Turkey’s Blame Game

Is it possible to condemn genocide without helping to lay the foundation for another catastrophe? That's the difficulty faced by those who are debating the wisdom of a congressional resolution condemning the massacre of Armenians by Turkey during World War I.

Jews are sensitive to the grief that Armenians feel over the mass murder of their people, as well as the ongoing need to condemn genocide whenever and wherever it happens. At the same time, American Jewry has celebrated Turkey's stance as a Muslim country that has good relations with Israel, and which, by and large, supports America's initiatives on Islamist terror.

Turkey should not feel threatened by an acknowledgment of what happened to Armenians 90 years ago. But for nationalist reasons, the Turks consider any measure that speaks of genocide to be an insult that will destroy their alliance with the United States and their relationship with Israel.

Unfortunately, organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League have found themselves in the crossfire on this issue. And though most of organized Jewry still opposes the congressional resolution, the Turks seem to be blaming Jewish influence for its passage last week in committee. But by trying to force those who value Turkey and its unique role in the region to oppose the resolution, they are putting us in a position where it can be argued that we are denying genocide or at least downplaying it. That is clearly too much to ask. The genocide of the Armenians is a fact.

Those who say that friendship with Turkey is unimportant also remain in a state of denial. The country is at a delicate stage of its history as Islamist political forces are edging ever closer to tilting the country away from its secular traditions. Should Turkey move from being a force for stability in the region to one that is aggressively seeking to exploit tensions (as is the case with its battle with Kurdish nationalists in northern Iraq), that would be a disaster.

Turkey's stance opposing the remembrance of Armenian suffering is not reasonable, but neither is a position that heedlessly chucks a vital alliance into the trash can. Choosing this particular moment in history to pick a fight with Turkey makes no sense. The bad judgment of those who have pushed this resolution forward has created a situation where it may not be possible to avoid choosing between remembering murder and keeping Turkey as a friend. If so, it should be clearly understood that, no matter which side prevails in Congress, both options are unacceptable.



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