Professor of History, Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Yitzchak Kerem is an historian on Sephardic Jewry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He has been the editor of Sefarad, the Sephardic newsletter, since 1991. He is also a former radio moderator of "Diaspora Jewry" (Reshet Bet and Aleph, 2004-2007), section editor for Encyclopedia of the Holocaust and New Encyclopedia Judaica, and is now visiting Israeli professor of Sephardic Studies at American Jewish University of Los Angeles. He is the founder and director of Institute for Hellenic Jewish Studies at University of Denver, and have given some 150 academic conference papers. He has contributed to numerous encyclopedias including Encyclopedia Judaica bi-annual yearbooks, Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press), and Chronology of World Slavery.
- The Settlement of Rhodian and Other Sephardic Jews in Montgomery and Atlanta in the Twentieth Century, American Jewish History - Volume 85, Number 4, December 1997, pp. 373-391
- The Greek-Jewish Theater in Judeo-Spanish, ca. 1880-1940, Journal of Modern Greek Studies - Volume 14, Number 1, May 1996, pp. 31-45
Source: Excerpted from lukeford.net (Luke Ford’s interview with Yitzchak Kerem)
Luke: "There’s been controversy over the past 20 years about Israel pushing Turkey to recognize the Armenian genocide?"
Yitzchak: "It’s an extremely loaded issue. The Ottoman scholars have a different view of it, more as a perennial conflict.
"Armenians have knocked off over 40 diplomats. There are 42 Turkish diplomats killed since 1973 by Armenians. There are additional assassinations which are more contemporary. Note the assassination of the Turkish consul in Los Angeles."
Luke: "Turkish diplomats?"
"There’s a scholar in Minnesota who’s a Turk and totally sympathizes with the Armenians and is critical of Turkey.
"But there’s a middle road. The problem is when you have these scholars who twist reality. That’s where the friction starts. There’s an Ottoman scholars group. You have these people who come. We even pressed for the Turkish archives to be opened to these people. Then they come and they make up things and they twist things. So instead of having a genuine dialogue over what happened, it becomes overly politicized. The problem is the question is extremely loaded and there was not one incident in 1915. What happened in 1893-1895 was a blatant genocide. Extremist [Armenian] groups tried to overthrow the sultan six times. So, like a bully, Turkey retaliated in mass. It also was led by the treacherous Sultan Abdul Hamid. The 1915-1923 events of the Armenian-Turkish conflict are of a very different nature.
"In 1915, it’s more of a conflict. Turks will exaggerate and say that more Turks were killed in the fighting from 1915 to 1923 than Armenians. They do have responsibilities towards the Armenians, but to pattern itself as a Jewish holocaust which [some Armenians] have done, they were pushed by British intelligence, is a distortion of history.
"My point is, and this is what the Armenians don’t like, is that more Kurds killed Armenians than Turks. The Turks did terrible things to the Armenians. They butchered people right and left. They raped and pillaged, but it wasn’t an organized act by the regime. It was a byproduct of hate. The Turks did terrible things to the Greek Orthodox, especially in Izmir. To call that a holocaust and a genocide when you are equating that with the Jewish holocaust is a distortion.
"In academia today, if 100 people have been killed in a planned massacre, you can call that genocide. The issue here is — is it an attempt to wipe out an entire people? The Armenians had a state afterward. Not in the historic areas of Armenian kingdoms in the past, but in what became the Soviet Union and the Soviet Union essentially threw them out. The Armenians have a state today.
"What the Armenians do is not commemoration. They don’t have holocaust museums. They take a tramp on the Jews.
"Why aren’t Armenians all over the world giving millions of dollars to establish an Armenian genocide center? They’re just interested in provoking. To threaten a few Jewish scholars, a few Jewish historians, is not the way to deal with it.
"No Ottoman scholar is going to give legitimacy to any murder that a Turk did. After the war, the Turks did put 1800 people on trial."
"At a Holocaust conference in 1994 Berlin, the Armenians tried to take over the stage and demand that the Armenians issue get equal footing. This isn’t the way.
"During the Holocaust there were only three righteous Jews from Armenia. That’s an indication that Jews were not very well liked. But the Jews, even in the Vilna ghetto, made out the Armenians to be the symbol of the underdog, based on the perception of what happened in WWI based on the perception of a few written accounts in Palestine… How can you call one catastrophe a genocide if you have seven, eight, or nine parallel catastrophes? What did the Greeks do to the Macedonians and what did the Ottomans do to Bulgarians and vice versa? What did the Ottomans do to the Serbs and the Croatians? You have hundreds of years of forced conversions. This is why all these things are loaded issues. Turkey didn’t decide overnight to react to the Armenians. You had these provocations of attempts to overthrow the throne."
"Essentially, what [the Armenians] are doing is propagating hate. The Armenians are not establishing centers all over the world for genocide education."
"Extremist groups among the Armenians are involved in all these underground acitivities in Cyprus, the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. The Jews should be sensitive to the Armenians, to what happened in Darfur, and in Bosnia. They should be sensitive to what happened in Cyprus with the Greeks losing part of the island."
"In terms of Israel, the Armenians a lot of the time were on the wrong side. They were in terror with the Palestinians against Israel, together with training with the IRA and all sorts of bad boys."
"Stanford Shaw was hugely sympathetic towards the Armenians. At UCLA, they organized a huge demonstration at his class. What kind of behavior was that? And then a young man put a bomb in his house in Northridge.""