Trivia time: This Middle Eastern country has long denied a genocide happened in the past. It has worked, in public and behind the scenes, to convince others this genocide didn’t happen and undo any efforts to recognize the event as such.
Now, what country am I talking about? If your answer is Iran, that’s understandable, given the media fallout last year over President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s declaration that the Nazi Holocaust didn’t happen and sponsored a revisionist conference, attracting the likes of David Duke.
However, that answer is wrong and you lose 1.5 million points. The correct answer is Israel.
Yes, the light unto nations whose existence is premised on preventing another Holocaust and rallying around the battle cry “Never Again!” officially denies that 1.5 million Armenians were systematically murdered by the Ottoman empire in 1915.
And guess which Middle Eastern country does officially recognize the genocide? Why, Iran of course, but don’t feel bad for not knowing it’s not something the media tried to report, especially during the Holocaust denial conference that earned Ahmadinejad the title of New Hitler. (www.armeniadiaspora.com)
Israel isn’t the only one guilty of such holocaust denial; the Bush administration went out of its way to persuade Congress last year to drop its planned resolution declaring the mass murder genocide so as not to offend Turkey. As the largest army in NATO and a longtime ally during the Cold War, Turkey has used its strategic clout to silence any criticism, whether it’s the genocide, or their more recent treatment of the Kurds, etc.
Much of that clout is due to the power of the Israel lobby, which has gone out of its way to prevent any official recognition of genocide on the grounds of preserving Israel’s strategic relations with Ankara. Leading the charge was the Anti-Defamation League, whose head, Abraham Foxman, fired the Boston branch leader for daring to agree with the growing consensus within the Jewish community that, indeed, a genocide did occur in 1915.
The ensuing outcry forced Foxman to backtrack a little and issue an ambiguous statement that acknowledged that genocide took place, but not really:
“We have never negated but have always described the painful events of 1915-1918 perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire against the Armenians as massacres and atrocities,” he wrote.
Then Foxman proceeded to negate the genocide by writing:
“We continue to firmly believe that a congressional resolution on such matters is a counterproductive diversion” that “may put at risk the Turkish Jewish community and the important multilateral relationship between Turkey, Israel and the United States.”
Adding further insult to injury, Foxman told the Jerusalem Post that last year’s fallout was “behind us.” In his recent meetings with Turkish leaders, he said, “that they need to deal with live Armenians,” and strengthen relations, so that “it will place the historical issue in the background and be much easier to deal with.”
In other words, “never again” takes a backseat to “business as usual.” Again. And by “business as usual,” I mean defending Israel by any means necessary.
Ironically, the ADL engages in defamation through their tired and unfounded accusation of anti-Semitism, particularly the “new” anti-Semitism as described in numerous op-eds and a book by Foxman called “Never Again?” It’s long been used as part of their ideological counteroffensive against awareness and outrage over Israeli abuses and expansionism over the years, especially during the Intifada.
Another tactic that has emerged in recent years is to raise the banner of justice for Jewish refugees who fled from Arab countries between 1948 and 1953. One of the biggest proponents of this campaign is former Canadian minister of justice and current MP Irwin Cotler, who spoke at a meeting in New York last November before the peace conference in Annapolis, MD.
“This was not just a forced exodus, it was a forgotten exodus,” he told the New York Times, using the Biblical reference for the desired effect. Cotler and his ilk, on their own exodus to find the promised land of historical and moral parity between the suffering of Palestinians and Arab Jews, both blamed on the Arab rejection of the U.N. Partition Plan of 1947.
During an appearance in an “overflow gathering” of the British House of Lords on June 25th, Cotler, who unveiled a nine-point plan for “refugee rights,” said:
“Had the U.N. Partition Resolution been accepted sixty years ago, there would have been no Arab-Israeli war no refugees, Jewish or Arab and none of the pain and suffering of these last sixty years.” One point called for Arab states and the Arab League to “acknowledge their role and responsibility in their double aggression of launching an aggressive war against Israel and the perpetration of human rights violations against their respective Jewish nationals.”
In an op-ed called “The Double Nakba” that appeared in the Jerusalem Post five days later, Cotler reiterated that point and labeled “revisionist Mideast narrative” anything that held “that Israel was responsible for the Palestinian Nakba of 1948.” With groups bearing benign monikers like Justice for Jews From Arab Countries, it’s a movement that tries to look benign on the surface.
In reality, it’s Nakba denial without the overt rejection of the actual events of 1948. It’s a slick repackaging of the Zionist narrative, which at one time denied that Palestinians even existed as a people. Now, the party line is, we admit they exist and were ethnically cleansed, but it’s your fault that we killed your relatives and expelled you from your homes, now our homes.
Never mind the fact that the expulsion of Arab Jews was a policy of reaction against the expulsion of Palestinians, which occurred first; or the fact that the Nakba was the culmination of Zionist planning since Theodore Herzl.
“We shall try to spirit the penniless population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries while denying it any employment in our own country,” Herzl wrote in his diary. It’s a policy documented by Israeli and non-Israeli scholars and eyewitnesses; the historical record stands undisputed.
So what do these two people and their issues have in common? Jewish interests narrowly defined by the national interests of the Jewish state. From this weltanschauung of apartheid, settlerism and territorial expansion sprang a culture of denial where philosophical gymnastics and moral degradation are a way of life. It’s a culture where the Holocaust is held up not as a lesson with universal import, but a unique event that justifies Zionist chauvinism and Israeli aggression.
Which isn’t to say that Ahmadinejad should escape criticism, either. Holding a conference questioning the Holocaust not only did nothing for the Palestinian cause not to mention embarrass Iranians like myself he gave neofascism a helping hand.
Questioning the foundations of the Jewish state is fine, but the moral high ground would be better served by unraveling Nakba denial as the basis on which Israel exists. The Holocaust may have served as a pretext, but the real cause of the Palestinian exodus Zionism was around decades before.