The Anti-Defamation League reversed its previous position that held the genocide of Armenians wasn’t genocide yesterday. Sort of, anyway:
The national office of the Anti-Defamation League reversed its long-held position today and acknowledged the Armenian genocide of 1915, saying in a statement that the mass killings of that era at the hands of the Ottoman Turks “were indeed tantamount to genocide.”
However, the statement reaffirms the national ADL’s belief that the legislation pending in Congress to recognize the genocide is “a counterproductive diversion.”
From the ADL statement, the non-denial denial:
Having said that, we continue to firmly believe that a Congressional resolution on such matters is a counterproductive diversion and will not foster reconciliation between Turks and Armenians and may put at risk the Turkish Jewish community and the important multilateral relationship between Turkey, Israel and the United States.
How can there be reconciliation when one side doesn’t openly admit what it did? I am so tired of unelected right-leaning (or rightwing) organizations that claim to speak for all (or most) American Jews. The ADL reversed its position for one simple reason: most Jews, rightly, were disgusted with the ADL’s position as well as its acting like an auxiliary of the Israeli embassy. Israel’s nuclear arsenal will take care of itself, and Turkey isn’t that stupid.
Related post: Andrew Mathis on why the original ADL position was immoral.
The ADL has a lot of emotional and rhetorical stock invested in the idea of the uniqueness of the Holocaust. They and many Jewish intellectuals of an older generation spend a great deal of time complaining about any attempt by other groups to use either the word genocide or the word holocaust. As both concepts are often trivialized when people use them as metaphors, I sometimes find myself in agreement with the ADL’s hypersensitivity, but when they deny the use of the words in situations like the Armenian events of 1915-1922, I think they are way out of line.
Of course, to be really anal about linguistic correctness, neither the Holocaust or the Armenian Massacres were genocides; they were attempted genocides. For real genocides we need to look to small nations like the California Indians, North Caucasian peoples, or South African Khoi/San (Bushmen).
John, both the Jewish Holocaust and the Armenian Genocide were genocides under the definition of genocide set forth in the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide. Raphael Lemkin, who invented the term Genocide, gave the Jewish and Armenian experiences as the primary examples of what that word should mean.
John, both the Jewish Holocaust and the Armenian Genocide were genocides under the definition of genocide set forth in the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide.
That is debatable. All definitions, including the UN definition, have intent as part of their definition. Did the Turkish government willfully seek the destruction of the Armenians? That is a very difficult question, but I would say that there isn’t much evidence to support it.
I think people forget how desperate the situation in Turkey was at the time. People like to point to the Armenians that starved but forget to mention that the Turkish soldiers involved in the deportations were themselves surviving off of incredibly meager rations. They also forget that the Armenians were not, on the whole, a bunch of good citizens but a rebellious population. I think the best evidence points to a situation where Turks were using a rather harsh but non-genocidal method to secure their country (deportation) coupled with incredible mismanagement and incompetence and some individual abuses by Turkish soldiers. There appears to be no real evidence that Mehmed Talat Pasha intended to destroy the Armenians, just to deport them from Anatolia. Unfortunately, it became a massive humanitarian disaster.
I recall a good article examining the evidence for and against genocide in Commentary a few years back. I don’t have the article at hand and I don’t recall its title, but if you manage to find it, be sure to check it out.
Re Mike C
Is this the same Commentary Magazine that publishes the antievolution crap of David Berlinski? Not a very authoritative source to say the least.
Is this the same Commentary Magazine that publishes the antievolution crap of David Berlinski?
Yes, and much worse, they’ve provided Susan Sontag and Elie Wiesel with a forum before. Horrors!
Re Mike C
Is Mr. Mike C suggesting that a schmuck like David Berlinski is to be compared with Susan Sontag and Elie Weisel? The fact of the matter is that the editor of Commentary, Norman Podhoretz, publishes Berlinskis’ nonsense as a way of pandering to the born-agains of the Christian Zionist right whose support of the State of Israel he considers crucial. This demonstrates a total lack of intellectual integrity on the part of Mr. Podhoretz and, IMHO, calls into question anything published in his rag. It’s really very simple, when one gets into the pen with the pigs, one may expect to emerge with a coating of mud.
“Did the Turkish government willfully seek the destruction of the Armenians? That is a very difficult question, but I would say that there isn’t much evidence to support it.”
That is a good question, and I haven’t studied it to say yes or no, but wouldn’t that simply change “genocide by the Turkish government” into “genocide by the agents of Turkish government”? The intent would still be there, even if not specifically on the government’s (i.e. those few people thought of as government at that moment) part? And doesn’t it, in fact, make this genocide even worse (i.e., more people acted on their own initiative in massacres etc.)?
I certainly agree that wherever there is no intent to kill, there is no genocide, such events might be described as democide or otherwise.