Respectful Insolence

Abe Foxman: Genocide denier?

My regular readers here know to what lengths I go to combat Holocaust denial on the Internet. It’s a fairly regular topic on this blog, as is rebutting the lies Holocaust deniers routinely spout. Not surprisingly, Holocaust deniers like to try to portray me as either Jewish or somehow in the thrall of the ADL, much as alternative medicine aficionados like to try to paint me as being a shill for big pharma. (Hey, big pharma and all you Jews out there controlling the New World Order, where are my checks? You guys owe me several years of back payments for my online efforts to undermine the supplement and alternative medicine industries and to try to hide the “truth” about the Jews! Hint for Holocaust deniers: That’s sarcasm.)

Despite all that, I’ve never been particularly comfortable with the Anti-Defamation League. Indeed, its leader, Abe Foxman, has said and done some things that are so stupid and beyond the pale in his knee-jerk reaction to see anti-Semitism where it is and, all too often, where it isn’t, that I’ve come to see him and his fellow reactionary William Donohue of the Catholic League, who’s known for attacking “anti-Catholicism” at the drop of a hat (or at the creation of a chocolate Jesus). Despite all this, given the ADL’s extreme (and justified) sensitivity when it comes to Holocaust denial, you’d think that it would be supportive of other victims of genocide, given the Jewish experience in Nazi Germany last century.

You’d be wrong.

Longtime blog friend and fellow traveler in the fight against Holocaust denial Andrew Mathis has pointed me to a story that reveals the utter hypocrisy of Abe Foxman and the ADL on this issue. I had heard rumblings about this a few days ago, but had been so busy that I never got around to following up on it. Andrew provides the links and the commentary, and I can’t resist putting my two cents in as well about the story, which was first reported almost three weeks ago:

WATERTOWN — As far as town proclamations go, the one that declared Watertown a No Place for Hate community in July 2005 seemed like a pretty innocuous one. The goal was to celebrate diversity and challenge bigotry. And the program, in place in 67 Massachusetts communities and hundreds of others nationwide, has generated very little controversy elsewhere.

But that has not been the case in Watertown. In recent weeks, the town that bills itself as No Place for Hate on a sign outside Town Hall is abuzz with anger and frustration, especially among the large Armenian population. At issue is not the program itself, but the group behind it, the Anti-Defamation League, and in particular the ADL’s refusal to acknowledge the Armenian genocide at the hands of Turks during World War I.

Ultimately, the Watertown Town Council unanimously voted to pull out of the No Place for Hate initiative in protest of the ADL’s refusal to acknowledge the Armenian genocide and pressure has started building on other nearby communities to pull out of the initiative as well. If you think this might be an overreaction, please sample a taste of the ADL’s position on the Armenian genocide, take a look at these statements:

According to Armenians and many historians, the Turks systematically killed as many as 1.5 million Armenians living under the Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1923. A Polish-Jewish lawyer later coined the term genocide, citing the Armenian experience. But the Turkish government has never acknowledged their history as such, leading to decades of anger and frustration among Armenians.

Foxman said he is surprised that he has become a target of Armenians. The ADL, a group founded in 1913 to fight anti-Semitism, has no official position on the Armenian genocide, he said.

“I’m not going to be the arbiter of someone else’s history,” he said in the interview, adding that he does not believe that Congress should either. When asked specifically if what happened to Armenians under the Ottoman Empire was genocide, he replied, “I don’t know.” The ADL only takes positions, he said, on current events, not on something that happened in the past.

Or, how about this gem from Foxman:

“This is not an issue where we take a position one way or the other,” Foxman told JTA, referring to the longstanding feud between Turkey and Armenians over the issue. “This is an issue that needs to be resolved by the parties, not by us. We are neither historians nor arbiters.”

Not take positions on genocide? How disingenuous can you get? Foxman’s never been shy about making pronouncements about Jewish history particularly any history relating to Germany or the Holocaust. Moreover, the ADL has not been in the least bit shy about pushing for hate crimes legislation. I have to wonder how would Foxman react to a statement from an organization–any organization–that the Holocaust is “not an issue where we take a position one way or the other”? Indeed, perhaps the best quote of all about Foxman’s hypocrisy came from Joey Kurtzman, who said, “Unless Jewish Americans are comfortable for others to remain similarly agnostic about whether the Holocaust took place, we ought to be every bit as furious with Foxman as are Armenian Americans.”

If all Foxman had said is that he doesn’t think it’s appropriate for Congress to pass a resolution demanding that the Turkish government acknowledge the Armenian genocide because he thinks it’s inappropriate, although I would probably disagree with him, I could at least understand a principled position that government resolutions like that may be useless or counterproductive. However, couple the ADL’s resistance with its refusal to use the dreaded “g” word with respect to the Armenians, and the whole thing takes on a more sinister cast. Look at the ADL’s response to the controversy, as the ADL falls all over itself to avoid the “g” word:

ADL has acknowledged and never denied the massacres of hundreds of thousands of Armenians — and by some accounts more than one million — at the hands of the Ottoman Empire in 1915-1918.

We believe that the Turkish government must do more than it has to confront its history and to seek reconciliation with the Armenian people. We have said that to the Turkish government and its officials, we will continue to do so, and we take this opportunity to repeat it publicly. We will continue to work to convince Turkey to pursue recognition and reconciliation, and we will seek ways to encourage this process.

David Irving speaking about the Holocaust couldn’t have said it better. Indeed, Holocaust deniers frequently say things like, “We don’t deny that many Jews were killed or that many Jews died in camps.” What they do deny is that there was a systematic plan by the Nazis to exterminate the Jews of Europe; i.e., that the Holocaust was genocide. As Andrew points out, there are five main criteria in the U.N. definition of genocide:

  1. Killing members of the group.
  2. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group
  3. Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life, calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.
  4. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.
  5. Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

The Armenian genocide met all these criteria and then some:

The Armenian genocide meets all five of these criteria. Armenians could only save their own lives (and even then it was a stretch) if they agreed to abandon the Armenian language and adopt Islam as their faith (an action that should, under no circumstances, be considered “typical” of Islam as a faith). Armenian children were given to Turkish families. Forcible relocation always (not sometimes, but always) results in deaths of the “relocated” groups.

As Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt points out, “It’s not a matter of debate. There is an overwhelming consensus among historians that work in this area that there is no question that this is a genocide. You can’t deny this history.” It’s also tempting to point out here that in August 1939 Adolf Hitler justified his plan to destroy Poland and create a new order by asking, “Who still talks nowadays of the extermination of the Armenians?

But why would the ADL be so reluctant to back this bill or even use the word genocide when referring to what the Turks did to the Armenians? Here’s the real reason that the ADL is unwilling to go to bat for the Armenians on this issue:

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.

So, in other words, the ADL doesn’t want to piss off the Turks because the Turks are key allies and friends of Israel. Now that the heat is on, it’s reacting in a downright Stalinist manner to suppress the dissent in its ranks that this issue has caused. For example, the ADL recently fired its local New England regional leader Andrew H. Tarsy. Tarsy’s crime? He spoke out against the ADL’s stand and publicly said that the ADL should recognize the Armenian genocide. His firing has lead two prominent ADL board members in New England to resign in protest.

After the hypocrisy of Abe Foxman for refusing to acknowledge history in order to avoid causing offense to the Turks, the thing that bugs me about this is that Holocaust deniers are having a field day with it. Over in The Cesspool (a.k.a. alt.revisionism), for example, Holocaust denier and rabid anti-Semite Waldo in a thread entitled, “Why would Foxman and the ADL Deny the Armenian Genocide?” thinks he knows why the ADL won’t use the term genocide to refer to the Armenian slaughter:

There are those who make a compelling case that the leadership of the “Young Turks” and the “Committee of Union and Progress”, who orchestrated the genocide, was in fact composed largely of Jews and crypto-Jews (Jews who were masquerading as Muslims) many of these hailing from the Jewish/Crypto-Jewish community of Salonika, Greece. It is alleged that these Jews were Zionists all, and their intent was to weaken and then dissolve the Ottoman Empire so that their Zionist dream of a Jewish homeland in Palestine might be fulfilled – the Armenian Genocide being a necessary part of that plan. These further allege that the entire revolution and subsequent genocide was bankrolled by Jewish Italian bankers and further by the Rothschilds, and that Jews/Crypto-Jews have been in defacto control of Turkey ever since.

[...]

Lets face it: It simply wouldn’t do to have Jews – the world’s “ultimate victim class” fingered as the culprits of a mass genocide in the twentieth century. Imagine the stigma and the possible repercussions on the Jews of Turkey, on the Zionist movement, and on Jews in general!

Imagine what might happen to that festering Kosher boil on the face of the Middle East if the world were to learn not only of the true culprits of the Armenian Genocide, but that its birth required the Bolshevik Revolution, World Wars one and Two, and countless more incidents of betrayal, intrigue, back-stabbing and skulduggery?

Of course, the obvious response would be to point out that Abe Foxman does not represent all Jews (or probably even all that many of them) and that members of the leadership of his very own organization strongly disagree with his stand, one of them strongly enough to be fired over it and two strongly enough to resign in protest. Foxman, in his hypocrisy, gives these morons a brush with which to attempt to smear all Jews and justify their own Holocaust denial. Talk about self-defeating stands.

More:

How do you sleep? (Well worth reading in its entirety, as Andrew Mathis explains just why Foxman’s stand is so reprehensible.

Comments

  1. #1 plunge
    August 21, 2007

    Ug. I’ve never particularly liked Foxman, but the ADL for all its problems always seemed on the good guy side of the line, and I never thought they’d stoop this low.

  2. #2 Jewcy girl
    August 21, 2007

    This is really a scanadal that is going to get worse. It is not just the ADL. Our community and advocacy groups have been asked to carry water for Ankara and slavishly started doing so about ten years ago. We have deeply alineated Armenian Americans and Greek Americans on their legitimate issues as a result.

    Millions of indigenous groups such as Greeks and Armenains were killed en masse, millions were forced to convert (thogh a male child tax whihc took the male children and had them adopted by Moslem familes) and becasue we were relatively well treated some cling to the canard of the Ottomans as toleratant.

    The genocide against the Armenians is a historic fact. But htat is not the issue, the issue is what morons in our own community decided to make us the prinicple deniers, not jus thteough the ADL, but therough the AJC, AIPAC in DC and SWC worldwide?

  3. #3 DaleP
    August 21, 2007

    Also, the ADL regional director made a statement in favor of ADL speaking out on Armenian genocide. He was fired. Regional board of directors spoke up for regional director. 2 of them have resigned. See Boston Globe for updates.

  4. #4 Orac
    August 21, 2007

    Actually, I did mention that Andrew Tarsy was fired and that two of the members of the New England ADL board resigned in protest…

  5. #5 Brian X
    August 21, 2007

    We need the ADL. We do not need Abe Foxman.

    Seriously, this boggles the mind — how can one take a meaningful stand on the Holocaust and still whitewash the Armenian Genocide? I’ve said it many times — liberals and civil rights advocates do not need these people giving reasons for haters to attack us. As long as the bigots and their marketing machine continue to promote veiled hatred as a tool of political policy, we simply can’t afford to have this kind of hypocrisy on our side.

  6. #6 SLC
    August 21, 2007
  7. #7 Sergey Romanov
    August 21, 2007

    “ADL Statement on the Armenian Genocide”

    http://www.adl.org/PresRele/Mise_00/5114_00.htm

    Although I find the statement wishy-washy, I do think that’s the step in the right direction. It’s good that the pressure caused them to reconsider, pity that the pressure had to be applied in the first place.

    (Ooooh, the Armenian Lobby must be stronger than Jewish Lobby to make ADL do such a turn ;-))

  8. #8 DuWayne
    August 21, 2007

    This is just mind-boggling to me. It blows me away that the ADL isn’t at the forefront in the fight against genocide and ethnic cleansing, wherever and whenever it happens or happened. One would think that the ADL would be the first ones out there, decrying the violence in places like Rawanda, Somalia and Darfur, rather than taking months or years, to even mention them, if they mention them at all.

  9. #9 Rebecca
    August 21, 2007

    Actually, if you go to the ADL website, you can see that they are on the side of the angels when it comes to Darfur. This does not, of course, excuse their inexcusable stance on the Armenian genocide. I’m glad they’ve just come out with a statement acknowledging that it happened, but it’s definitely too little, too late.

  10. #10 Sergey Romanov
    August 21, 2007

    BTW, Orac, the “nice folks” at “AAARGH” are not strictly antisemitic. They’re anti-Armenian also. They have a whole site called “Armenichantage” (Armenian Blackmail?):

    http://vho.org/aaargh/fran/genoplusgros/armen/chantage/index.html

  11. #11 plunge
    August 21, 2007

    The article on the ADLs’s 180 (which I applaud even if it was still sort of wishy washy: hey that was fast!) says that:

    “In 1915, the Turks massacred the Armenian minority in Turkey. Both Israel and the Unites States has refused until now to term the massacre a ‘genocide’ and officially recognize it as such.”

    But the bill has yet to pass in the US right? And what is the official status of Israel on this issue now? The article implies that it’s changed but its sort of vague: has it in fact?

  12. #12 Ahistoricality
    August 21, 2007

    As I said elsewhere:
    I understand the fear groups like the ADL feel when it seems like the Holocaust is diminished or denied: I feel it too. I’ve never wanted the Holocaust to be central to my identity as a Jew, but there’s no denying that it overshadows my existence as a Jew at critical junctures.

    But I’ve never understood why they would turn around and inflict that same fear, that same denial, on others. Every horror is unique, sure, but that’s no reason to have to invent new words for every horror. Genocide is a perfectly vicious term for racist, eliminationist mass murder, and whether it was the Nazi program or the Turkish one matters to its victims and matters to the descendants of the survivors (on both sides) but it doesn’t matter to the language.

    The ADL has always been a bit too narrow for me: I’ve never supported them financially before, and I’m sure as hell not going to start now. It would take a great deal of reconsideration and repentance on their part before that would happen.

  13. #13 Sergey Romanov
    August 21, 2007

    I think I should add something here. I certainly wholeheartedly support Mr. Schiff’s initiative and intentions. But I, for one, wouldn’t support his bill,
    which reads, in part:

    http://schiff.house.gov/HoR/CA29/Newsroom/Press+Releases/2007/A+Majority+in+the+House+Supports+Resolution+Recognizing+the+Armenian+Genocide.htm

    “accurately characterize the systematic and deliberate annihilation of 1,500,000 Armenians as genocide.”

    I’m afraid that taking the maximum of the possible numbers, while there is a controversy about it, is wrong both from intellectual and tactical points of view. The latter is easily explained: if the scholars will finally come to a conclusion that less than 1,500,000 Armenians perished (e.g., 1,200,000), that will only give ammo to deniers, even though 1,200,000 is hardly “better” than 1,500,000.

    Just as in “hard” science, one is better off giving the bounds of estimates (e.g., 1.2-1.5 mln. – or whatever).

    And no, this is not nitpicking, unless one thinks that facts to do not matter ;-)

  14. #14 Coin
    August 21, 2007

    The ADL’s original position on this is kind of baffling and alarming, but it is heartening to see that pressure was correctly applied and that the ADL did come around in response to that pressure.

    It sometimes frustrates me that people cavalierly tag the words “Never Again” to discussion of the holocaust, then don’t actually take the step of stopping and thinking about what one would do if one actually meant those two words…

  15. #15 DuWayne
    August 21, 2007

    Rebecca -

    It’s not that they didn’t come out with the right stance on Drafur, it’s the amount of time it took them to address it that bothered me. I understand that their primary interest is to address issues of antisemitism, but I think it would go a long ways if they were at the forefront in coming out strong against genocide and it’s cursory form, ethnic cleansing.

  16. #16 Atlantan
    August 21, 2007

    Hmm. I wonder what the ADL has to say about the 500,000 Turks massacred by Armenians between 1914-1919? Or about the 1 million + Turks and Muslims driven out of the Balkans in 1913? The five criteria for genocide you mention is just about satisfied by most ethnic conflicts I know of in the Middle East. Why, I wonder, are only Christian victims mourned by the West? And why are basic factual details, such as the period over which the deaths occurred, distorted by Armenians? Why have so many documents been forged and falsified by the Armenian Revolutionary Committee? Why is there a systematic attempt by Armenian lobbying organizations to silence historians who oppose key aspects of the Armenian thesis? These to me are more important questions, as clearly in this case the power of lobbying organizations carries more weight than truth. How will the ADL explain these statements to Turks who have lost their entire families to Armenian violence? The reason most Turks “deny” Armenian claims is because the Armenian thesis entirely ignores the hundreds of thousands of Turks massacred. In fact, many Armenian websites I’ve said even list major killers of Turks such as Nazi-supporter General Drastamat Kanayan as “survivors” of “genocide.” Before people take a stance, they should read the fine print in Armenian arguments.

  17. #17 Sergey Romanov
    August 21, 2007

    Atlantan, do you have any sites in mind?

  18. #18 Andrew Wade
    August 21, 2007

    Atlantan,

    I’m unfortunately not familiar with the relevant history, but your argument sounds like a classic case of “poisoning the well”. Even if all your claims are true, it doesn’t mean an Armenian Genocide didn’t take place, and it doesn’t excuse denying the existence of such a genocide.

  19. #19 Jon H
    August 21, 2007

    “Or about the 1 million + Turks and Muslims driven out of the Balkans in 1913? ”

    That was different, they were an occupying oppressor.

    Really, you just don’t want to be arguing based on the Ottoman Empire’s human rights scorecard.

  20. #20 Coin
    August 21, 2007

    So… actually, hold on. Does the ADL’s 180 mean that Andrew Tarsy will be getting his job back?

  21. #21 Joe
    August 22, 2007

    According to the local paper (Greenfield, MA) Abe Foxman changed his stance yesterday and called the Armenian “atrocity” genocide.

  22. #22 Atlantan
    August 23, 2007

    “your argument sounds like a classic case of “poisoning the well”. Even if all your claims are true, it doesn’t mean an Armenian Genocide didn’t take place”

    Dear Andrew Wade: In history, nothing happens without a reason. In 1914 alone, 100,000 Turks were slaughtered by Armenians who wanted to take advantage of the war to establish an independent Armenia. It was this action which triggered the decision to relocate Armenians away from the war zone. I should note that most Armenians in Istanbul, Izmir and other western cities were exempt, because this decision affected primarily areas in which there was fighting against Russia, or other Allied armies. During that time even churches were being used by Armenians as weapons depots; I have read statements by Armenian leaders at that time who viewed Turkish children as “enemies” because they mean the continued Turkish presence in the areas they wished to conquer. The Armenian revolutionaries wished not just to conquer eastern Anatolia, but for it to be “pure”, i.e. just occupied by Armenians (an idea supported by some Americans, see 1919 King Crane report) When the Russians invaded Van in 1915, the local Armenian populations used these weapons against Turks, aiding the invaders and again killing 80,000 Turkish civilians. I am not defending the governments relocation decision, but what I am saying is that what happened was not genocide, but a forced migration, accompanied by inter-ethnic violence. During this whole period, 1914-1921, over 500,000 Turks were massacred. You can’t ignore that huge loss of life when you have tit-for-tat atrocities! It was a kill or be killed situation.

    As for the Balkans, the Turks slaughtered there were not “occupying oppressors.” Muslim, Turkish civilians had in many areas of Bosnia, Albania, Greece, Hungary and Bulgaria comprised a substantial minority if not an outright majority in some areas. These are not occupiers, but a civilian population who had thrived there for over 400 years! I should remind Americans that America is only half that age. Should Americans be driven out of America for “occupying” Indian land? How absurd,right? Even more absurd then is somehow justifying this forgotten chapter of ethnic cleansing against Balkan Turks.

    As a result of ethnic-based nationalism, many groups tried to grab a piece of the Ottomans when they collapsed. There were many, many atrocities that affected all ethnic groups during that time. The Armenian case is just one. My whole point is that Armenians want you to remember just one incident, and forget what the crimes that they did, or the other crimes against the Turk, who have been demonized in European pop-culture for centuries. That is not fair, nor is it moral or historically truthful. We cannot have selective memory, and then only blame one-side!

  23. #23 Atlantan
    August 23, 2007

    Dear Sergey, you asked for websites. Here are some that I know of, and some books too:

    http://www.ermenisorunu.gen.tr/english/intro/index.html

    M. Kemal Oke, “The Armenian Question, 1914-1923″ K. Rustem and Brothers, 1988.

    Guenter Lewy, “The Armenian Massacres in Ottoman Turkey: A Disputed Genocide,” Univ. of Utah Press, 1995.

    Justin McCarthy, “Death and Exile: The Ethnic Cleansing of Ottoman Muslims, 1821-1922,” Darwin Press, 1996.

    Justin McCarthy, “The Armenian Rebellion at Van,” Univ. of Utah Press, 1996.

    Robert Zeidner, “Tricolors over the Taurus” (Details French and Armenian atrocities against Turks in Southern Turkey, including ethnic cleansing by French)

    Stanford Shaw, “The Armenian Legion and its destruction of the Armenian community in Cilicia” (more about Armenian atrocities against Turks in southern Turkey)
    http://www.tbmm.gov.tr/yayinlar/yayin1/8-Shaw(155-206).pdf

    This is enough for now. Look, I read Armenian websites too, and some of their reasoning is just plain absurd. Like they blame Ataturk for “genocide” because after a referendum was held, Hatay chose to become part of Turkey. Apparently the 20,000+ Armenians of Hatay didn’t like that, so they chose to immigrate. This apparently makes him guilty of “genocide.” Really guys, if you actually read the basis of what they say, much is either wrong, based on fake documents, or just plain illogical. And when I debate Armenians on the web and ask them about the Turks massacred by Armenians, and tell them about the mass graves found in Turkish villages, you know what they tell me? “Those Turks must have been killed by Turkish soldiers, because an Armenian would never do that.” Yeah right…talk about denial…

    What is need is not one-sided blaming, silencing tactics or lobbying for “recognition” but DIALOGUE…This blood fued will never get resolved until each side acknowledges the other sides suffering.

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