Turkish Political Leaders Angry At American Jews

The vote by members of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee underlined the failure of Turkish political leaders to influence American Jewish politicians. Seven of eight Jews on the committee voted in favor of the resolution including Tom Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor serving in Congress. Turkish politicians had hoped he would oppose the resolution particularly after his statement: “We have to weigh the desire to express our solidarity with the Armenian people and to condemn the historic nightmare through the use of the word ‘genocide’ against the risks that it would cause young men and women in the uniform of the United States armed forces to pay an even higher price (in Iraq and Afghanistan) than they are currently paying.” Turkish politicians were shocked when Lantos voted for the resolution. According to Egeman Bagis, advisor to Prime Minister Erdogan, “we have seen that his understanding of history is changing in time.”

Many American Jews, including Tom Lantos, believe anything less than support for Armenians is, in effect, a denial of what the Holocaust has taught humanity about remaining silent in the presence of evil. The resolution is aimed at the Ottoman empire, not the nation of Turkey. Frankly, the reaction of Turks to the resolution surprises many Americans. The American Congress voted an apology for the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II in order to recognize an injustice. That vote, in no way, was meant to insult contemporary Americans, it simply recognized a past act of evil. Congress has voted an apology for slavery, that resolution did not blame or castigate contemporary Americans for what happened in the past. It is insulting to American Jews for Turkish political leaders to threaten action against Israel for the votes of American Jewish congressmen. Americans expect their representatives to vote based on their conscience, not what is good or bad for Israel or what pleases Turkey. The bullying behavior of Turkish politicians will only damage their own country because it is alienating millions of Americans. How would Turkish people react if American politicians made threats to members of their parliament if they didn’t vote in a manner pleasing to America?