Both the Israeli government and its cutouts here have been sticking it to Turkey lately. (See this silliness from the House today and this from Rep. Gary Ackerman, chair of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and, more relevantly, a powerful and devoted ally of the "pro-Israel" lobby.)
The bash-Turkey movement did not start with the flotilla incident. It began when Turkey spoke out against Israel's bloody invasion of Gaza in 2009.
Back then, I was still at Israel Policy Forum and, as a Jewish organizational figure, I was regularly invited to meetings at the Turkish embassy to discuss Middle East issues.
I always asked my assistant to go in my place because I knew that I would find it excruciating to listen to the other "pro-Israel" professionals lecturing the Turks (including the ambassador) about what they needed to do to avoid trouble with them and Israel.
But my assistant did go and always came back with her head spinning. Not only did she share my take on the Middle East, including the belief that the lobby does more harm than good, she also believed that it is inappropriate for Americans to threaten the representatives of one foreign government for not doing what a second foreign government wants.
After one meeting she told me that it seemed clear to her that the lobbyists -- from AIPAC, the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League -- were essentially telling the Turks that if they didn't shape up, it would affect Turkey's standing in Congress. She also said that they hinted that any Turkish distancing from Israel could lead to the lobby dropping its opposition to the Armenian Genocide Resolution, then pending in Congress. And that would mean that the resolution would pass.
That resolution, pushed by the Armenian community, basically states that the killing of 1.5 million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire 95 years ago was genocide and should be recognized as such by the United States.
I never understood why the Turks had such strong feelings on this subject. After all, the modern Turkish Republic is not the Ottoman Empire. True, Turkey is the successor state to the Ottoman Empire (or, at least, part of the empire), but modern Germany is the successor to Nazi Germany and only crazy people blame today's Germany for the crimes of the Nazis.
But, no matter, this is how the Turks feel. They will do almost anything to prevent the stain that they think passage of the resolution by Congress would bring.
I remember telling my assistant that I did not believe that the lobby could drop its opposition to passage of the resolution. After all, if the Armenian genocide was not a genocide last year, how could it suddenly become a genocide this year?
We both felt that the lobby's position on the resolution was utterly cynical. Yes, Turkey was Israel's friend. But why should that require the lobby using its clout to prevent the United States from memorializing the killing of a million-and-a-half people?
That seemed especially unsavory considering how strongly Jews feel about Holocaust denial. And, after all, it was Adolf Hitler himself who cited the Armenian slaughter when he reassured his aides that Nazi Germany could indeed get away with the murder of millions of innocent Jews:
"Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?"
Those words are inscribed on a wall in the United States Holocaust Museum.
Nonetheless, the lobby backed the Turkish position. It pushed the view that the Armenians who were slaughtered had died in the context of war.
Back during my days working on Capitol Hill, I heard this argument from Israeli diplomats as well as from the various Jewish organizations. And when the resolution looked like it was going to pass, it was the "pro-Israel" lobby that stopped it.
The whole thing was sickening. But on Capitol Hill, we were told that we had to oppose the resolution. Turkey was Israel's friend. That was that.
But now, the Netanyahu government and its lobby are having a change of heart. According to media reports in Israel and the United States, the lobby may indeed drop its opposition to the resolution. The Netanyahu government, the lobby, the neocons, and their acolytes in the media, have decided that Turkey needs to be punished for its opposition to the Gaza blockade and its role in the flotilla fiasco.
The word is going out. Turkey is no friend of Israel, no friend of Jews, and has become, yes, a Muslim state that cares about its fellow Muslims in Gaza.
This statement from Rep. Anthony Weiner takes the prize:
Let's consider Turkey. This [the flotilla incident] would not have happened were it not for the nation of Turkey taking the role that they did... And for a lot of time, we kind of worship at the altar of the moderate Muslim state, the moderate Arab states that, you know what, we hope that they are there to be a fulcrum for peace, but it's not unlike a child wanting to see a unicorn. It would be great if it happened, but we have to realize the facts are the facts, and NATO membership for Turkey has to be called into question here.
Say what? Because the Turks no longer are doing what Israel wants, they should be thrown out of NATO?
Incredible. NATO membership makes Turkey a formal ally of the United States. That formal alliance with Turkey (as with our other NATO allies) was established not because we love the Turks (or the Greeks, the Italians, or whoever) but because the alliance serves our strategic interests. Turkey, situated on the Mediterranean, just south of Russia and north of the oil-rich Middle East, is indispensable to the United States. But the lobby (not just Weiner) would toss it overboard because it is has offended Netanyahu.
Anyone who questions just how far the lobby will go in defense of the Netanyahu government's policies has their answer.
Expect the lobby to get the Armenian genocide resolution passed at the next opportunity -- but not out of recognition of the demands of history, or empathy with Armenians, or because passage is long overdue. Congress will pass it because the lobby and Netanyahu want us to. It's all about sticking it to Turkey, our NATO ally, which has the temerity not to clear its policies with the American Jewish Committee and AIPAC.
Both the Netanyahu government and its lobby are operating with callous disregard for U.S. interests. But what else is new?
As for Israel's interests, they are only invoked to rally support from people who would otherwise understand that Israel's interest is just a political football in this game. For Netanyahu, the game is political survival. For the lobby, it is throwing its weight around in Washington. For members of Congress, it is pleasing donors.
The Israeli people and the Palestinians -- and, now, the Turks and Armenians too -- are mere pawns.