Saturday, October 13, 2007


By Anshel Pfeffer

Ha'aretz, Israel
Oct 11 2007

"The Turks are not the only ones who believe the way to Washington passes through Jerusalem," says Archbishop Aris Shirvanian, director of Ecumenical and Foreign Relations for the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem. "We also know that this alliance is very important, and the day Israel recognizes the Armenian genocide, the U.S. administration will, too."

The almost mystical belief that Israel and the Jewish lobby have the power to sway votes on Capitol Hill is sometimes reminiscent of the conspiracy theory in the style of the protocols of the Elders of Zion. This is probably the one thing the Turks and Armenians have in common in their historic war over the recognition of the Armenian

The archbishop was not surprised that Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan chose this week to act in Jerusalem against U.S. Congress' decision to recognize the genocide.

"Recent statements in the U.S. led the Turks to suspect that the Jews and Armenians were collaborating to pass the law in Congress. They know the Jews in the U.S. have close ties with Israel, so they are pressing the government here as they have in the past," he says.

There is no escaping the Armenian holocaust in the narrow streets of the Armenian Quarter in Jerusalem's Old City. Posters on every wall call on people to remember it and a new monument in the Theological Seminary's yard is to be inaugurated on memorial day on April 24.

The memorial features a large Armenian cross and six smaller ones, representing the West Armenian districts where the slaughter took place during World War I.

But Shirvanian and the 20,000 Armenians living in Israel know that the way to the recognition of their holocaust is still long and paved with disappointment. They also understand that remembering their massacre has become a cipher in the complex equation of global politics.

It includes strategic American and Israeli interests in conflicts with Syria and terrorism, Turkish national pride, concern for Istanbul's Jews and relations between minority groups in America.

There is little place for history or justice in such an equation.

One example is the decision of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai Brith six weeks ago to recognize the Armenian massacre as genocide.

The statement followed ongoing pressure by Armenian communities that argued that an organization that fights racism cannot ignore another nation's genocide.

A few months ago, a controversy erupted in the organization and the ADL's New England branch director, who sided with the Armenians on this issue, was fired. This led to contributors' pressures on the ADL and finally director and chairman Abraham Foxman announced that the ADL was changing its position.

The Turkish rage following the move was not directed at the ADL's offices in Washington but toward Jerusalem. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan called President Shimon Peres and asked him to intervene. Peres contacted Foxman who promised to issue a new statement saying that the matter was merely semantic and that the ADL objected anyway to a resolution proposal in Congress.

The Turks knew they could depend on Peres. Five years ago, when then education minister Yossi Sarid said at a remembrance ceremony for the Armenian massacre that it would be taught as a subject in Israeli schools, then foreign minister Peres leaped to disassociate Barak's government from the statement. He rushed to Ankara and stated that Israel regarded the Armenian affair as "a disaster" but not genocide.

"We sent him a letter of protest and he didn't reply," says Archbishop Aris. "Since then, we haven't had any contact with him."

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