jewish lawyer who coined the term genocide in the 1940s, did so in part on the basis of what happened to the Armenians.

    Each year the Jewish and Armenian communities commemorate their 20th century tragedies within a few weeks of each other, but few members of one group attends the other’s events.

    “We finally came to the conclusion that we were not going to get participation of the establishment Jewish organizations,” says Samuel Azadian, a longtime leader of the local Knights of Vartan fraternal group that has organized the April 24 Times Square memorial ceremony for 19 years.

    This year that’s 11 days before Yom Ha-Shoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.

    The parallels between the Armenian Genocide and the Nazis’ Final Solution are chilling, but the issue of the Armenian Genocide and Armenian efforts for international acknowledgement of their tragedy has received little support from the organized Jewish community.

    The Armenian Genocide issue presents the Jewish community with a classic conflict: realpolitik (Turkey is a strategic ally of the United States and Israel) vs. ethics (sympathy for an oppressed minority).

    Realpolitik has triumphed, and Armenians recognize this.

    “Jews and Armenians are linked forever by Hitler,” Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian said during the UN’s recent special assembly marking the 60th anniversary of the Auschwitz liberation. “After Auschwitz, one would expect that no one any longer has a right to turn a blind eye or a deaf ear. As an Armenian, I know that a blind eye, a deaf ear, a muted tongue perpetuate the wounds.”

    While Jews traditionally participated in disproportionate numbers in such causes as civil rights and South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement, “I have not seen any major involvement of the Jewish community in this issue,” says Haik Gugarats, assistant to the Armenian ambassador in Washington. “It’s surprising.”

    Doug Geogerian, director of the Eastern Region of the Armenian National Committee, adds: “We don’t really understand; we’re a little surprised.”

    Veteran Israeli politician Yossi Sarid, who as education minister declared at a Genocide commemoration ceremony in Jerusalem’s Old City in 2000 that “for many years, too many, you were alone on this, your memorial day,” will attend an international conference in Yerevan, Armenia’s capital, on April 24 as a private citizen.

    “As opposed to many other nations, Israel has never recognized the murder of the Armenian people, and in effect lent a hand to the deniers of that Genocide,” Sarid wrote in a recent essay in Haaretz. “The Israeli Foreign Ministry, and not only it, is always afraid of its own shadow and thus it casts a dark shadow over us all as accomplices to the ‘silence of the world.’ ”

    The Genocide — 20 years after an estimated 200,000 Armenians were killed during the reign of Turkey’s Sultan Abdul Hamid II — was carried out by the Ittihad government that took power in 1913. The Ittihad claimed it feared the “infidel” Armenians, the only remaining major Christian group in the Muslim Ottoman Empire, taking up arms for Russia, Turkey’s enemy in WWI.

    Already the Armenians “were lobbying for basic guarantees, for civil rights,” says Peter Balakian, an English professor at Colgate University and author of two books with an Armenian theme.

    Like the Jews in Nazi Europe, the often prosperous Armenians, pilloried as a Fifth Column, earned the enmity of the majority population, often former neighbors and co-workers. Like survivors after World War II, Armenians tried to put their recent past behind them.

    Like the Jewish community today, the Armenians face a problem of keeping the memory of their tragedy alive after the last survivors die.

    In 1915, under the cover of war, Armenian soldiers in the Turkish army were disarmed and conscripted into labor battalions. On April 24, 1915, Armenian political and intellectual leaders were arrested and killed. The remaining Armenians — mostly women, children and elderly men — were rounded up by army units composed of violent criminals released from prison.

    The Armenians were marched to what they were told would be new homes in the desert hundreds of miles away; most of the captives were killed along the way, or they starved to death, or they were fatally beaten upon arrival. Some were herded into caves and burned alive, or placed on barges that were sunk on the Black Sea, or thrown into gorges.

    Reports of rape and theft were common.

    James Russell, professor of Armenian studies at Harvard University, calls the Turks’ treatment of the Armenians during WWI “the model that Hitler used.” Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s deputy, was among the German soldiers stationed in Turkey during the Genocide, Russell points out. “Germans assisted the Turks logistically,” he said.

    Turkish denials of responsibility offer “a picture of what might have happened [after World War II] if Germany had not been held to account or if Germany had not been defeated,” Russell says.

    Henry Morgenthau, the American ambassador in Constantinople during World War I, said in his memoirs that Turkish leaders made no attempt to deny reports of the violence against the Armenians.

    “One day I was discussing these proceedings with a responsible Turkish official, who was describing the tortures inflicted,” Morgenthau wrote. “He made no secret of the fact that the government had instigated them, and like all Turks of the official classes, he enthusiastically approved this treatment of the detested race.”

    “The great powers did little to prevent the mass murder of the Armenians,” Israeli historian Yair Auron writes in “The Banality of Indifference: Zionism and the Armenian Genocide.”

    “Germany, an influential ally of Turkey, although able to do much to stop the murders, had no interest in doing so and was involved directly and indirectly in the Armenian Genocide,” Auron writes. “England and France remained on the sidelines. The United States, and Ambassador Morgenthau in particular, tried to help by diplomatic and monetary means, limited by the fact that the U.S. was neutral during most of the war.”

    [url][/url] - [COLOR="Red"]Armenian[/COLOR] [COLOR="Blue"]Genealogy[/COLOR] [COLOR="Orange"]Forum[/COLOR]

  • #2
    part 2

    In Turkey, only Damad Ferit Pasha’s government immediately after the war was forthcoming about the massacres, holding war crimes trials that condemned to death the architects of the Genocide, who had fled the country.

    While now-independent Armenia and activists in the Armenian community abroad seek Turkey’s recognition of the Genocide – Turkish governments since the 1920s have denied that genocide occurred, have claimed that the number of victims is exaggerated, have attributed the deaths to disease and famine, have claimed Turks were provoked by attacks by Armenians, have opposed artistic or political efforts to document the tragedy, and have refused to consider the type of reparation payments made by Germany after World War II to Israel and individual Holocaust survivors – the government of Israel and many prominent Jewish organizations in the United States have challenged Armenian claims about their early 20th-century history and have lobbied on behalf of Turkey.

    “It’s a wrong-headed view,” says Dr. Robert Jay Lifton, visiting professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and author of “The Nazi Doctors.”

    “Often in official Jewish groups there can be insensitivity to others’ suffering,” says Dr. Lifton, who has written his support of the Armenian cause.

    The Turkish Embassy in Washington, the Israeli Consulate here, and major Jewish organizations contacted by The Jewish Week did not respond to requests for comment on this issue.

    Few Jewish schools in Israel or abroad teach about the Genocide, few rabbis preach about it, few Holocaust institutions pay more than passing attention to the subject.

    “Yad Vashem’s mandate is to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive,” a spokesman for the Holocaust memorial center in Jerusalem says. “As such we are dedicated to educating, researching, studying and memorializing the Shoah. However, in the course of our educational and research activities, other instances of genocide, ethnic cleansing and mass murder are raised, including the case of Armenia.”

    “It is a Jewish issue and should be a Jewish issue,” says Yair Auron, the Israeli historian who has written two books about the Armenian Genocide. “The world committed genocide before the Holocaust.

    “We have to be with the Armenians on their memorial day,” says Auron, who attends the annual commemoration in Jerusalem. “We have to be at the front of the struggle for recognition of the Genocide.” Otherwise, he says, “We’re doing exactly what the deniers of the Holocaust do.”

    Israel’s small Armenian community, based in the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, sponsors a commemoration ceremony there each year on April 24. Few Israelis attend.

    In this country, while most major Jewish organizations have distanced themselves from the Armenian Genocide issue, a few groups, notably the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center, and individual Jewish politicians and intellectuals have lobbied for recognition of the Genocide, Armenian and Jewish spokesmen agree.

    “You can’t be silent when you see injustice,” says Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center.

    “Armenian community leaders ask me about this,” says Rep. Adam Schiff, a three-term congressman from California who represents a district with a large Armenian population and serves each year as a sponsor of a non-binding resolution that urges Turkey to admit its past.

    “There is a sense that the Jewish organizations lobby actively against the resolution,” Schiff says.

    The apolitical Joint Distribution Committee, which assists Armenia’s small Jewish community, provided humanitarian aid when a devastating earthquake struck the country in 1988.

    Besides Schiff, and Morgenthau, who alerted the American government to the Genocide, individual Jews associated with the Armenian cause include Franz Werfel, a Czech-Jewish novelist whose “The Forty Days of Musa Dagh,” about Armenian resistance to the Genocide, was passed from hand to hand as inspiration among Jewish resistance fighters in World War II ghettos; New York filmmaker Andrew Goldberg, who has produced three documentaries about aspects of Armenian life and is working on a major project about the Genocide that will appear on PBS within a year; and Harvey Weinstein, who, as president of Mirimax, agreed in 2002, despite reported threats from Turkey, to distribute “Ararat,” a film centered around the Genocide.

    “Some of the strongest defenders of the Armenians are the Jews” – individual Jews, not heads of Jewish organizations, says Holocaust historian Michael Berenbuam, who has written and spoken extensively on the subject.

    “This was a sense of tzedakah for me … a sense of justice,” Goldberg says.

    Weinstein, who had not heard about the Genocide until he read the Ararat script, said he agreed to back the project because “the denial of the Armenian Holocaust reminds me of the denial of our own Jewish Holocaust.”

    Weinstein “felt it was time to tell the story,” The Los Angeles Times reported. “Having lost eight relatives at Auschwitz, Weinstein related well to the subject.”

    The Jewish community has been cautious about embracing the Armenian Genocide issue, observers say, for several reasons. The two primary ones are:

    Pressure by Turkey. Turkey, a political, economic and military ally of Israel, was the first majority-Muslim nation in the Middle East to establish diplomatic relations with Israel. A refuge for endangered Jews from the Inquisition to the Holocaust, the country is hospitable to the 27,000 Jews who still live there.

    Turkey consistently challenges any Armenian assertions of Turkish responsibility for a genocide. As far back as the 1930s, it pressured the State Department to block an MGM movie version of “The Forty Days of Musa Dagh.” In 1982 Turkey, according to many media reports, pressured Israel – with threats against the safety of Turkish Jews and indications that it might close its borders to Jews fleeing Iran—to cancel an academic conference on genocide that was to include references to the Armenian experience; a scaled-down gathering was eventually moved from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv.

    The uniqueness of the Holocaust. Many protectors of the Holocaust’s legacy resist attempts to compare the scope of the Shoah to any other mass extermination of a people, feeling that references to such examples as Rwanda, Cambodia or Sudan would diminish the Jewish suffering’s unique status.

    The Turkish Daily News in 2001 quoted Shimon Peres, then Israeli foreign minister, as saying, “We reject attempts to create a similarity between the Holocaust and the Armenian allegations. Nothing similar to the Holocaust occurred. It is a tragedy what the Armenians went through but not a genocide.”

    “We are teaching the Holocaust in too particularistic a way,” Auron says.

    What do the Armenians want?

    “We want Turkey to acknowledge the genocide,” Haik Gugarats of the Armenian Embassy says. “All we want from Turkey is the establishment of normal diplomatic relations and the opening of borders.”

    Armenia has no territorial or monetary demands, Gugarats says.

    “The Turks feel they are unjustly accused,” says Taner Akcam, a Turkish historian and sociologist who is a visiting professor at the University of Minnesota. He is among a handful of Turkish scholars to challenge his homeland’s denial of responsibility for the Genocide.

    Though Turkey’s leadership since the 1920s had no direct ties to the slaughter of the Armenians, “some of the founders of the state were members of the party who organized the Genocide,” Akcam says. “The Turks glorified these people as founding heroes.”

    Admission of Turkey’s role in the genocide would “question the very foundation of the state,” he says.

    Armenian- Americans tell of being raised on stories of the Genocide, like American Jews who heard about the Holocaust while growing up. But the Armenian Genocide did not become a public issue in the Armenian community for a few generations because émigrés here and in other countries lacked the numbers or political clout of Jewish Holocaust survivors who raised public consciousness of the Shoah, starting in the late 1970s.

    “After any genocide, the victims don’t like to talk about it – it happened after the Holocaust,” Gugarats says.
    [url][/url] - [COLOR="Red"]Armenian[/COLOR] [COLOR="Blue"]Genealogy[/COLOR] [COLOR="Orange"]Forum[/COLOR]


    • #3
      part 3

      Thousands of people, including politicians, are expected to attend Sunday’s memorial ceremony in Times Square. As Turkey seeks membership in the European Union, demands by EU countries, especially France, that Turkey admit responsibility for the deaths of Armenians during the Genocide will focus increased attention on the subject. And the recent $20 million settlement by the New York Life Insurance Company to descendants of Armenians who held insurance policies at the turn of the last century adds to the historical record.

      In recent decades the European Parliament, the UN Committee on Human Rights, the Vatican and several European governments and scholarly organizations have acknowledged the Armenian Genocide. In June 1998 the Association of Genocide Scholars defined the Armenian tragedy as the 20th century’s first genocide.

      Israel took a neutral position until 1994, when Deputy Foreign Minister Yossi Beilin declared in the Knesset that “it was not war. It was most certainly massacre and genocide … We will always reject any attempt to erase its record, even for some political advantage.”

      Apparent Jewish indifference to the issue has drawn Armenian criticism, and, three years ago, a protest rally outside the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles.

      The Armenian National Committee in 2002 criticized “nine major Jewish organizations” – including the American Jewish Committee, the American Jewish Congress, the Anti-Defamation League, and Hadassah – for signing a letter that urged President Bush to provide Turkey with economic and military aid.

      The letter, the committee said, “appears to represent a retreat from the Jewish American community’s proud tradition of standing up for human rights, universal values, and the cause of international justice.”

      Next year, the Jewish and Armenian communities will be closer, symbolically – Yom haShoah and Genocide Commemoration Day occur on consecutive days in 2006. n

      © 2000 - 2002 The Jewish Week, Inc. All rights reserved. Please refer to the legal notice for other important information.
      [url][/url] - [COLOR="Red"]Armenian[/COLOR] [COLOR="Blue"]Genealogy[/COLOR] [COLOR="Orange"]Forum[/COLOR]


      • #4
        Anoush jan,
        I think I agree with you. And I also think realpolitik plays a role in it for some aspect of their policy, but I surely don't believe it started with it, nor did it start with their partnership. I don't know much about Herzl's role in the aiding of Turkish denialists, I have read a bit about him and by him, but not on this particular subject. What more can you tell us about his relationship with denialists? Also, have you read "The Banality of Denial: Israel and the Armenian Genocide"? I have heard it is a fantastic book and the author (a Jew) deals in depth with Jewish complicity in the denial of the Armenian Genocide. I am planning to read it this summer. I know the author of this book, Yair Auron discusses the Jewish complex of desiring to dwarf the importance or existence of other genocides, especially the discovery of one which happened before their own... This aspect too is thrown into the magical potion we know as genocide denial - Israeli style. Anyway, I personally, welcome you to the forum, appreciate your comments, and look forward to hearing more from you.

        [url][/url] - [COLOR="Red"]Armenian[/COLOR] [COLOR="Blue"]Genealogy[/COLOR] [COLOR="Orange"]Forum[/COLOR]


        • #5
          Sorry It Took Me So Long to Get Back Here

          Yea, I read Auron's book, I have it, plus I typed notes of some of the most important parts. First thing I will post is a review which you may have seen.

          Book Review:
          Yair Auron,
          The Banality of Indifference: Zionism & The Armenian Genocide
          Trans. from the Hebrew by Maggie Bar-Tura.
          New Brunswick, NJ/London: Transaction Publishers, 2000. 485 pp.
          Henry Morgenthau III
          (ED. NOTE: Henry Morgenthau III is currently writing a postscript to the memoir of his grandfather (US Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, 1913-1916), Ambassador Morgenthau's Story, soon to be republished by the Wayne State University Press).
          Copyright © 2001; Henry Morgenthau III. All rights reserved.
          The ending of Yair Auron's book generates the title. It is not so much, he concludes, the "banality of evil" (Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem, 1964) that accounts for the success of genocide, but the "banality of indifference." "The reaction of the multitudes, those located in the space between the immolator and the victims, is characterized by indifference, conformity, and opportunism. The Jews, too, in the circumstances of time and place, do not go beyond this banality, with several exceptions. In Israeli society, there are many people who would prefer not to know about the genocide of the Armenians and the genocide of the Gypsies...In Israeli historical consciousness, the Holocaust plays a central role--becoming increasingly stronger over the years. This consciousness stresses the singularity of the Holocaust. It contains, in my opinion, an extreme and almost utter focus on the Jews as victims, and a disregard--consciously or not, intentionally or not--of acts of genocide that have taken place in the twentieth century, among them the murder of the Armenians and the extermination of the Gypsies" (pp. 372-373).
          The Israeli author and lecturer, Yair Auron, begins his sensitive and at times self-tortured narrative on response to the Armenian genocide primarily from the perspective of the Yishuv, the Jewish community in Palestine early in the last century, and its Zionist leaders. It was no accident that in the spring following the guns of August 1914 that blasted out the announcement of World War 1, the massacre of the Armenians by their Turkish overlords accelerated to an all time peak. In the nineteenth century, the disintegrating Ottoman Empire, first under the rule of "the Bloody Sultan", Abdul Hamid II and then the would be reformers, the Young Turks, after a series of costly humiliating military expeditions, refocussed on scapegoats within. The goal was supernationalist Turkification, to be achieved through the extermination of racial and religious minorities. The Armenians were the first on the list.
          The central portion of the book documents that at the time of the Armenian genocide, the possibility of its extension to include the Ottoman Jews was just barely avoided. One cannot help but be reminded that between the two world wars, when the fate of the Armenians became the forgotten genocide, European Jewry
          failed to heed the clear early warnings of Hitler's final solution.

          Yair Auron devotes the major portion of his new book to the fate of the Armenians and the Jews under Turkish rule during the twilight of the Ottoman Empire, from the beginning of the twentieth century, to the rebalancing of world power in the Near East (now known as the Middle East) after World War l. He is also concerned with the world Zionist movement, bent on establishing a Jewish nation in the Holy Land. In this place and time the Christian Armenians and Jews had much in common. Each stood as a small and impotent religious and ethnic minority in a Muslim dominated region, which, however, ultimately suffered different fates. At the beginning of World War I the Turks allied themselves with the Germans and the Central Powers. This left the Armenians cut off from their long standing British and French friends. Meanwhile Tsarist Russia, overlord of the more prosperous half of the Armenian people was collapsing.
          Auron documents the fact that the Jews of the Yishuv were well aware that they were next in line for a Turkish genocide. Rightfully fearful for their survival, they placed their bets on what they thought was their self interest. At the same time powerful Jews in western Europe, mindful of the fate of east- European Jewry, were staunchly loyal to their host countries.
          During this period a neutral United States, just beginning to emerge as a great power, played a pivotal role. Auron notes several instances when the US Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Henry Morgenthau, took on the Armenian cause. He credits him as "one of the few people who tried to assist the Armenians insofar as circumstances allowed (p. 5)." Auron notes Morgenthau, reporting home on what he described as the murder of a nation, "in September 1915... requested emergency aid from his government, and in the same year the American Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief (ACASR) was established. In 1916, assistance efforts, under the auspices of Congress were reorganized as the 'Near East Relief (NER)...[which] collected and distributed substantial sums from private and government sources (p. 51)."
          Auron credits these efforts with saving "tens perhaps hundreds of thousands of Armenians (p. 51)." In the face of some one and a half million victims, this was a small yet symbolically significant accomplishment.
          Auron, deeply troubled by the Jewish community's attitude of indifference, writes off as anomalous exceptions the efforts of those Jews who displayed their concerns. "They did not act as Jews, but as human beings." Yet he concedes "it appears a Jewish component existed in them even when they were sometimes to be found on the fringes of the Jewish establishment and on the outskirts of the organized Jewish world (p. 369)."
          Ironically, Ambassador Morgenthau was much more effective in rescuing Jews than Armenians. As an outspoken anti-Zionist he was frequently savaged by prominent Zionist such as Chaim Weizmann and Felix Frankfurter. Yet even before the Armenian genocide began, Morgenthau was by no means alone in warning the Zionists that their actions were spurring the Turks to destroy the Yishuv Jews. Immediately after the outbreak of World War I Morgenthau, realizing that the European life-line to the Yishuv would be severed, appealed to American Jewish leaders for aid. In September 1914, fifty thousand dollars in gold was collected and delivered to Jaffa harbor on board the battle cruiser USS North Carolina. The prompt appearance of US naval might was an even more impressive deterrent to the Turks than the gold.
          The murder of the Armenian political, cultural and business leadership in Constantinople in April 1915 marked the beginning of full scale genocide. The month before, Ambassador Morgenthau made arrangements through his friend Josephus Daniels, Secretary of the Navy, to have the USS Tennessee evacuate a number of Jews from Palestine to refugee camps in Alexandria, Egypt. Among them were David Ben Gurion and Yitzhak Ben Zvi, (destined to be Israel's second president). Both men were avidly pro-Turkish. Indeed Ben Gurion had tried to organize a Jewish corps in support of the Ottomans, but when his name appeared on a Zionist list he was jailed and charged with treason. On arriving in Alexandria he was jailed again by the British, and then evacuated to New York, in both instances thanks to the intervention of Ambassador Morgenthau.
          Auron notes that in 1918 Ben Gurion and Ben-Zvi published a book projecting an Eretz Yisrael within the framework of the Ottoman Empire. In this book, Ben Gurion went so far as to state, "it must be said, to the credit of the Turks, that their rulers behaved toward the conquered with a degree of tolerance and generosity which is unparalleled in the history of the Christian peoples of the period (p. 324)." It is indeed astonishing, to learn, from Auron's book, that "Ben Gurion does not mention in a single word the massacres of the Armenians at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century," which had been widely publicized in the United States and Europe. Whatever Ben Gurion's public strategy may have been, he wrote privately to his father in 1919 "Jamal Pasha [then Turkish military ruler in Palestine] planned from the outset to destroy the entire Hebrew settlement in Eretz Yisrael, exactly as they did the Armenians in Armenia" (p. 325).
          One can only surmise that Ben Gurion's praise of the Turks was linked to his scheme to achieve a Jewish Homeland under an Ottoman umbrella. Auron describes a similar posturing by Theodor Herzl during the Fifth Zionist Congress in 1901. At Herzl's initiative, the Congress sent public greetings to Abdul Hamid II, known as the bloody Sultan for his massacres of Armenians and other Ottoman minorities. The telegram was an "expression of dedication and gratitude which all the Jews feel regarding the benevolence which his Highness the Sultan has always shown them." Auron, acknowledging the importance some Zionist leaders placed on wooing Ottoman friendship, writes "The Sultan's note of thanks, sent the following day, was a relief to Herzl " (p. 104).
          Among most of the top Zionists the attitude toward the Armenian genocide continually ranged from indifference to denial. Chaim Weizmann was the notable exception. He had been swayed by the British diplomat Mark Sykes, a great friend of the Armenians, who in turn brought his influence to bear on the foreign minister, Arthur Balfour, leading to the Balfour Declaration. Auron describes Sykes' vision of "a postwar Middle East based on a Jewish-Arab-Armenian alliance under British influence (p. 216)." Sykes' dream died with him in 1919, coincidentally with the withdrawal of support by the British, French and the U.S., each for different reasons.
          Auron reveals the question which stands at the center of his study, about one third the way through his book: "why does one person care [about genocide] while another remains indifferent; why does one individual react while another refrains from reaction or even condemns it" (p. 101). Auron avoids giving a direct answer, but his book is a multi-layered response. He explains that while the dominant leaders were for the most part indifferent, a minority, constituted what he terms "the reactors": those who found ways of expressing horror and alarm as the genocide proceeded.
          The bulk of the book deals with the era of the first World War and its aftermath, when the Armenian genocide raged, while the Jews in the Yishuv and the Zionist stood in fear of a similar fate. The author pleads the case, I believe quite reasonably, for the Yishuv's self-absorption at this time: "When the question of the Yishuv's attitude to the Armenian tragedy is raised, the answer is usually that the Jewish population and its leadership put all of their energy into survival, to ensure that the 'Armenian experience' would not be repeated in Palestine (p. 12)."
          However, in a chapter on "The Attitudes Toward the Armenian Genocide after the Establishment of the State of Israel", Auron finds difficulty, as I do, in explaining away the official Israeli attitude of indifference. He cites a number of examples demonstrating that "the State of Israel has consistently refrained from acknowledging the genocide of the Armenian People (p. 352)." He even goes so far as to blame U.S. failure to acknowledge the Armenian genocide on Israeli pressure. In fact it can also be credited to Turkish pressure on the U.S. government, dating back to the Cold War.
          In sum, this author drawing on a broad range of sources, duly noted, has probed deeply into some painful questions with his own bold and original insights.


          • #6
            Notes from The Banality of Indifference
            By Yair Auron

            Prior to the war and in its early stages, a large part of the Jewish community in Palestine and most of the leadership of the Zionist movement was pro-Turkish and pro-German, and some continued to support them almost to the end of the conflict. Supporters of the Turkish-German alliance believed the fate of the Zionist movement and the future of the Jewish community in Palestine was linked to that of the Ottoman Empire, and thus to that of Germany. The Zionist leaders leaned, for the most part, toward the Centrist powers that had either committed the atrocities against the Armenians or, at best, done nothing to prevent them. In retrospect, most of the leadership of the Zionist community in Palestine supported not only the losing side, but also the “bad” side—the immolators and the murderers.

            The Zionists’ support of Turkey and Germany had nothing to do, of course, with the murder of the Armenians, but one can nonetheless ask whether their support of the Centrist powers determined the Zionists’ attitude and conduct (or lack thereof) toward the atrocities. The unavoidable conclusion is that it apparently did. Regarding the question of whether the atrocities against the Armenians changed Zionist orientation, the answer is no…the mass murder of the Armenians did not cause the Zionists to reconsider their position and rechart their political course, nor did it cause deep concern or moral outrage at the nature of their alliance.

            Herzl, himself, was aware of the Armenian question, which was part of the Ottoman Empire’s agenda during the decades surrounding the beginning of the century. To the best of our knowledge, no records can be found describing outrage on the part of leading Zionist supporters of the British, among them Jabotinsky and Joseph Trumpeldor, who knew of the atrocities committed against the Armenians. Jabotinsky’s failure to react is surprising. When he mentions the massacre of the Armenians it is from the perspective of realpolitik, in the framework of Zionist policy and its postwar goals.

            This study also reveals that there were very few reservations about the Turks and the Germans, and their deeds against the Armenians. It an be argued, not without a great deal of truth, that the Yishuv and the Zionist leadership had no other options and yet it is surprising that we found no evidence of condemnation in journals, internal protocols, and letters. The official Yishuv behaved as if the Armenians were not their affair. The only concern was that what had happened to the Armenians should not happen to them.


            After the First World War, Israel Zangwill (1864-1926) wrote several essays about the Armenian problem. Zangwill, an original and non-conformist thinker, assisted Theodore Herzl early in his career. He resigned from the Zionist Federation after the proposal to establish a Jewish Homeland in Uganda was rejected, and founded the Jewish Territorial Association. He wrote, “I bow before this higher majesty of sorrow. I take the crown of thorns from Israel’s head and I place it up on Armenians.”

            Page 27

            As in future controversies, the phenomenon that stands out is the Israeli attitude to “our Holocaust and the Holocaust of others.” Amos Elon, in a series of articles in the respected Israeli newspaper, Ha’aretz, attacked the “demonstration of hypocrisy, opportunism and the moral trepidation within the official bureaucracy of the nation, which ceaselessly reminds the world of our Holocaust while the Holocaust of others is a subject worth only of political exploitation.

            About the demand to delete any mention of the events of 1915 from the film, he writes, “They are like a person who suggests deleting from a movie about the suffering of the Jewish People in the modern era all reference to Germany, the Holocaust or even the Kishinev pogrom.” With a certain degree of cynicism, Elon apologizes to his readers for returning to this unfortunate, seemingly marginal subject. There are those who see this as a lack of proportion and even vexatiousness. “Israel is a country of one-day scandals, but what can I do, the issue will not go away.” Elon is sharply critical of “the cheap opportunism of hypocrisy.”

            The Holocaust is the central trauma of Israeli society. We remind the world, at every opportunity, of the Holocaust of European Jews, and warn of the indifference to the slaughter of the Christians in Lebanon (where we have a political interest). We drag every important visitor to Yad Vashem (the official Holocaust Museum and Memorial in Israel), and while he is still in shock we hand him a list of demands and requests for political and economic assistance. We are sincere in our grief over our disaster, and at the very same time instrumentalist in our exploitation of it.

            But where is the boundary between the natural chauvinism of exploitation and the cheap opportunism of hypocrisy? What happens when the survivors of one Holocaust make a political deal over the bitter memory of the survivors of another Holocaust? This is the one and only question of importance. This is the question that ought to arouse public interest. This is the question which ought to trouble all of the serious thinkers who fill our world with lamentation and endless pondering about the meaning of the Holocaust in this generation and the next, for us and for others.

            All of the great people of conscience, the very image of sorrow, who give speeches at every opportunity and travel abroad to remind the world that they are forbidden to forget—have followed the Armenian affair as though it had taken place on another planet. They were not shocked, they did not open their mouths.

            Pages 353-354

            Turkish Jewry’s prominent involvement in the domestic American debate added an additional dimension. The Chief Rabbi of Turkey sent a personal letter to every member of the U.S. Senate saying: “The new initiative greatly troubles our community. We recognize the tragedy which befell both the Turks and the Armenians…but we cannot accept the definition of ‘genocide.’ The baseless charge harms us just as it harms our Turkish countrymen. The rabbi’s reasoning was identical to that of the Turkish authorities. He also praised Turkish treatment of the Jews after the Expulsion from Spain. An additional argument presented was connected to the concern that such action would diminish and relativize the significance of the Holocaust. Turkish diplomats tried at the time to intervene in Jewish circles to prevent the commemoration of the Armenian genocide in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. “People all over Turkey follow with great concern the plans for the Museum of the Holocaust…It will be a terrible blow if our great friends, the Americans, will etch in marble a baseless analogy between the Turks and the Nazis. We believe that truth would not be served if the significance of the Holocaust were to be understated or diminished” (Ha’aretz, October 27, 1989).

            Pages 356-357

            Officially, American Jews refused to commit themselves to helping: “We have a problem helping the Turks publicly,” explained a Jewish leader. “As a people which endured a Holocaust we have a problem opposing a memorial day for another people.” But people from the Jewish community worked behind the scenes: American Jews were aware of the interests of the Turkish Jewish community. “A live Jew is more important to us than a dead Armenian,” was the way one Jewish leader bluntly put it. In his opinion, “a memorial day for the Armenians will lead to the approval of other memorial days, for the Indians, the Vietnamese and the Irish or for any other people. That will weaken the importance of Holocaust Day here.”

            Sheila Hattis wrote in Davar (“A Rare Commodity Called Honor,” October 29, 1989) that the reports of the involvement of Jews and Israeli diplomats in the efforts to prevent establishment of a day of remembrance of the Armenian genocide were “one of the most nauseating reports appearing in the press in recent times…It appears that honor is not a commodity with which we are blessed these days.”

            Pages 358-359


            • #7
              Ben Avi: We and the Armenians

              But the Jewish People as a whole, five hundred thousand Jewish citizens in greater Turkey, this entire people stood aside coldly and fearfully; one could amost say, with deep indifference. As is always the case with the Jews.

              In the second part of the editorial, Itamar Ben Avi blames the Jews for indifference to the atrocities which the Turks are committing against the Armenians. In blunt and provocative language, he condemns the egocentricity and ethnocentricity of the Jews. He also takes exception to the “monopoly of suffering” which the Jews have appropriated to themselves, ignoring the fact that “there is another people in the world which suffers like the Jews.”

              Another minor comment: we have been told that the Armenian community in Jerusalem turned to Rabbi Salant requesting that he encourage the members of his community to contribute a bit of money for the pitiful relatives of the Armenians, who were slaughtered by the Muslim in Adana and its environs. Fifteen thousand Armenians were massacred, murdered, put to death. Fifteen thousand—and this horrifying number means nothing to us! As always with the Jews! Go tell the Jews that there are pogroms in Russia, against the Jews of course; go tell them that a couple of hundred of their coreligionists have been killed, and you shall see what fearsome effect your words have upon them: Jews have been killed! The poor Jews! Once again they have been the victims of zealotry and barbarism! The pitiful Jews! And at once they will shove their hand into their pocket and give generously to aid the survivors.

              But go tell them that there is another people in the world which suffers like the Jews. Go describe to them the sorrows of that people, years and years ago, when that very Abd al-Hamid II gave the order and three hundred thousand of them were exterminated---an entire nation! Go, tell them moreover that only two weeks ago another fifteen thousand Armenians were taken to the slaughter, wretched Armenians.

              A slight grimace on their lips, a short heartfelt sigh, and nothing more. The Armenians are not Jews, and according to folk tradition the Armenians are nothing more than Amaleks!

              But most of the critics attacked Hatzvi for slandering the Jews “as the worst enemies of Israel,” and for “spreading libel about us.” With regard to the content, the critics take exception to the charge that the Jews care only about themselves…It is interesting that some of the sharpest reactions were in regard to the Armenians. Dr. Mazie rejected the claims of Hatzvi that the Jews had refrained from helping the Armenians because the latter were considered Amaleks by the Jews.

              “As a Jew in general and an Ottoman Jew in particular, I hereby protest vigorously against these comments of the editor, which may lead to feelings of enmity, animosity, and needless hatred between the grieving, bitter Armenians and their neighbors, the innocent Jews who have lived with them in peace and tranquility in our land and others from ancient days…many still remember the sacrifices made by some of their finest young people in defense of the Jews during the pogroms in Russia.”

              “But unfortunately the editor of Hatzvi chose a different method, to spread libel about us that we had cast off all pity from the Armenians-Amaleks, and only “a slight grimace on our lips” touches us at the rumor that fifteen thousand of them have been slaughtered…We herein also protest against the acts of violence against them, and express our condolences for their great sorrow, regardless of the fact that the Armenians have never shown either particular affection or materials or spiritual support for us, as one people without a country to another, in the course of all our troubles which surely did not affect them.

              It is worth noting the reservations of the writers toward the Armenians: “The Armenians have never shown either particular affection or material or spiritual support for us, as one people without a country to another, in the course of all our troubles, which surely did not affect them.” It will be recalled that others emphasized the assistance of the Armenians to the Jews during the Russian pogroms.

              “We” in Hatzvi, Issue no. 163, aroused terrible ire in Rishon. Almost all of the subscribers have boycotted Hatzvi. They do not wish to accept their issues and will also not permit the sale of Hatzvi to others…It should be added that the campaign against Hatzvi was also waged in the context of a “press war” and the competition between newspapers…which then appeared three times a week, was reported to be gathering signatures of people who would promise not to buy Hatzvi in the future because it weakened the spirit of the people.

              “Domesticus” concludes,

              “The tone of the editorial of “We” is so insulting as to be the most dreadful disgrace in the history of journalism in our country…And the public in Eretz Yirael, it must be confessed, understood this and showed the appropriate contempt for this worthless editorial. The public in Rishon Lezion, for example, punished the editor of Hatzvi by deciding to return their copies to his paper. But if he will know enough to recant from his ways of sensationalism and surprise, only time will tell.”

              Pages 124-134


              • #8
                Oops, I noticed you said "Banality of Denial."

                These are from "Banality of Indifference: The Armenian Genocide"