by Meltem Birkegren
Ottoman Empire, Turkey and Jews
As the controversy about Watertown had been going on for quite a while, and since ADL suddenly fell victim to the immense pressure by the Armenians, I’ve been meaning to write on the subject, however, I was too busy and did not get the chance till now, maybe for the better, because it allowed me to cool down my nerves, and by the time I started writing this article, ADL had already taken a step back.
This could be because of the harsh criticism by the Turkish Jews, or because they were reminded once again that Jews have lived peacefully in the Ottoman Empire and the Turkish Republic over more than five centuries, and that the only friend of Israel in the Middle East is Turkey.
Ottoman Empire was the only country to accept Sephardic Jews who were expelled from Spain in 1492 and Sultan Bayazid II’s offer of refuge gave new hope to the persecuted Sephardim. For 300 years following the expulsion, the prosperity and creativity of the Ottoman Jews rivaled that of the Golden Age of Spain.
This wasn’t the first time Ottomans opened their arms to embrace Jewish people. Jews expelled from Hungary in 1376, from France by Charles VI in September 1394, from Salonika then under Venetian control fled to Edirne in the 1420s, and from Sicily early in the 15th century, all found refuge in the Ottoman Empire.
During World War II, Turkey served as a safe passage for many Jews fleeing the horrors of the Nazism. The heroic acts of many Turkish diplomats at the risk of losing their own lives, who were able to save over 15 thousand Jews from the Holocaust during WWII should also not be forgotten. As early as 1933 Atatürk invited numbers of prominent German Jewish professors to flee Nazi Germany and settle in Turkey. Before and during the war years, these scholars who were refugees from Nazism, contributed a great deal to the development of the Turkish university system.
The little known story of how a Muslim country gave refuge to German Jews and how its diplomats risked their own lives to save Jews from concentration camps, is the subject of an excellent documentary by Victoria Barrett, called “Desperate Hours“, which I would recommend everyone, and especially the Jewish people to watch.
Turkish and Armenian Relationship in the USA
I am a Turkish-American. From primary school till end of university I went to school in Ankara, capital of Turkey. I lived most of my young adulthood in Turkey, until I got married and moved first to Europe, then to the USA. It was not by choice, just flow of life that brought me here, and I chose to stay. I am proud of my Turkish heritage, and although I wasn’t blessed with a child of my own, I care deeply for the future of coming generations.
When I was in high school, my very best friend and my desk mate was a Turkish Jew, we are still friends. Behind us sat two other Turkish Jews, and in the next row, almost next to me, sat a Turkish Armenian. She too was one of my best friends. We were an inseparable group. In those years (towards end of the sixties), we never ever wondered about each other’s ethnic backgrounds, never discussed it, and classes preaching hatred towards Armenians, Jews, Kurds, Greeks or any other minorities was non-existent in the school curriculum. We were all Turkish, and had no animosity towards each other. Till this day, this hasn’t changed.
My sister married an American at age 19, and moved to California in 1968. In those days there was no internet, so no email and no Google! To make a telephone call, which cost an arm and a leg, one had to order the call and wait, sometimes couple of days, to get connected. Almost always we had to yell to be able to hear each other! So, communication was mainly by letters, which also took like 10 days to travel each way. Consequently, we didn’t know much of what was going on in my sister’s life, or in the States or elsewhere, for that matter. We didn’t have access to films on YouTube, TV, government documents, articles in newspapers from all over the world, or personal blogs, like we do today. TV came to Turkey only in early seventies. Travel was also restricted, so we didn’t see my sister so often either. Only when she visited with us, she used to tell us stories about how the American Armenians were so hostile towards Turkish nationals, and we couldn’t comprehend this, because we didn’t understand why they should be so hostile, as in our minds and hearts there was no reason for this hatred…
I experienced this hostility at first hand, once I moved to the States many years later, and then, only then, I was able to understand what my sister went through, and that she wasn’t exaggerating the situation.
This is true for every Turk, who moves to the States directly from Turkey. Nobody could escape from being involved in the Armenian conflict one way or the other. Since information became so much more available on the internet, and we, the Turkish-Americans, finally started speaking up instead of keeping quiet as past generations, that the people and media in Turkey are now somewhat aware of the situation as well.
Why didn’t the Turks speak up for so long?
Armenians came to this country already in the early twenties. So they are well integrated and their children today are 4th-5th generation. They are mostly wealthy, many hold jobs in important media establishments like newspapers, TV and movie industry which comes handy in spreading their anti Turkish propaganda, and they know the tricks and intricacies of the American political system, which unfortunately Turkish-Americans are just slowly learning.
Some Turks came here in the fifties, but many married Americans thus their children were brought up as Americans, with no Turkish identity, so they had no interest in the issue. Next big group of Turks arrived in the seventies and later, therefore, only now the second generation is beginning to get involved in these matters, as well as first generation Turks. Now that information is abundant, we now have detailed knowledge and know what we are talking about.
In addition to above reasons, most Turks kept quiet for many years because of:
- language barriers
- lack of credible information
- ‘we didn’t do anything wrong so why should we have to defend ourselves’ and,
- ‘let others do something, I don’t have time for this’ mentality
- fear of being harassed by Armenians (Armenian terrorists bombed UCLA professor Stanford J. Shaw’s house in 1977 so he was forced to go into hiding. Shaw was just one of the academicians who were threatened, harassed, assaulted or attacked by Armenians because of his views against the alleged Armenian genocide.)
- or even worse, killed by Armenians (Armenian ASALA terror organization, from beginning of the seventies till mid eighties carried vicious attacks in 38 cities of 21 countries on Turkish nationals and establishments, where 42 Turkish diplomats were assassinated, many others died or wounded. You can watch a Dateline NBC documentary called “Time Bomb” based on FBI files, about ASALA and Murad Topalyan, chairman of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), to get an idea about their terroristic activities in the USA)
Turks, the most misunderstood and misjudged people
Turks must be the most misunderstood and stereotyped nation on earth. There is an excellent article by Shelomo Alfassa at Michelle Nevada’s blog called “Turks Unfairly Remain a Hated People“. You can also watch a conference given by Prof Justin McCarthy which I had recorded (sorry for the quality), explaining why Turks have always been perceived in a negative way.
Obviously the release in 1978 of the unfortunate movie ‘Midnight Express’ did great damage to Turkey’s image, and although it was released almost 30 years ago, people from all over the world still associates the film with Turkish people. You cannot imagine the degree of pain and anger one feels hearing “ahhh the land of the Midnight Express”, whenever you say “I’m from Turkey”.
Bill Hayes, the hero of the movie and the writer of the book which the movie was based upon, recently apologized to the Turkish people and admitted the film was nowhere near to what he witnessed and lived at first hand and that he never thought that a movie could ruin the reputation of a country. Sadly, his confession and apology came too late. You can watch the related interview as Part 1 and Part 2 on YouTube.
Turkey, a Paradise like Country
Turkey and it’s people are nothing even remotely close to what was portrayed in Midnight Express (Incidentally, most of the characters in the movie were played by Armenian actors). Turkey is a paradise like country where people from different cultures, religions and ethnic backgrounds come together! Turks are hospitable people towards everyone, even an Armenian-American, who was brought up with hatred towards Turkish people.
Turks’ philosophy is, as Sufi poet Mevlana Jelaleddin Rumi puts it:
Come, Come whoever you are, wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. Our’s is not a caravan of despair.
Come even if you have broken your vows a thousand times,
Come, come yet again.
Sure Turkey has it’s share of problems, economically and politically, and there are some radical minded people, just like in every country. There are ultra nationalists like Kemal Kerincsiz, who incidentally, is behind almost all of the court cases brought against prominent authors, like the Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk, utilizing the controversial Article number 301, and ultra radical Islamists who were involved in the brutal killings of some Christians recently, which shocked and saddened the whole Turkish nation. But is it really fair to stereotype 72 million people for actions of just a few extremists? For example, there are a few serious serial killers in the States, based on their actions, can you say all Americans are serial killers?
Armenians promote hatred toward a whole nation with false allegations
With all the negative publicity against Muslim Turkish people, naturally, people tend to believe every word the Christian Armenians utter, without ever bothering to give Turks a chance. Nobody wants to hear the Turkish version, which in reality reflects the information retrieved from the Ottoman archives.. Archives do not lie…Unlike Armenian archives, Ottoman archives are wide open for everyone, and all archives related to the Armenian issue are available online.
Armenians are counting on people’s scant sense of history. They rely on the wartime propaganda materials long refuted by the United States, the British and the French authorities; and on yellow journalism, fiction as well as fabricated stories. They have romanticized their history and embellished the truth. The Armenians obstinately ignore or refuse to believe the preponderance of evidence that shatters their mythical convictions, and therefore, use threats, harassment and even terrorist acts. For them freedom of speech exists only if one agrees with the Armenians. They promote hatred toward a whole nation with false allegations.
ADL’s National Chair, Glen S. Lewy, and National Director Abraham H. Foxman, in their joint statement say:
We must encourage steps to create an atmosphere in which Armenia will respond favorably to the several recent overtures of Turkey to convene a joint commission to assist the parties in achieving a resolution of their profound differences. We believe there are many renowned historians, human rights activists and distinguished world leaders who are willing to lend their knowledge, experience and judgment to this cause.
But for the past few years, although Turkey has been inviting Armenia and the Armenian Diaspora to form an independent, neutral commission who would study, negotiate and come to conclusion, such invitations have all been turned down by the Armenian side, because for them the case is closed and there is no reason for further negotiations.
Tall Armenian Tale
The following introduction from Tall Armenian Tale, an excellent source of information based on real documents on the Armenian issue, sums up the controversy very well:
For nearly a century, the Western World has wholeheartedly accepted that there has been an attempt by the Ottoman Turks to systematically destroy the Armenian people, comparable to what the Nazis committed upon the Jews during World War II. Many Armenians who have settled in America, Europe and Australia (along with other parts of the world, known as “The Armenian Diaspora”) have clung to the tragic events of so long ago as a form of ethnic identity, and have considered it their duty to perpetuate this myth, with little regard for facts… at the same time breeding hatred among their young. As descendants of the merchant class from the Ottoman Empire, Armenians have been successful in acquiring the wealth and power to make their voices heard… and they have made good use of the “Christian” connection to gain the sympathies of Westerners who share their religion and prejudices.
Turks characteristically shun propaganda, and have chosen not to dwell on the tragedies of the past, forging ahead to build upon brotherhood — not hate. This is why the horrifying massacres committed upon the Turks, Kurds and other Ottoman Muslims by Armenians have seldom been heard. When such reports are heard, Westerners can be callously dismissive… Turkish lives are apparently as meaningless to them as Indian lives were to most early Americans.
(The following is an excerpt from Dr. Leon Picon, reviewing the book, “THE ARMENIAN FILE”):
How successfully the Turks could have warded off the resultant stigma through counter-propaganda will never be known. But it is certain that in 1922 Sultan Mohammed Vl put it quite succinctly and pointedly, when he told the American writer E. Alexander Powell:
“If we sent one, your newspapers and periodicals would not publish an article written by a Turk, if they published it, your people would not read it, if they read it, they would not believe it. Even if we sent a qualified person to America, to convey to you in your language, the Turkish point of view, would he find an impartial audience?” [Gurun, File, p. 37]
It’s amazing that whenever the “Armenian Genocide” is referred to in Western media, journalists seem to fall all over themselves in presenting the perspective totally from the Armenian propaganda machinery. Whenever there is an attempt to present “the other side,” the passage is usually preceded by “The Turkish Government claims…” Keeping in mind we all know how dishonest spokespeople from any government can be. (And reinforcing the erroneous view that only the Turkish Government objects to the Armenian version of history.)
No person of Turkish heritage would accept what the Turkish Government has to say about this issue, as the final word. Just like no person of Armenian heritage should care about what the Armenian side has to say. What every person needs to do is look at the facts. If there were REAL proof of government- sponsored evil planned against the Armenians, a people who peacefully lived with and prospered beside the Turks for over five centuries, it would be Turks crying out against such horrors before most everyone else… one’s humanity and integrity should ideally supersede loyalty to one’s ethnic tribe.
What Dr. Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Minister of Propaganda, swore by is unfortunately very true: If you tell a lie… especially a big lie… enough times, people will believe it. The often told “Armenian Genocide” tale… a tale told hardly with any opposition in nations sympathetic to the “Christian” Armenians… has been so ingrained within people’s belief systems that any attempt to shed light on the actual truth is often violently rejected. Why, everyone knows those Turks were bloodthirsty savages!
This web site will present evidence — mostly from Western sources (not easy to supply, as few Westerners cared about seeking out the truth back then… a situation which has barely improved with the passage of the years) — in as impartial a way as possible*, so that visitors can make up their own minds. (Assuming, of course, that the visitor is not beyond hope and not totally brainwashed, like most genocide-obsessed Armenians and their supporters… everything is a “lie” with them, no matter what the source.) Was there an Armenian Genocide? None of us who are rational and reasonable can say with absolute certainty. However, all we can rely on are cold, hard FACTS. Certainly, Armenians were killed as a result of massacres… often by their Muslim neighbors, in reprisal for the murderous acts committed by the Armenians (when they sided with the Russian enemy in hopes of carving out their own independence); but anybody who calls acts of massacres a “genocide” doesn’t know the meaning of the word. (At least the way most of us perceive the meaning, as with what Hitler did to the Jews; the legal definition of genocide is essentially meaningless, and can be applied to almost any conflict.) If a genocide is how you like to describe what happened to the Armenians, then you need to refer to what American soldiers committed in My Lai as a “genocide.”
Ironically, if anyone acted genocidally, with the intention of systematically wiping out people because of their ethnic or religious identity, it was the people who are traditionally accepted as the victims of this conflict. Another irony is that while Armenians have been doing their utmost to portray Turks as Nazis (in an effort to equate themselves with Holocaust victims, the one group best known to have fallen prey to genocide), Turks did their best to save Jews during World War II… while European Armenians actively supported the Nazi cause.
Since the Turkish perspective is attempting to undo over ninety years of the unopposed one-sided view that has permeated Western minds, also having to contend with charges of “revisionism” and “denial”… defensiveness unfairly becomes part of the picture. While the aim of this site is to present mostly impartial views to get people to question what they have unthinkingly accepted, what this entails is that the Turks are put in the uncomfortable position of having to prove a negative — a difficult, if not impossible task… on the order of attempting to prove God does not exist. The issues are whether there was a state directed policy of extermination (that is, genocide… with the provision that there must be intent — backed up by tangible, no-buts-about-it evidence — as defined by the 1948 United Nations rule… and also whether Armenians constituted a political group, unprotected by another article from the U.N. Convention on Genocide)… and whether the Armenians and other minorities were the sole victims of massacres.
Malta Tribunals, isn’t that enough evidence to put an end to the “genocide” allegations?
An often neglected, but very important fact which is enough evidence to put an end to the “genocide” allegations is the Malta Tribunals. Here’s a brief summary:
Immediately following the First World War, when the Allied armies occupied Istanbul and other key parts of the Ottoman Empire, several hundred prominent Turks were arrested. Then, one night in May 1919 a group of selected prisoners were seized by the British army, embarked on board HMS Princes Ena, and at once deported to Malta. Arrests and deportations continued up to November 1920. About one hundred forty Turks were deported to Malta by the British authorities during the years of 1919 and 1920.
Among the deportees were Ottoman Grand Vizier, Speaker of Parliament, Chief of General Staff, State Ministers, Army Commanders, Sheik-ul-Islam, Deputies, Generals, Colonels, Governors, University Professors, Editors, well-known Journalists, etc. All these prominent members of Turkish society were accused roughly of three categories of alleged offences:
- Failure to comply with Armistice terms,
- Ill-treatment of British prisoners of war, and
- Outrages to Armenians in Turkey and Transcaucasia. The last category of offense, being related to much-talked Armenian deportation and so-called “massacre” during World War I, was particularly interesting.
A special section of the British High Commission was created under the responsibility of Andrew Ryan to deal with Armenian and Greek “victims of persecution”. Ryan, engaged several Armenian informers and induced them to collaborate with Armenian and Greek Section. With their instrumentality and in cooperation with Armenian Patriarchate, a number of “Black Lists” of alleged “Turkish War Criminals” were drawn up. Between January and April 1919 four of these “informal” lists were presented to the Sultan’s Government.
Out of originally 144 deportees at Malta 56 persons were selected by H.M. High Commissioner at Istanbul for prosecution. On March 16, 1921, Sir H. Rumbold forwarded to the Foreign Office long expected “evidence” or “details of charges” against each of these persons. These documents consisted a few typewritten pages for each one of 56 deportees. The first pages of each “dossier” were reserved to the biographical information of the accused person and the last pages or paragraphs to the “accusation” itself. In its report dated July 29, 1921, H.M. Procurator General’s Department pointed out that the charges made against the Turkish detainees named in the Foreign Office list were of “a quasi-political character” and that there existed great difficulty of securing proofs in these cases.
The British Foreign Office left no stone unturned in order to prove that an Armenian “massacre” actually took place in Turkey and consequently some of these detainees were guilty. But all efforts of the Foreign Office in this connection ended with a complete failure. There was no evidence, no witness, no dossier, and no proof. The Armenian Patriarchate furnished nothing incriminatory. The Turkish capital was under Allied occupation and all Ottoman State archives were easily accessible to the British authorities in Istanbul. Yet, the British High Commissioner was unable to forward to London any evidence in the legal sense. There was nothing in the British archives which could be used as evidence against the Turkish detainees at Malta. The State Department was also unable to assist the British Government with evidence against these Turks. As a result, all detainees at Malta were released and repatriated without being brought before a Tribunal.
This was the precursor to the Nuremberg Trials. The Ottoman Turks were found INNOCENT. The case was closed beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Isn’t it ironic that a human tragedy which took place a century ago, and despite actually winding up in court and getting cleared, still continues to get tried today, while countless other human tragedies that have occurred around the world, even in near history such as the Khojaly massacres of 1992 which was carried out by the Armenians against Azerbaijani people, have long been forgotten, and tragedies which are happening as we speak, does not even get any mention?
As Turks, we do mourn for both Armenian and Turkish people, who perished during the continual tragic warfare before, during and after World War I. However, we do not accept the distortion of the historical facts to promote hatred toward a whole nation. We can only hope, that the blind hate of extremist Armenians not transferred to their next generations, and that they become our friends again.
The Van Der Galiën Gazette