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The moral hypocrisy of American Muslims for Palestine on the Armenian Genocide

on 19 Comments

If Armenian-American college students felt betrayed in the past day, I would not blame them. So many of them came out to support student resolutions at several universities across the country demanding divestment from the Israeli occupation.  And yet, one of the largest American Palestine solidarity organizations in this country just told these students that their grandparents’ stories still need to be verified. If you do not know what I am referring to please read this statement put out by the United States Council of Muslim Organizations.

In this statement, member organizations of the USCMO, including American Muslims for Palestine, make the case that President Obama should not refer to the “events of 1915” as a genocide without further investigation. They call for a more “balanced” approach through academic consensus based on Turkish archives that Turkey refuses to open to establish a “just memory.” The statement also refers to the importance of Turkey as an ally in the fight against ISIS. What is even worst is that it was released on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the genocide.

The fact that this statement came from every major Muslim organization in America is outrageous in itself. The fact that American Muslims for Palestine signed on to this statement is doubly heinous.

How American Muslims for Palestine does not recognize the moral hypocrisy of such a denial is beyond me. Palestinians as a people have spent decades demanding the world recognize our ethnic cleansing from our homeland. For years, it was the stories of our parents and grandparents against the denial of the entirety of Israeli society. Even after the opening of Israeli state archives (that only Israeli academics had access to) confirmed what we have always known to be true, we still fight to have the Nakba and our right to return recognized. On top of all this, AMP must have forgotten that there are Armenian-Palestinians who survived this genocide.

What kind of logical acrobatics did AMP have to undertake to avoid seeing the moral hypocrisy of this statement?

To fully appreciate the self-deceit required for AMP to be a co-signor to this denial of history, one only need replace ‘Turkey’ with ‘Israel,’ ‘Armenians’ with ‘Palestinians’, ‘genocide’ with ‘ethnic-cleansing,’ and ‘ISIS’ with ‘Islamic terrorism.’ These are some of the sentences you would be reading:

‘…characterizing the events of 19(48) as (ethnic cleansing) without proper investigation of these events by independent historians will not only jeopardize the establishment of a just memory pertaining to these events, but will also damage the efforts aimed at achieving reconciliation between (Israelis) and (Palestinians).’

‘As Americans, we are concerned about alienating a key ally, (Israel)’

‘Our government has been closely cooperating with the (Israeli) government on defeating (Islamic terrorism)…’

The writers of this statement could work for the US State Department.

Thankfully, progressive Muslims, Palestinians, and solidarity activists across the country are expressing their outrage:

AMP responded to this backlash and released a terribly unsatisfying statement stating that it takes “into serious consideration — without denial or alteration — charges of genocide.” Oddly enough, the statement was only released on the private Facebook account of an AMP employee and is not viewable on the AMP website:


AMP has dug itself into too deep a hole to respond to the righteous anger of its constituents with the denial of a denial. It needs to formally recognize without qualification or hesitation the genocide of the Armenian people because it has no right to narrate another people’s history. It is the only chance for this organization to recover from this ethical failure, from which no amount of Turkish money will save them. And frankly, it may already be too late. 

Sami Suleiman

Sami Suleiman is a graduate student at Brown University and a member of the National SJP Conference Organizing Committee.

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19 Responses

  1. W.Jones on April 21, 2015, 3:45 pm

    Warning: graphic:

    • joecatron on April 22, 2015, 2:15 am

      That caption is extremely inaccurate. “Auction of Souls” was a Hollywood production, not a documentary.

  2. Boomer on April 21, 2015, 4:09 pm

    I was not aware of this. Thanks for pointing it out.

  3. W.Jones on April 21, 2015, 4:52 pm

    Dear SAMI:

    The argument I would make from a pro-Palestinan perspective is this:

    Large numbers of Armenians came to Palestine as refugees from their homeland and composed a large portion of the pre-Israeli population. Then when the Israelis conquered Palestine and imposed the Nakba, the Israelis deported thousands of Armenians. You can find photos of Armenians in “transit” camps in Haifa awaiting their ethnic cleansing out of Palestine by Israelis.

    Next, I would point out that the Israelis impose discriminatory policies on the Armenians in Jerusalem even though there is a historical Armenian quarter. As a result of these harsh policies, the Armenian citizenry there are dwindling.

    So the argument you should make to Palestinian organizations is that Armenians have borne the impact of Israeli ethnic cleansing of Palestine just like other Palestinians, both in the Nakba and today. In fact, based on the Palestinian Authority’s definition of “Palestinians”, Armenian inhabitants are “Palestinian” too, since the P.A. defines Palestinians as the people living there before the time of the mass Israeli settlement project in the 20th century. The Armenian quarter long predates that. As a result, Palestinian organizations have a duty to respect the hardships imposed on Armenians not only by Israelis but by the Israelis’ ally, Turkey. One of those hardships has been the persecution of the Armenians by Turkey which forced them to move to Palestine in the first place.

    Please let me know if you read this.

    Regards and Respect.

  4. echinococcus on April 21, 2015, 5:58 pm

    This indicates a takeover of the UCSMO by the nationalist faction among the Turks. They must have gotten religion suddenly at the last moment as a result of having lost the Zionist lobby. The latter was the force that took care of killing the resolutions about the Armenian genocide, year in year out, on behalf of the former Turkish military dictatorship, Israel’s best ally . Now that the Israeli government, following the murder of Turkish nationals on the Mavi Marmara and various incidents, is calling for Erdogan’s head and getting mixed by proxy in recent coup attempts in Turkey, I imagine that the Turkish nationalists had to find some organism to infiltrate and use for their propaganda. Not so much the sympathizers of the government party; these are the officially Nazi grey wolves, their ally the military sympathizers in the People’s Party, and some extreme racists going under the fake name of Workers’ Party (whose chief was sentenced in Switzerland for genocide denial.) A particularly non-Islamic, nay Islamophobic bunch, by the way.

  5. Rooster on April 21, 2015, 9:48 pm

    Until all of us are free, none of us are free.

    Muslim support of Turkish government denial is operating on mistaken belief that acknowledgement of Armenian genocide will make them weaker, when, in fact, it will ultimately make all involved stronger.

  6. piotr on April 21, 2015, 10:08 pm

    School children should learn basic principles on genocide.

    Principle number one: some peoples count a lot, some less, some do not count at all.

    Thus I read at least two articles with the phrase “Armenian genocide, the first genocide of the 20th century”. Herero do not count at all!

    New York Times had an article that Armenians should “get over” dwelling on the genocide, and Washington Post, that they should reconcile with Turkey. Hm. Both articles by Armenians, but were they really representative of Armenian opinion? Still, Armenians may cherish the fact that they deserve more mention that the Herero.

    Concerning Turkey, I am all for reconciliation, but shouldn’t Turkey cease criminalizing the writing on Armenian genocide? Or refraining from sh..t like providing staging ground for taqfiris to attack an Armenian town from Turkish soil and expel inhabitants (last year, in Syria)? Or from making movies showing fictional Turkish heroes killing Armenian “murderers”?

    • RockyMissouri on April 22, 2015, 12:12 pm

      Thank you for sharing that horror about the Herero. We are arrogant beyond belief.

      I learn so much from the wonderful commenters to Mondoweiss, in addition to Mondoweiss itself.

  7. garzooma on April 21, 2015, 10:24 pm

    You want to know what’s funny? If you go to the CAIR web site and search “Armenian Genocide”, you get a couple of articles from 2012 on the ADL’s woes from denying the Armenian Genocide. Since none of the players were Moslems, we can only assume CAIR was posting them out of schadefreude.

    It should be noted that one UCSMO member, the Muslim Legal Fund of America, publicly distanced itself from the statement: CAIR and other UCSMO organizations like AMP should consider doing likewise, or they may end up viewing Foxman’s predicament from an entirely unwelcome perspective.

  8. Walid on April 21, 2015, 11:54 pm

    It’s all about kissing up to Turkey, that’s terrified of eventual claims against it eventhough the Armenians have repeatedly stated that they simply wanted an apology . Last week, Pope Francis called it by its name, a genocide and yesterday, the Maronite Cardinal of Lebanon that’s home to 200,000 Armenians declared that the Turks owed the Armenians an apology; schools and government offices are closed on Friday to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the genocide.. Those Palestinians and other Moslems holding back for the sake of Turkey should be ashamed of themselves.

  9. Wandering Arab on April 22, 2015, 7:07 am

    I don’t visit this site often, but just came across Sami Sulaiman’s article and thought I’d post a comment. The article is quite good, but adding a few points wouldn’t hurt.

    To begin with, Palestinians and their supporters mustn’t feel compelled to acknowledge the Armenian genocide simply because many Armenians today sympathize with Palestinian suffering, as though striking some sort of barter agreement, but rather because it actually happened.

    As for the dispiriting USCMO statement on what befell Ottoman Armenians during the First World War, I would point out to its signatories and supporters that it is ironic to refuse to call those events a “genocide,” given that Raphael Lemkin said that they are what prompted him to study several instances of the historical phenomenon of mass murder to which he would later apply this term, which he coined in 1943.

    Also, “proper investigation of these events by independent historians” has already been undertaken. Just check out books by the likes of Richard Hovannisian, Taner Akcam, Raymond Kevorkian, Ara Sarafian, Fatma Muge Gocek, and Peter Balakian.

    Works by the above authors include many contemporary or near-contemporary accounts by eyewitnesses, some of which can be obtained separately. Let me mention a lesser-known one: “Martyred Armenia,” by Fa’iz El-Ghusein. The author, a Muslim Arab who had served as an Ottoman official for many years, wrote this booklet in Arabic in 1916. Here is a link to the translated and slightly abridged English-language version, which has entered the public domain:

    • gamal on April 22, 2015, 8:13 am

      Thank you for this link.

    • socialconscience on April 22, 2015, 9:52 am

      Thank you for posting this link Rayyan….such a harrowing read….eerie parellels between so many other genocides with dehumanizing behaviour leading to greater bloodshed…

      Begs the question, why do the modern world not know or care about this?

  10. eljay on April 22, 2015, 8:40 am

    In this statement, member organizations of the USCMO, including American Muslims for Palestine, make the case that President Obama should not refer to the “events of 1915” as a genocide without further investigation. They call for a more
    The fact that this statement came from every major Muslim organization in America is outrageous in itself. The fact that American Muslims for Palestine signed on to this statement is doubly heinous.

    How American Muslims for Palestine does not recognize the moral hypocrisy of such a denial “balanced” approach through academic consensus …
    is beyond me.

    I agree that AMP is being morally hypocritical. Shame on them for acting like Zio-supremacists.

    Interesting (to me, at least) is the superficial similarity between USCMO’s statement and Iran’s flirtations with “a ‘balanced’ approach through academic consensus” regarding the Holocaust. (Although, to be fair, Iran does accept the Holocaust as an historical fact and a genocide.)

    • piotr on April 22, 2015, 1:01 pm

      Interestingly, Iran chides Turkey for not acknowledging Armenian genocide.

      On one hand, classifying atrocities as “normal”, “super”, “super-super”, “genocide” inevitably has a political element. On the other, rejecting honest recognition of the past is all to often associated with nefarious attitudes. Ukrainian nationalists glorify war heroes who committed massacres and do not cringe from committing “little atrocities”, mass intimidation, a flurry of assassinations etc. Turkey is arrested in the past patterns if it cannot acknowledge what went wrong.

      And so is USA. During massacres in Indonesia our government did not “stood idle”, instead, CIA passed its own lists of persons who “deserved special attention”. Now we have “moderately putrid” policies, and only “outside the mainstream folks” acknowledge the stink. Oh, democracy in Egypt could be improved further. Oh, we should help Saudis to make a more selective target list. Should we support one-sided bombardment for more than two months? Let’s think about it after two months! (I thought that Saudis want to show that they do less s..t than Israel in Gaza, but apparently they checked with USA and decided to have more fun after all.)

  11. Tom Suarez on April 22, 2015, 12:45 pm

    A M for P has betrayed not just the Armenians, but the Palestinians as well. A more “balanced” approach? Where have I heard that before? Would A M for P like a more “balanced” approach to 1948? To Cast Lead? Protective Edge?

  12. RoHa on April 22, 2015, 8:27 pm

    “A M for P has betrayed not just the Armenians, but the Palestinians as well.”


    But I will add that being an American Muslim is a matter of religion. Being an “Armenian-American” is just silly.

  13. Walid on April 24, 2015, 10:29 am

    Today is the centennial of the Armenian genocide. Fresh development involves Germany yesterday admitting complicity with the Ottomans in the genocide that the Turks continue denying. It seems that now the Armenians are looking for reparations in addition to an apology. Further to the German President’s declaration, the Bundestag is today debating the issue.

    From Deutsche Welle :

    “German President Gauck labels Ottoman massacre of Armenians ‘genocide’

    German President Joachim Gauck has described the 1915 slaughter of Armenians by Ottoman Turks as “genocide.” The comments, which are likely to infuriate Ankara, come as Berlin prepares to reclassify the killings.

    German President Joachim Gauck made his speech at a nondenominational religious service at Berlin Cathedral on Thursday, the eve of the 100th anniversary of the bloodshed that is estimated to have led to the deaths of as many as 1.5 million Armenians.

    In the highly anticipated speech, Gauck spoke of a “genocidal dynamic to which the Armenian people fell victim,” and of “systematic acts of murder.”

    The president went on to use the word “genocide” directly in a passage referring to the possible complicity of Germany, a World War One ally of the Ottoman Empire, in the events a century ago. German troops were alleged to have been involved in planning and even implementing deportations.

    “In this case, we Germans collectively still have to come to terms with the past, namely when it comes to shared responsibility and perhaps even complicity in the genocide of the Armenians.”

    Turkey has fiercely lobbied to stop countries recognizing the 1915 massacres as genocide. It recalled its ambassador to the Vatican earlier this month after Pope Francis used the term. On Thursday, it recalled its ambassador in Vienna over a condemnation of the killings as genocide by Austrian lawmakers.

    Indirect wording in declaration

    In referring directly to genocide, Gauck went further than a German coalition statement that is set to be put before lawmakers for approval on Friday. That statement uses a more indirect formulation, denoting the Armenian deaths as: “exemplary of the mass-extermination, ethnic cleansing, deportations and, yes, the genocides during the 20th century.”

    German government officials said there had been an exchange of views between the president’s office and the government.

    Armenians have said their ancestors were killed in a concerted campaign of genocide that was ordered by the Ottoman leadership that ruled Turkey at the time, in an effort to drive the ethnic group of eastern Turkey. The issue still divides the Turkish and Armenian governments.

    Turkey claims the 1.5 million figure is inflated and that those who died were killed as a result of war and unrest rather than a policy of genocide. It has also contended that hundreds of thousands were killed on both sides.

    Genocide was defined by the UN in 1948 as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”

    More than 20 countries – France and Russia among them – have so far recognized the Armenian killings as genocide.

    rc/sms (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

  14. elhayatmasri on May 11, 2015, 3:52 pm

    I am a Muslim American /Palestinian.
    This is disgusting and outrageous. I am very offended by the statement of this organization that doesn’t represent me, my people, Muslim, and Palestinians.
    The Turkish and Saudi’s hands are full of blood From Armenian Genocide to Palestinian Nakba, to Gaza wars, to Iraq and Afghanistan War, to Syria ISIS creation, to September 9/11 and so on.
    Shame on them

    Sorry to all my Armenian bothers, sisters, and friends…..

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