What a Difference a War Makes
In Turkish-Jewish Relations
By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier
While it is widely known that Turkey antagonized the United States by its
refusal to cooperate on the Iraq war, much less is known about the support
it lost from influential American Jewish circles.
The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) is one such
powerful Washington-based group. Its objective is to address the security
requirements of the United States and Israel and strengthen the strategic
cooperation between these two countries. Richard Perle, Jeane Kirkpatrick
and former CIA Director R. James Woolsey are some of the key figures who
serve on JINSA's Board of Directors. Up until recently, JINSA supported many
Turkish causes in Washington, and even lobbied against the recognition of
the Armenian Genocide by the U.S. Congress. JINSA publishes jointly with the
Assembly of Turkish American Associations a quarterly newsletter on
relations between Turkey and Israel.
To show how far Turkey has slipped in the estimation of this important
Jewish-American group, let's go back to October 11, 2000 when JINSA wrote a
letter to members of Congress singing the praises of Turkey and urging the
defeat of the then pending resolution on the Armenian Genocide.
"Turkey, our NATO ally, has consistently supported American interests when
many others failed to do so: in Korea, through the Cold War, in the Gulf War
and - at great economic cost - beyond the Gulf War. Turkey's relations with
Israel and with the Central Asian and Caucasus countries of the FSU [Former
Soviet Union] enhance stability in a volatile region," JINSA wrote to the
The letter went on to say, "JINSA cannot presume to assess blame or
blamelessness on the issue of the Armenians. We are baffled, though, as to
why the United States would be so willing to offend an important ally, when
such offense serves no prevailing American interest and indeed would damage
those interests. For reasons of American national security, to expand
stability and democracy, and for reasons that are both pragmatic and
principled, it is our hope that House Resolution 398 [on the Armenian
Genocide] will not be brought before the House for a vote. ...We believe
[this resolution] should fail."
JINSA proudly displayed a copy of this shameful letter on its web site and
added the following introductory lines: "Turkey is a strong ally of the
United States in NATO and an important partner in the region.
...Turkish-Israeli security relations add to stability in a volatile part of
the world. And Turkey's secular democracy can be an important model for
What a difference a war makes! After Turkey's refusal to cooperate with the
U.S. on the Iraq war, JINSA has stopped singing Turkey's praises and no
longer blindly supports Turkish causes in Washington. Last month, when the
House Judiciary Committee was considering a bill on the Genocide Convention
that included a reference to the Armenian Genocide, JINSA this time did not
urge the members of Congress to oppose this bill. On the contrary, in a
statement dated May 20, 2003, JINSA said that it is "extremely disappointed
by the Turkish government's poor political choices prior to the liberation
JINSA said it expressed its "concerns privately and forcefully to members of
the Turkish government and military, to the political opposition, and to the
business and civic elite. They asked that we 'have patience' with Turkey.
And until now we did."
JINSA went on to say that, after the war in Iraq, it wrongly "assumed that
Turkey would find a way to take the initiative in expressing a desire to
work with the U.S. once again as the friend and ally we had long considered
it to be." JINSA said that this assumption turned out to
be wrong for two
reasons: Firstly, Turkey began making "overtures" to Iran and Syria rather
than to Washington; and secondly, it "asked the U.S. to remove the forces
that have been at Incirlik [Turkey] since the start of Operation Northern
Watch in 1991."
JINSA warned Turkey that because of "its pre-war choices and its post-war
choices, it will be hard, though not impossible for Turkey to regain its
position as an unquestioned ally."
Turkish officials were alarmed by JINSA's statement. The Islamist Zaman
newspaper expressed its serious concern that the American Jewish lobby would
no longer support Turkey "to prevent U.S. recognition of the Armenian
Genocide." Zaman was right. The House Judiciary Committee approved the
Genocide resolution unanimously last month.