June 2, 2010
Bibi, Turks and Genocide
As I was preparing a blog post on a dialogue between two Conservative rabbis on process theology and Judaism, I received an urgent phone call from the Israeli Prime Minister’s office asking me to prepare a statement to be read by Mr. Netanyahu at a press conference tomorrow morning. Here is the final draft:
“Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Before I take your questions, I would like to make a statement that is long overdue from this office and this country. The Armenian Genocide is a historical fact. Nearly a century ago, the Ottoman Turkish government organized and carried out massacres, rapes, deportations, and forced marches that took the lives of 1.5 million Armenians. Even as I speak, Knesset members are preparing to pass a resolution that will make Israel the 21st country to officially recognize the Armenian Genocide. The world should expect no less from a nation founded on the ashes of the Holocaust.
In our desire to create a strategic alliance with Turkey, we have sacrificed our moral authority. For too long we have pretended that the genocide issue had two legitimate sides in order to avoid offending our thin-skinned ally. We even dishonored the memories of the dead by suggesting that a panel of historians be assembled to debate whether a genocide occurred. As recent events have shown, this moral obfuscation has been self-defeating: we now have no strategic ally and diminished moral authority. No sane person believes that Turkey will side with Israel if it clashes with any other nation in the region. The much-touted “strategic partnership” has been reduced to sporadic joint military exercises and arms purchases. We are willing to continue this military relationship, but not if it involves deception and lying. From this day forward, the Government of Israel will equate denial of the Armenian Genocide with denial of the Holocaust.
We have cast our lot in the Middle East with a people that has massacred Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks, brutally oppressed Kurds, fought with Greece, invaded Cyprus, and persecuted Orthodox Christians. Moreover, it refuses to acknowledge and take responsibility for any of these actions. I cannot think of a nation in greater need of serious introspection. It’s no wonder the EU is increasingly reluctant to extend membership to a country with such a huge chip on its shoulder. As I viewed a video of the stone-throwing mob attempting to storm the Israeli Consulate in Istanbul, I realized that any conspicuous Jew who crossed its path stood a good chance of being lynched on the spot.
Israelis can hold their heads higher today knowing that their government has righted a historical wrong by acknowledging the first Holocaust of the twentieth century. If this results in fewer drones sold to Turkey, so be it. If Ankara throws a tantrum, we’ll live with it. After all, Jews have endured much worse. As have the Armenians.
I will now take your questions.”