Month: August 2007

Moroccan Jews deny political causes of their flight

This two-part article by Mahitab Abdel Raouf in Le Petit Journal, a newspaper for French expatriates and French-speakers, gives an interesting insight into the Jews still left in Morocco. They are but a remnant – fewer than 5,000 out of 280,000 – and more Jews leave each day. Rabat, the capital, has only 200 Jews. The journalist interviews the rabbi of the synagogue (only two Jewish families still live in the Jewish quarter or Mellah), the secretary and an old lady who has moved in because her roof had collapsed. Otherwise, Jews have stayed on because they run lucrative businesses, or are misfits who never managed to settle down in Israel or elsewhere.

Although the article does say that the Jews felt insecure after 1956, when the French left, the Jews in the ‘public eye’ play down any political reasons for their continuing exodus. “It is neither discrimination nor insecurity,” says Shimon Cohen, director of the Casablanca Jewish Museum. No Jew tried to leave after the al-Qaeda attacks in 2002 says Mme Azuelos, who runs a profitable jewellery business.

Moroccans are proud to have been the only Arabs to have lived together peacefully with the Jews, but the latter are considered strictly a religion – Ahl-el-khateb, and not a race. ” Every time we lose a Jew Morocco gains an ambassador,” gushes Andre Azoulay, a Jewish adviser to King Mohamed VI. “A Moroccan Jew can return at any time – but can a Jew from Iraq, Syria or Egypt? ”

The Rabat synagogue rabbi is more forthright, grumbling that anti-Jewish incidents are never covered, while the media broadcasts images of Palestinian suffering all day long. A Jewish student says, ” I am Arab before I am Jewish, Morocco is my beloved country, but I feel unsafe and do not want to stay.” Another Jew admits there is prejudice, but will not call it racism.

Ironically it takes two non-Jews to call a spade a spade. Mohamed ben-Allaoui, a trader in the Rabat Mellah, thinks that the conflation of Judaism with Zionism in Morocco has caused a feeling of insecurity and encouraged the Jews to leave. Latifa Bouchoua, a human rights worker, says that anti-Jewish slogans shouted by pro-Palestinian demonstrators are clear proof of discrimination.

Read Part land Part II(French)

Lucette Lagnado’s Cairene dream

Lucette Lagnado, author of thenewly-published The man in the white sharkskin suit, tells Jessie Graham of Nextbook that there is a place in history and literature for more than one memoir on the Arabic-Jewish narrative.

Q: I would imagine it would be a bit difficult to approach this memoir with André Aciman’s Out of Egypt already out there as the definitive memoir about Jews in Egypt.

Cairo street scene

For eight or nine years I wanted to write this book, and every time I would tell people, they would say, “But you know, there’s André Aciman.” It made me crazy. First of all, I love André. But then I think about the lost worlds of the Jews of Eastern Europe and Europe. How many writers did it take to recreate the little shtetls? We start with I.B. Singer and then we go on into the modern, new generation. And yet, we had equally magical, quirky, special, soulful, extraordinary worlds in the Middle East. The Jews of Iraq. The Jews of Iran. The Jews of Algeria. The Jews of Morocco. The Jews of Tunisia. We were this unbelievably cultured place. Why can’t we produce a body of literature? And why haven’t we?

Q:Was it in part because the European narrative of exile and the Holocaust came first? Perhaps there was no room for another narrative?

We’ve all been consumed by the Holocaust, by the evisceration, disappearance, and destruction of the communities of Europe. In the same way, we should be concerned and consumed by the Palestinian refugee narrative, where there was and is a lot of suffering. But the idea that there was, as you put it, no room for another one. I actually found myself talking to a colleague when I dared to use the term “cultural holocaust” for the exile of Jews from the Middle East. She is a Jewish reporter, Orthodox. She said to me, “Well, forgive me, but you weren’t wiped out, you weren’t slaughtered.” And I said, “No we weren’t. But communities were wiped out culturally.” To me that’s a tragedy. My first book was about the Holocaust. I was totally consumed. But until recently, the Arab-Jewish refugees weren’t a story. It wasn’t even a graceful term, “Arabic Jews.” To me it was an extraordinary accomplishment when recently I stood in front of my synagogue and said, “I was a refugee from Egypt.” It’s sort of like saying, “I’m an alcoholic.”


From the first days I came to America, my mother whispered, “Don’t say you’re from Egypt.” Egypt was this backward, primitive country. I had to be the Parisian schoolgirl. I could play the part, “My name is Lucette. I’m from France.” I didn’t out and out say I was born in France. I would say I’m from France, and that was technically true.

The social worker that managed your family’s case here saw your father as very backward.

They wanted to make sure that you’re assimilated. And then you get a man like my father, and he doesn’t want to assimilate. So I have these single-spaced notes by the social worker from the New York Association for New Americans and she records him telling her, “We are Arab, madam. We are Arab, madam.” My father loved Muslims. He loved Egyptians. He felt at one with them.

That’s quite a contrast to Aciman’s family. His family was Sephardic and they were always trying to distinguish themselves from the Arabs in their midst—to distinguish even between Syrian and Egyptian Jews. Your family didn’t seem to have such an identity crisis in Egypt.

synagogue in downtown Cairo
Synagogue in downtown Cairo, 2006

They’re totally different. My parents were really religious. He may have been a boulevardier, a womanizer, a sinner, a pleasure seeker, and a gambler, but come morning, he was in shul. Aciman’s family was secular.

You were able to go back to Cairo in 2005, with the permission of the Egyptian government. One of the things that surprised you was that after all this time, you felt at home there.

I am an angst-ridden person, and I felt angst-free in Egypt—it seems bizarre. I would look at the Nile, and how calm it was, and I thought the people were awfully nice. If I had my own way, I’d sit with everybody and say, “Now wait a minute, wait! It worked 60 years ago, you know? We got along fine. Why, why can’t we redo that?”

What did older Egyptians say about the Jews who had left?

They never talked about missing Jews, but they all had memories. It was almost like in Germany, where I did reporting for my other book, where they say, “I knew a Jewish family.” In Egypt it was at a more human level. I spoke with our former neighbor. The old woman said, “I liked your mother. She was very sweet to children.” That was the nicest part about it. We weren’t Yehudi. We were simply neighbors and then we had to leave. They were probably bewildered, as bewildered as anybody.

Read article in full

The Jews of Egypt, through the eyes of an Egyptian

Professor Mohamed Aboulghar is an eminent Egyptian obstetrician whose book Yahood Masr (The Jews of Egypt) – from prosperity to dispersion (2005) was reviewed in the September 2007 issue of the Newsletter of the Association of Jews from Egypt (UK). The review is reproduced below, with the AJE’s permission.

“This is a very interesting book written in Arabic by an Egyptian on the subject of Egyptian Jews, their origins and their recent history, from their ascendancy and prosperity in the early part of the twentieth century to their exodus and dispersion in the second half of that century.

Prof. Aboulghar, 67, is an eminent obstetrician at the University of Cairo specialising in IVF fertility research, and author of many papers in that field. His book on the history of Egyptian Jews, published by Dar El Hilal in 2005, was written after browsing relevant literature and holding discussions and interviews with ex-Egyptian Jews living in Cairo, Paris, Geneva and Florida. He quotes frequently from the works of Joel Beinin, Gudrun Kramer and Shimon Shamir.

“In his book, Prof. Aboulghar gives due credit to the contribution of Egyptian Jewry in the spheres of trade and commerce, finance, education, journalism as well as music and the cinema. He describes the political activities of those Egyptian Jews who became affiliated to communist movements and those who embraced Zionism and emigrated to Israel in 1948. However, he indicates that the majority of Egyptian Jews were apolitical.

“When discussing the position of the community within Egyptian society, Prof. Aboulghar points out that despite the hospitality and generosity accorded to them by the Egyptian people and Government, the Jews, with the exception of the Karaites and the poorer sections living in the Haret-El-Yahoud, never integrated fully. They did not identify with the Egyptian people’s interests and aspirations. They spoke foreign languages at home, mainly French, and did not learn how to read and write Arabic.When the nationality law was passed in the 1940s, many Jews did not apply for Egyptian nationality. They were looking more towards Europe, acquiring its various nationalities instead.

“Moreover, according to Prof. Aboulghar, when the Zionist movement began to establish deeper roots in Palestine and clash with the native Arab population, Egyptian Jews were not sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians, although some of their leaders voiced their opposition to the Zionist movement and its attempt to influence Egyptian Jewry. The Egyptian people, on the other hand, became increasingly involved with events in Palestine and angered by the treatment of Arabs by Jews. Their attitude to their Jewish community began to veer towards the hostile views of the Muslim Brotherhood. The establishment of the State of Israel with its attendant Arab refugee problem exacerbated anti-Zionist feelings to the extent that many Jews felt insecure and emigrated in 1948-51. Operation Suzannah (when Moshe Marzouk and Shmuel Azar were caught and hanged) contributed to the populist perception that Jews constituted a fifth column in Egypt.

“Finally, the book recounts that the Egyptianisation of commerce and industry, the nationalisation laws that Nasser promulgated and the expulsion, during the Suez war, of British and French nationals of all religions, led to the exodus of the entire community from 1956 onwards. Prof. Aboulghar claims that Jews were not targeted in particular, because other foreign communities, e.g. Greeks and Armenians, also left Egypt around that time. Even during the 1967 war with Israel, when the Egyptian authorities imprisoned Jews and other Egyptians
considered a threat to state security, the Jews were treated better than the detained Muslims and Copts.

“It thus becomes clear on reading the book that the author attached no blame to the Egyptian people or Government for the exodus of the entire Jewish community. In fact, he concludes that even if Israel had not been created, the Jews would have emigrated anyway because their livelihood was threatened and they would have been unable to enjoy continued prosperity and affluence. Most of the Jews he met had good things to say about Egypt. Some were critical of Israel.

Since Prof. Aboulghar welcomes comments on his book, James Levy, an AJE (UK) committee member, sent an email to him, making the following points:

·Whilst it is true that Egyptian Jews did not integrate, it was not deliberate. It was the product of years of foreign occupation, of poor standards of education in Government schools and of liberal multiculturalism and tolerance. In any case, the integration of the poorer Jews within the wider Muslim and Coptic communities did not help them when the crunch came, and they also had to leave their country of origin.

·Why should ‘Operation Suzannah’ be blamed on the Jewish community? It is tantamount to saying that the Muslim community in Britain is to blame for the terrorist acts of July 7th 2005.

·Just as it was natural that Egyptians would sympathise with their Arab brethren in Palestine, why should it not be natural that Jews view Israel with some sympathy?Especially if they are treated unfairly in their country of origin and made to feel insecure?

·The entire Jewish community would not have emigrated because of the new laws and regulations on commerce and industry. After all, there were Jewish communities in Irak and Yemen who only spoke Arabic. Many young Egyptian Jews would have gone on to learn Arabic and continued to live in Egypt – provided, of course, that they would have been treated fairly by a democratic and moderate Government. This was not the case.

·Two examples of unfair treatment were given to Prof. Aboulghar:

1.Why did Jews have to apply for Egyptian nationality, even though they, their parents and grandparents were born in the country?They should have been entitled to that nationality automatically, just like Egyptian Muslims or Copts.

2.Why were Jews imprisoned during the 1967 war even though there were very few left and they presented no security risk to the state?The fact that they were treated in prison better than Muslims or Copts does not take away from the injustice.

Prof. Aboulghar acknowledged receipt of the comments and wished to pursue the dialogue, although there is little likelihood of him visiting the UK in the near future in view of his busy professional schedule. He is nonetheless a voice of moderation, at odds with the extreme views expressed on Egyptian media.

Jonathan Cook is dead wrong about Iranian Jews

Karmel Melamed, an Iranian-Jewish journalist based in California, has written this excellent rebuttal on his blogto recent claims by Jonathan Cook on The Guardian‘s ‘Comment is Free’ website that Jews in Iran live in freedom and tolerance:

“Recently one of my readers forwarded me a blog posting made by freelance journalist Jonathan Cook on The Guardian newspaper website in the United Kingdom. Cook, who is based in Nazareth in northern Israel, has made quite a number of incorrect assertions about Iran’s Jews in his piece entitled “Kosher in Tehran”. As an Iranian Jewish journalist living in the U.S. with more first-hand knowledge about Iranian Jewry, I feel compelled to set the record straight. Jonathan Cook is dead wrong about Iran’s Jews and his misinformation must be exposed.

Aside from Cook’s long-standing and rampant hatred of Israel, he has either knowingly or unknowingly taken in the one-sided propaganda put out by Iran’s fundamentalist Islamic regime hook, line and sinker! Cook tries to paint a rosy picture of the 10,000 to 20,000 Jews in Iran that he claims live in “peace and freedom”, and Iran’s regime as benevolent toward the country’s Jews. As a journalist who speaks the Persian language fluently and regularly chats with Jews and non-Jewish Iranians who have fled the country, I can tell you Cook’s claims are nothing more than fantasies.

The truth of the matter is since 1979, Iran’s government has used the presence of Jews living in the country as a major propaganda tool to supposedly show themselves in a positive light to the West. Ex-agents of the regime have long identified scores of Western journalists who were paid off by the Iranian government to portray the regime positively. Again today, pundits and supposed journalists like Cook are trying to use Iran’s Jews to whitewash Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s comments about the Holocaust and wiping out Iran. This is basically being done as damage control by the Western proponents of Iran’s regime on the Iranian government’s behalf. Often you’ll see the same type of damage control by television news media, showing young women in Iran wearing make-up, trendy clothing, and listening to Western music– all done to send the message to Americans and Europeans that “Iran is not such a bad place”.

Cook also claims that Iran’s Jews only “suffer from discrimination” – but nothing could be further from the truth. The regime’s thugs keep a tight grip on the Jewish community in Iran who live in constant fear for their lives. If the Jews step out of line in Iran their lives are at immediate risk. Such was the case in 2000 when 13 Jews from the city of Shiraz were randomly arrested on trumped-up charges of being supposed spies for Israel and the U.S. The penalty for treason by any person, especially a non-Muslim, in Iran is death. The intense pressure from the U.S. and Europe on Iran during the case of the Shiraz 13 ultimately forced the regime not to execute the Jews. Now if Cook is reluctant to believe me, I suggest he speak to the scores of new Iranian Jewish immigrants who have recently resettled in Los Angeles and ask them about life in Iran. Or perhaps he should chat with the hundreds of Iranian Jewish families who left Iran and are still waiting in Austria for their visas to the U.S., and ask them how life was for them in Iran. I seriously doubt Cook or anyone else would find a single person who would praise the conditions for Jews in Iran.

Yet Cook’s most naïve assertion about Iran’s Jews is that he wholeheartedly believes the “positive” statements made by the Jewish community leaders in Iran about their lives in the country. For instance, in his blog posting, Cook quotes a Jewish leader in Iran who denounces Zionism and praises his life in Iran. Likewise Cook points the refusal of the Jewish community in Iran to take up $60,000 offered by certain Jewish groups to lure them out of Iran, as evidence that conditions are supposedly good for them in the country.

I recently interviewed Frank Nikbakht, director of the L.A.-based Committee for Minority Rights in Iran, who has monitored the rhetoric of Iran’s Jewish leaders for the last 25 years. Nikbakht said the comments made by Jewish leaders in Iran to the Western media should be questioned. They lack credibility since these leaders have been picked by the Iranian Intelligence Ministry to parrot what the regime tells them. “Whenever any journalist goes to Iran to talk to the Jews, they will be handed over to hand-picked Jewish collaborators similar to those from the Judenrat in Nazi Germany,” said Nikbakht. In essence how can any statements regarding Iran’s Jews coming from those so closely aligned with Iran’s regime be trusted? They clearly cannot.

Here’s a recent TV news featureshowing the handpicked Iranian Jewish leaders only saying positive things about the Iranian government and other Iranian Jews supposedly speaking their minds freely about life in Iran.

What’s even more interesting is the fact that Iran’s regime does not grant visas to journalists it deems unsympathetic to their government, so the Iranian officials have had much success spewing their one-sided propaganda regarding Iranian Jews. Cook is also foolish to believe public comments made by Jews in Iran. Even if they wanted to speak freely about their government, they would never dare do so because they would face imprisonment, torture or even death. The regime’s armed thugs have arrested and tortured Iranians in recent years that have expressed their criticism of the regime to visiting Western media. Therefore, when all the voices on Iran’s Jews are so heavily influenced and controlled by the Iranian government, no one in their right mind should believe a single word coming from them.

Cook is seriously mistaken if he believes life is great for Iran’s Jews considering the scores of ridiculous, intolerant laws they live under. According to Nikbakht’s research of Iran’s Islamic based laws, not only does the Iranian Constitution clearly indicate that all non-Muslims have inferior status to Muslims, but all non-Muslims must be humiliated and confined to prevent them from gaining any advantage over Muslims. Again, how on earth can Cook or anyone in their right mind consider such an unjust system of laws in Iran as humane and fair ?

As a journalist who exclusively covers Iranian Jewry and has close ties to the community, I am personally baffled at how Cook can assert that life is great for Jews in Iran. I am regularly reminded by countless Iranian American Jewish leaders to watch what I might be writing about the Iranian government for fear that what I report on may have negative repercussions on the Jews of Iran. So my question to Cook, and others like him, is why on earth are Iranian American Jews so concerned about my words and the safety of their brethren in Iran if everything is so fine and dandy in Iran? The truth of the matter is, Iran’s Jews are not safe and they live in a constant fear of how the regime may turn on them at any moment.

Finally, Cook’s argument that Iran’s remaining Jews are living peacefully and freely in Iran and supposedly “unwilling to leave the country” is also flawed. First of all Cook is wrong in citing that are there are 25,000 Jews living in Iran because there has been no real census to determine their population. The community’s population estimates over the years have varied from 10,000 to 20,000 today. Some argue that the 20,000 figure is also inaccurate because thousands of Jews have quietly left or illegally fled Iran in the last five to ten years. Others argue that the 20,000 figure is inaccurate because a small but considerable portion of these Iranian Jews have converted to Islam or Christianity in order to survive, but are still counted as Jews because they are living within their family structures and attend synagogue to their continued beliefs in Judaism. The children of these Jews are now growing up as Muslims or Christians, but not as Jews. It should be noted that it is much safer to live in Iran as a Christian than as a Jew. Therefore, for Cook to include a few thousand hidden converts with the population of Jews in Iran is flawed.

In his posting, Cook boasts on behalf of Iran’s regime that the country is still home to a substantial number of Jews. He FAILS to look at the bigger historical picture of Iran’s Jewish population. Before the 1979 revolution, some 80,000 Jews lived in Iran, compared to the 20,000 who have remained. This mass exodus of Jews would be enough proof to anyone in their right mind that Iran must obviously not be a welcoming place for Jews if 60,000 Jews have fled the country! Moreover, Cook FAILS to take into account the painful history of Iran’s Jews who numbered in the hundreds of thousands 500 years ago before the Shiite religious cleansing of Iran began. Since then, and over the centuries, forced massive conversions, gradual conversions, mass killings and pogroms forced thousands of Jews to convert. Those hundreds of thousands of Jews in Iran should have been in the millions today had it not been for the ruthless and irrational activities of Iran’s clerics and monarchs over the centuries. Cook’s ridiculous portrait of Jews now living in Iran is not only an insult to those who appreciate common sense, but an insult to Iranian Jewry for ignoring our tragic history in Iran.

The irony of Cook’s anti-Israel stance and sympathetic views towards Iran’s regime is the fact that he is currently living in Israel, a country where he has the freedom to criticize anyone he pleases without the fear of being harmed in any way. He would never enjoy that same free speech while living in Iran or any other Islamic country. Cook and other apologists for Iran’s Islamic regime must be exposed for continuing to perpetuate these lies about Jews exclusively for Iran’s benefit. Individuals like Cook are in no way professional journalists but rather the lapdogs of Iran’s tyrannical regime: they are spinning the real truth about the regime and presenting supposed “facts” from a non-objective and biased perspective.

What’s really sad about Cook and other apologists of Iran’s regime is that they have no other way to bolster the Iranian government than to point to the condition of Jews in the country. The fact of the matter is that Iran’s economy is in shambles, there is a gasoline shortage, skyrocketing inflation, and doubt-digit unemployment—how else could anyone justify keeping any government in power with such a disastrous economy? As usual, they can use the Jews as a distraction.

Cook is dead wrong about Iran’s Jews and I call on the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper to retract Cook’s statements because they have no journalistic value and are only helping to perpetuate hate for Israel and wrongly bolster the tarnished image of Iran’s government.”

Turkish Jews dispute Armenian ‘genocide’

Should Jews speak truth to power even if it means putting Turkey’s Jews – and Israel’s relationship with Turkey – at risk? The controversy over whether to call the Turkish massacre of 1,5 million Armenians during the First World War ‘genocide’ epitomises the dilemma that vulnerable Jewish communities have wrestled with through the ages.

As reported in The Jerusalem Post,“Turkey’s small Jewish community has come out against the Anti-Defamation League’s new policy position that the massacre of Armenians during World War I was “tantamount to genocide.”

“Silvio Ovadio, head of the Jewish community in the country, issued a statement saying, “We have difficulty in understanding” the ADL’s new position on the matter, the Turkish media reported on Thursday.

“The ADL position only reflected the opinion of “related institutions of the American Jews,” the statement emphasized. “We declare that we are supporting Turkey’s belief that the issue should be discussed at the academic level by opening archives of all related parties and that parliaments are not the places for finding out historical facts via voting‚” the statement read.

“The Turkish press also published a letter from prominent Turkish Jewish businessman Jak Kamhi to (Abraham) Foxman (ADL’s director) on Thursday.

In his letter, Kamhi said that “by accepting this false comparison between the uniquely indisputable genocide for which the term was coined – the Holocaust, and the events of 1915, the ADL has committed an act of the most inexplicable injustice against the memory of the victims of the Holocaust, as well as against the sensitivities and pride of the Turkish people, who deserve your praise for their centuries-long tradition of compassion and their culture of humanity and cohabitation that remains an example to the world.”

Kamhi took issue with Foxman’s assertion that there was a consensus among historians that the massacre was tantamount to genocide, saying there was no such agreement. The ADL position “will put back the painstaking efforts by many of us in Turkey, including our brothers in the Armenian community, to resolve this highly emotive issue without prejudgment. It will now be seized upon by all those who seek to destroy all our work and create discord and bitterness between our countries,” Kamhi wrote.

Against the ‘pragmatism’ of the Turkish Jewish community David Harris of the American Jewish Committee puts forward a powerful argument that Jews should protect historical truth:

“The Armenian position has been straightforward. As victims of the Holocaust, who can better understand the Armenian ordeal and anguish than the Jews? Fearful of the danger of Holocaust denial, aren’t the Jews most aware of the slippery slope of distorting historical truth? And wasn’t it Adolf Hitler who reportedly asked, “Who still talks nowadays of the extermination of the Armenians?”— in effect, paving the way for the Final Solution?

“Meanwhile, the Turkish stance has been that Jews shouldn’t simply accept the Armenian version of history lock, stock and barrel, as it’s fraught with distortion and deceit, but rather bear in mind the traditional Turkish welcome of minority communities, especially the embrace of dispersed Jews from Spain by the Ottoman Empire at the end of the 15th century.

“Moreover, Turkish leaders have also at times taken a tougher line, suggesting, in barely veiled language, that a Jewish acceptance of the Armenian version of history could have negative consequences for other Jewish interests, whether in Turkey or beyond.

“And it is in this vice that many Jews have lived for years, essentially pitting principle against pragmatism. For armchair observers, that may look like an easy choice, but, in the world of policy, where actions can have real-life consequences, it’s anything but.

“Look at successive governments of the United States, whether under Democratic or Republican leaders. All have reached the same conclusion: Turkey is of vital importance to U.S. geo-strategic interests, straddling as it does two continents, Europe and Asia, bordering key countries—from the former Soviet Union to Iran, Iraq and Syria—and serving as the southeastern flank of NATO. Each administration has essentially punted when asked about the Armenian question, seeking to discourage the United States Congress from recognizing the events of 1915 as genocide, while arguing that a third-party parliamentary body isn’t the right venue to settle a heated historical dispute. (…)

“I have a strong connection to Turkey, a country I have visited on numerous occasions and to which I feel very close. Few countries have a more critically important role to play in the sphere of international relations. I remain grateful to this day for the refuge that the Ottoman Empire gave to Jews fleeing the Inquisition. I am intimately connected to the Turkish Jewish community and admire their patriotism and enormous contribution to their homeland. I deeply appreciate the link between Turkey and Israel, which serves the best interests of both democratic nations in a tough region. And I value Turkey’s role as an anchor of NATO and friend of the United States.

“At the same time, I cannot escape the events of 1915 and the conclusions reached by credible voices, from Ambassador Morgenthau to Harvard professor Samantha Power, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Problem from Hell: American and the Age of Genocide, to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, about the nature of what took place: it was a genocide, they determined, albeit one that occurred more than thirty years before the term was coined.

“From my experience in tackling difficult relationships, I believe that engagement, not avoidance, is the best strategy. In a perfect world, Armenian and Turkish historians would sit together and review the archival material, debate differences, and seek a common understanding of the past. To date, that hasn’t happened in any meaningful way. I continue to hope that it will. It should. We at AJC have offered our services, if needed, to help facilitate such an encounter. Ninety years of distance ought to allow for the creation of a “safe” space to consider contested issues.

“Meanwhile, as the issue once again heats up in the United States, it’s important to be clear. In a book entitled Holocaust Denial, published by the American Jewish Committee in 1993, the author, Kenneth Stern, an AJC staff expert on the subject, noted: “That the Armenian genocide is now considered a topic for debate, or as something to be discounted as old history, does not bode well for those who would oppose Holocaust denial.”

“He was right. Picture a day when a muscle-flexing Iran or Saudi Arabia seeks to make denial of the Holocaust a condition of doing business with other countries. Sound far-fetched? It shouldn’t. We have many interests as a Jewish people. Protecting historical truth ought to be right up there near the top of the list.”

See AJC press release in full

The Jerusalem Post: History is not black and white, but full of shades of grey


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