As American Airlines Flight 11began heading toward the North Tower of the World Trade Center, Muhammad Atta announced to the passengers: “Just stay quiet and you’ll be OK….If you try to make any moves, you’ll endanger yourself and the airplane. Just stay quiet.”
Bullies and thugs throughout the ages have told their victims, keep quiet, just go along, or things will go even worse for you. And of course the only effective response to the bullying of the weak by the powerful has always been not to keep quiet, but to speak out, to resist, and thereby to draw attention to the bullying and make life as uncomfortable as possible for the bully unless and until he stops. But human beings have had to relearn this lesson again and again. The impulse to appease bullies wasn’t invented by Neville Chamberlain: it is as old as human conflict itself, and is alive and well today.
And so it played out again in recent weeks, when Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, fired the New England regional director of the ADL, Andrew H. Tarsy. Tarsy’s crime? He recognized the 1915-1918 Turkish genocide of the Armenians, and expressed his support for H.R. 106, a Congressional resolution recognizing and deploring that genocide. After encountering a storm of disapproval, Foxman rehired Tarsy and conceded that the Turkish actions were “tantamount to genocide,” but still refused to throw the ADL’s support behind H.R. 106, calling the resolution “a counterproductive diversion” that “may put at risk the Turkish Jewish community.”
So we have to keep quiet about the Armenian genocide for fear that the Turkish government, which still refuses to acknowledge that it happened, will cause trouble for the Jews remaining in Turkey. Just stay quiet and you’ll be OK. And Foxman is not alone. Steven M. Goldberg of the Zionist Organization of America notes that “HR 106 already has 227 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives and is supported by a majority of Jewish senators and congressmen across the nation…Most of the Jewish organizational establishment, however, is either waffling or desperately trying to avoid the issue. The facts are embarrassing.”
Indeed they are. Outside of the Turkish government and those who want to impress it, the reality of the Armenian genocide is not in serious doubt. On December 15, 1915, the New York Times reported a statement by the Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II: “The way to get rid of the Armenian Question is to get rid of the Armenians.” The massacres went on for several years, and were widely reported in the American press; the Literary Digest referred in 1921 to the “systematic destruction of Christian peoples in the Near East.” A million and a half Armenians were killed between 1915 and 1923.
What can be gained by remaining silent about these atrocities? Only a new boldness by those who would emulate the Turks – as Adolf Hitler said, “Our strength lies in our intensive attacks and our barbarity…After all, who today remembers the genocide of the Armenians?” Of all organizations, the ADL, which speaks out so strongly and eloquently against Holocaust denial, should recognize this.
But fearful and shameful silence in the face of barbarity is not the province of the ADL alone. Foxman’s refusal to endorse H.R. 106 is of a piece with a much larger denial: the refusal on the part of the mainstream media and government officials to examine the jihad ideology of Islamic supremacism that helped fuel the Armenian genocide, and fuels contemporary terrorism. Much of this refusal stems from an impulse similar to Foxman’s: a desire to avoid offending Muslims, so as to keep those who are not yet radicalized from becoming so.
But this, as Muhammad Atta’s advice to the passengers of American Airlines Flight 11 makes clear, only emboldens the jihadists. Those who stay quiet and avoid unpleasant realities in hopes of thereby appeasing the violent are in for a rude awakening. Their supine response will only make bullies step up their bullying, secure in the knowledge that decent people do not have the will to stop them.