Thursday, August 23, 2007

Turkey Expresses "Anger and Disappointment"

Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül (Photo: Wikipedia)

Citing sources in the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Ha'aretz reports that Turkey is pressuring Israel to compel American Jewish organizations to reverse their recognition of the Armenian Genocide. So far, the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee, perhaps the two most recognizable Jewish political organizations in the U.S., have publicly declared that the events of 1915 constituted genocide. Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül expressed disappointment that Israel had not done anything to prevent these declarations, and talks between the Pinhas Avivi, the Israeli ambassador in Ankara, and Gül escalated to "unpleasant tones" [טונים צורמים] (Ha'aretz Hebrew).

The report is rather incredible, and reveals the bizarre spell that the phenomenon of Jewish diplomacy continues to exert on supposedly rational actors in the international state system. It appears that the Turkish Foreign Ministry truly believes in the existence of a cabal that initiates and enforces policies for all of world Jewry. The State of Israel now plays the role once attributed to the Rothschilds. I have always thought of Turkish diplomacy with respect to the denial of the Armenian Genocide as rather clever. Now it turns out that one of its guiding assumptions seems to have been the belief that American Jewish organizations take their marching orders from Jerusalem. I know that this thesis is popular among certain groups in the U.S. and elsewhere as well; the believers will hardly be persuaded by evidence to the contrary. The Turkish Foreign Ministry would do well to study the role played by Jewish groups in the American political system as well as the views of U.S. Jews on foreign and domestic policy, without the blinders of stereotypes about Jewish conspiracies.

The impact that the recognition decision of the ADL as well as the (characteristically) quieter AJC has made is astounding. In Turkey, government officials apparently "admitted that the ADL's shift in position was a setback for Ankara" (Turkish Daily News). Somehow, vast powers have been attributed to these Jewish organizations in the fight for and against House resolution 106, which would have the U.S. officially recognize the Armenian Genocide.


Jeha said...


The Turks overestimate, the influence may well be the other way round, as American Jewish groups tend to have a "rightwing" impact on Israel.

But why would you consider that "Turkish diplomacy with respect to the denial of the Armenian Genocide [was] rather clever"? Aside from the fact that Armenians can base territorial claims on any Turkish recognition of the Genocide, it is bringing in more headaches than it is worth, especially as Turkey is struggling with a restive Kurdish minority, and trying to get in the EU.

The Turks are only postponing the day they will have to make amends. On the long run, geopolitical interests could change, and the Turks may not like the effect of the interest accrued...

R said...

It is also gratifying to see the Simon Wiesenthal Center re-assert its long-standing recognition of the Armenian Genocide. See "We Have a Duty to Tell the Truth" in the Jerusalem Post:

R said...

Unfortunately the plot thickens as under inetnse pressure from Turkey via Israel the ADL has now tempered its postion by calling for a joint commission by Armenia and Turkey

Amos said...

I hardly see this as the ADL "tempering" its position. They're throwing Turkey a bone. This changes absolutely nothing. The cat is long out of the bag. Various people - usually groups who oppose Congressional recognition - have been calling for such commissions for years.

R said...

I suspect you are right Amos. Actually the same thing happened in Canada where the government including the Prime Minister has affirmed the Genocide while the Minister of Foreign Affairs agreed that a joint commission would be useful.

Amos said...

Wow, R. You are really doing us a service with your updates. Thanks very much.

To Jeha: Being able to get a significant number of Western powers to basically acquiesce in the denial of a genocide requires some "clever" diplomacy. But you are certainly right that - seen in the long term - it is not terribly wise.

I'm not sure how to interpret your other comment. It's true that many Armenians base historical claims to Western Armenia / Eastern Anatolia on the genocide. But do you think that they will be able to leverage this to bring about a territorial revision? That would surely be a complete disaster and a terrible crime to boot. As for financial compensation - I wouldn't be too optimistic. If there are amends one day, they will be moral.

Anonymous said...

It is not easy but possible to convey to the secular and even regligious Turkish elite that Israel has as much influence on the USA Jewish community as the Turkish government on the several million Turks in Europe and even on the most antisemic expressions of some Turkish politicians and party leaders in Turkey.

Nobody said...

i think that i can take not a bit more of holocaust news and recognitions, whether they are jewish ones, in darfur or the armenian one .. is it possible to declare a moratorium for at least a decade on everything related to holocausts and genocides controversies ???

nevertheless to be fair i have to admit that the whole thing of denying the armenian genocide just does not sit well with the official policy of Israel of dragging everybody including british soccer fans to Yad waShem.. neither it makes much sense given the enormous enthusiasm of some US jewish organizations for the genocide in darfur ... i understand that these organizations are spearheading the campaign for darfur in the US

Jeha said...

To clarify what I mean by interest accrued. I am making no predictions, but only highlighting trends.

My point is based on two basic premises; First, states are not eternal and the world never stands still. States are only as strong or solid as their latest achievements in a combination of fields of activity. Second, the Turks have clearly engaged themselves in an impasse; how much it matters depend on future developments.

But it clearly matters in the context of a globalized world economy, and Turkey cannot afford to go back to being a backwater. If it keeps pushing in this impasse, Turkey will find it ever harder to integrate further with its European and American partner. Frictions could then appear as internal business interests are increasingly at odds with their country's militarist legacy.

This is not far-fetched; no country is completely monolithic, and Turkey is less than it presents itself to be;

- Up to 20% of its population is repressed Kurds, who do not take well to "Turkification".

- another 10 Million or (much) more belong to diverse Alevi sects, who would not really enjoy the growing influence of mainstream "Sunni" Turks à la Sauce AK. Incidentally, they are not the same as Syria's "Alawites"; that's a "name" bestowed upon them, their real name is Nussairy.

- There are also localized minorities in some other regions, such as the Arabs of Hatay....

All those are now "federated" in an "opposition to" something, but the needs for economic development would soon require that they strive together "towards" something.

R said...

A very realistic approach taken by columnist Omer Taspinar in the Turkish newspaper Zaman today:

Hopefully this signifies a new current in Turkey in dealing with history and Armenia.