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Why are American Jews Appeasing Turkish Antisemites?

In his recent Jewcy piece "The Betrayal of Turkish Jews," Khatchig Mouradian paints a dark portrait of Jewish life in Turkey, one in which Turkish Jews hope to escape antisemitic violence by proving their extreme loyalty to Turkey. Ami Eden, … Read More

By / November 16, 2007

In his recent Jewcy piece "The Betrayal of Turkish Jews," Khatchig Mouradian paints a dark portrait of Jewish life in Turkey, one in which Turkish Jews hope to escape antisemitic violence by proving their extreme loyalty to Turkey. Ami Eden, the managing editor of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, asked me the following questions about how Khatchig's piece bears on the ongoing ADL/Armenian Genocide controversy:

Not to sound snarky, but… Doesn't this go along way toward validating the view of those who say they are worried about the safety of Turkey's Jews? Do you think the ADL is concerned about Turkish Jews, but being shortsighted, or that the organization is just using the issue as an excuse to protect Turkey? Put aside the ADL and its motivations… Do you accept the proposition that, at least in the short term, having Jewish groups successfully secure passage of the resolution is more dangerous for the Jews of Turkey than if Jewish groups are seen as opposing the resolution? That certainly seems to be the logic of this article. I'll assume this exchange is on-the-record unless you say otherwise.

Here's my response.

Ami,

Obviously, our article "The Betrayal of Turkish Jews" departs pretty radically from the "Oh, Turkish Jews are just fine!" rebuttal that we sometimes hear in response to the supposed concerns of Foxman et al. Khatchig shows Turkish Jews to us as a harried minority whose "loyalty" has been extorted from them in exchange for physical safety.

But no, the article doesn't at all validate the concerns of those who claim we must appease Turkish antisemites in order to protect Turkish Jews. Khatchig and the scholars he interviewed see crude antisemitism as a staple of Turkish life and politics, but they deny that eruptions of antisemitic violence are a plausible outcome of the passage of the Armenian Genocide resolution. This is because Turkey's international ambitions (particularly re: the European Union) would be badly compromised by outbreaks of antisemitic violence.

Are these people wrong? Has Khatchig perhaps understated the antisemitism in Turkish life? Is Turkish society so profoundly antisemitic, so beholden to Protocols-style absurdities about Jewish unity and world influence, that Turks would set upon Turkish Jews with implacable rage if the U.S. House of Reps passed a resolution over which even American Jews have limited influence? And is the Turkish government so feckless and unpragmatic that it would allow its most cherished political ambitions to be scuppered as Turks took violent "revenge" on the country's Jews?

This all strikes me as rather far-fetched, as it does Professor Porter. So no, although the leadership of our community has thrown its weight behind the world's most successful campaign of genocide denial, I doubt they've managed even to serve the short-term interests of Turkish Jewry. And you can bet they've considerably complicated the future of that community by demonstrating to Turkey that popular antisemitic hatred is a valuable political asset.

Your second question: "Do you think the ADL is concerned about Turkish Jews, but being shortsighted, or that the organization is just using the issue as an excuse to protect Turkey?" I certainly accept that some in the Jewish community—perhaps including some of the commissioners of the ADL—are genuinely concerned about the fate of Turkish Jews. I have more difficulty believing they truly think that by gutlessly jumping at the demands of antisemites we can earn a happier outcome for Jews. I'd thought the 20th century had taught us that this was a losing strategy, and I'm mystified as to how any American Jew could conclude that we were too hasty in giving up on this approach, and ought now to give it another whirl.

Still, I suppose that if the leaders of the ADL—which once stood as a symbol of modern Jewish assertiveness and refusal to accept the traditional indignities of Jewish life in Europe—can today be co-opted as compliant Court Jews for Ankara, then it's no more startling to learn that they and others in the Jewish community are prepared to sit cringing at the feet of Middle Eastern leaders who clearly think they know a thing or two about how to keep irksome Jews in line. Turkish antisemites must have been gratified that American Jewish leaders—representatives of the most empowered, integrated Jewish population in the history of the diaspora—could be so easily managed like a gaggle of korkak Yahudiler, responding to threats of antisemitic violence with desperate smiles and obsequious supplications. As the Turkish ambassador to Israel helpfully explained, so far as the Turks are concerned, a Jew is a Jew is a Jew. How do you say QED in Turkish?

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