04/27/07: Jewish Journal: U.S. Jews enter debate on Armenian/Turkish history

By Ron Kampeas, Jewish Telegraphic Agency

United States Jewish groups are caught in the middle of a growing political struggle between two of their traditional friends, Turks and Armenians.

Top Turkish officials and Turkish Jewish leaders in recent weeks have sought help from U.S. Jewish leaders to stave off an effort in the U.S. Congress to define World War I-era massacres of Armenians by Ottoman Turks as genocide.

Rep. Adam Schiff, a Jewish congressman whose district includes Burbank and Glendale and stretches to Temple City, represents a substantial Armenian constituency. He has tried multiple times to pass such a resolution and this time has garnered nearly 200 co-sponsors for his non-binding resolution (HR106), and believes he has the backing of Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), speaker of the House of Representatives. Pelosi has met with U.S. Armenian leaders.

"The fevered intensity of the lobbying shows they realize it has the strongest support in recent years," Schiff said.

Los Angeles-based Jewish World Watch (JWW) this year has also become involved in the issue; on Friday, April 27, the Jewish and Armenian communities will observe the 92nd anniversary of the Armenian genocide in a Shabbat dinner at Valley Beth Shalom in Encino, with His Eminence Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, Primate, Western Diocese, American Church of North America as the guest of honor. JWW is also actively urging Congress to support HR 106.

The Turkish lobbying has had some effect. B'nai B'rith International, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the American Jewish Committee and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) are set to convey a letter from Turkish Jews who oppose the resolution to U.S. congressional leaders.

The ADL and JINSA have added their own statements opposing the bill.

"I don't think congressional action will help reconcile the issue," said ADL National Director Abraham Foxman. "The resolution takes a position; it comes to a judgment.
"The Turks and Armenians need to revisit their past. The Jewish community shouldn't be the arbiter of that history, nor should the U.S. Congress."

Schiff says the resolution reflects the historical reality. He notes that Raphael Lemkin, a Jew who coined the term "genocide" in 1943 to describe Nazi actions against Jews, cited the Armenian massacres as a precedent.

The historical parallels between the two events help explain the Jewish community's reluctance to back the Turkish effort to stop Schiff's resolution.

Off the record, Jewish officials say a community struggling to stem the tide of Holocaust revisionism is hardly in a position to endorse efforts to deny what Lemkin and other Holocaust chroniclers have described as the Holocaust's antecedent.

Estimates of the number of Armenians killed in the massacres vary from 300,000 -- the official Turkish number -- to more than 1 million.

Additionally, Jewish and Armenian community leaders have a history of friendly relations. Armenians, who are Christians, have in the past let Israeli leaders know that if the Old City of Jerusalem is partitioned in a peace agreement with the Palestinians, they would prefer that the Armenian Quarter remain under Israeli control.

"I'm pleased Jewish organizations have resisted efforts by Turkey," Schiff said. "I would encourage them to go beyond resisting pressure to affirmative support to recognize this genocide."

That's not likely. Turkey is the closest Muslim ally to the United States and Israel, and participates in joint military exercises with both nations. Jews also appreciate the relatively safe existence Turkey's Jewish community has enjoyed for centuries.

Significantly, a Jewish community delegation, led by community president Silvyo Ovadya, was one of three delegations Turkey sent to Washington in recent months. The other two were Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul's entourage in February, and a multiparty delegation of six senior lawmakers that arrived this week. All three met with U.S. Jewish leaders, as well as administration and congressional officials.

The Jewish delegation, whose visit coincided with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's annual policy forum in March, warned U.S. Jewish leaders that passage of the resolution would harm Turkey's Western tilt and could make things uncomfortable for the country's Jews.

The parliamentary delegation predicted no such backlash against the Jews, appreciating the Jewish decision to hold back and Israel's own reluctance to characterize the 1915 massacres as genocide.

"Turkey and Israel have a vested interest in each other's welfare and safety," said Sukru Mustafa Elekdag of the opposition Republican People's Party.

Instead, they warned of broader consequences for the U.S.-Turkish alliance.

"It will hurt the feelings of Turks," said Yasar Yakis, a founding member of the ruling Justice and Development Party and the delegation's leader. The delegates cited the experience of France, where the National Assembly last year recognized the massacres as genocide. Turkey has since rolled back some commercial ties with France.

"If it passes, I cannot exclude very important negative consequences on all aspects of relations, including defense relations," Yakis said.

If so, it would typify Turkey's behavior toward Israel. Turkey frequently issues harsh denunciations of Israeli policy toward the Palestinians, yet bristles and threatens consequences over the merest hint of Israeli criticism of Turkey.

Elekdag said the genocide resolution could become an issue in elections later this year.
"Our public is extremely sensitive on these matters. Unwanted events could happen," he said.

Turks perceive the push as a show of Armenia's muscle, the lawmakers said. They believe the Armenian government wants to distract international attention from its treatment of its native Azerbaijanis. Turks feel close to Azerbaijanis, Muslims who speak a Turkic language.

The parliamentarians wondered why U.S. Jews were holding back from fully opposing the resolution, and speculated that it might have to do with the Turkish government's decision last year to meet with leaders of Hamas, the ruling party in the Palestinian Authority that rejects Israel's existence and embraces terrorism.

Onur Oymen, vice president of the opposition Republican People's Party, said Israel had moved on from the Hamas controversy, and so should U.S. Jews.

"The Jewish community should not change its position because of one moment," he said, noting that his party had vehemently opposed the meeting.

The Turkish Embassy in Washington ran a full-page ad in Monday's New York Times calling for a commission of historians from Armenia, Turkey and other nations to investigate the World War I-era events.

"Support efforts to examine history, not legislate it," the ad said.

Turkey would abide by whatever the commission concludes, the visiting delegations have said.
Schiff ridiculed the idea. He likened it to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's recent conference to provide an "objective" opinion on the Holocaust, essentially an exercise in Holocaust denial.

"It's somewhat akin to Ahmadinejad hosting a conference on the Holocaust to invite people to deny it," he said. "The idea of a conference I find an offensive stratagem."

Source: http://www.jewishjournal.com/home/print.php?id=17582

04/26/07: Zaman: Jewish groups lobby against ‘Armenian genocide’ resolution in US Congress

In a letter addressing influential members of US Congress, including head of the House of Representatives' Foreign Relations Committee Tom Lantos, US-based Jewish groups demanded that voting on congressional resolutions urging the US administration to recognize an alleged genocide of Armenians be delayed.

The letter was jointly signed by B'nai B'rith International, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA). The letter included an annex -- a letter signed by the Turkish Jewish Community -- which said maintenance of good relations between Turkey and Israel and among Turkey, the US and Israel were crucial at a time when the US faces troubles in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Two separate resolutions are pending at the US Senate and the House of Representatives, urging the administration to recognize the World war I era killings of Anatolian Armenians as genocide. Turkey has warned that passage of the resolutions in the US Congress would seriously harm relations with Washington and impair cooperation in Iraq and Afghanistan. The US administration has said it was opposed to the resolution, yet the congressional process is an independent one. In his message for April 24, which Armenians claim marks the anniversary of the beginning of a systematic genocide campaign at the hands of the late Ottoman Empire, US President George W. Bush remained adhered to the administration policy of not referring to the incidents as genocide.

"Each year on this day, we pause to remember the victims of one of the greatest tragedies of the 20th century, when as many as 1.5 million Armenians lost their lives in the final years of the Ottoman Empire, many of them victims of mass killings and forced exile," Bush said. Turkey categorically rejects the claims of genocide and says as many Turks were killed when the Armenians took up arms against the Ottoman Empire in collaboration with the invading Russian army.

Bush, in his message, also called for the normalization of ties between Turkey and Armenia: "Today, we remember the past and also look forward to a brighter future. We commend the individuals in Armenia and Turkey who are working to normalize the relationship between their two countries. A sincere and open examination of the historic events of the late-Ottoman period is an essential part of this process. The United States supports and encourages those in both countries who are working to build a shared understanding of history as a basis for a more hopeful future," he said.

The Bush administration dismissed its former ambassador in Yerevan last year after he violated the US policy and called the events "genocide." Ambassador John Evans was insistent on his stance when he spoke at the National Press Club in Washington and said Turkey should accept "historical facts." He also claimed that Turkey's efforts had played a role in the abrupt termination of his duty as the US ambassador in Yerevan.

Source: http://www.todayszaman.com/tz-web/detaylar.do?load=detay&link=109482

04/26/07: Turkish Daily News: Four Jewish groups back Turkey on Armenian genocide

Bush declines to use g-word in annual Armenian remembrance day statement

Umit Enginsoy
Washington – Turkish Daily News

Four large U.S. Jewish groups have lent support to Turkey's position in opposing the passage of two resolutions pending in Congress that call for officialrecognition of World War I-era killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as genocide.

B'nai B'rith International, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the American Jewish Committee and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) have recently conveyed a letter from Turkish Jews who oppose the resolution to U.S. congressional leaders, officials from the groups told the Turkish Daily News.

In their letter, leading Turkish Jews have urged congressional leaders to postpone considering the genocide measures. In conveying the letter to Congressofficials, the four U.S. Jewish groups tacitly agreed to its contents.

Going further, the ADL and JINSA have also added their own statements opposing the bill.

"I don't think congressional action will help reconcile the issue. The resolution takes a position; it comes to a judgment," said ADL National Director Abraham Foxman.

"The Turks and Armenians need to revisit their past. The Jewish community shouldn't be the arbiter of that history, nor should the U.S. Congress," he told JTA, a Jewish press organization.

But the four groups' move does not mean that U.S. Jews are united in opposing the genocide measures.

A number of other large U.S. Jewish organizations have distanced themselves from the controversy, while some of the resolutions' top sponsors and backers are Jewish.

One genocide legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives in late January, and an identical resolution later followed in the Senate.

Turkey is fighting against the measures' passage in both chambers, and it is not clear if or when the bills could be brought to a vote.

No g-word from Bush:

In a related development, U.S. President George W. Bush on Tuesday issued a statement of remembrance for the Armenians killed at the end of the Ottoman Empire, but stopped short of using the word genocide.

The Bush administration also opposes the genocide resolutions' passage. In identical letters sent to congressional leaders, Secretary of State CondoleezzaRice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates have warned that the measures' endorsement would hurt U.S. national interests in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Each year on this day, we pause to remember the victims of one of the greatest tragedies of the 20th century, when as many as 1.5 million Armenians losttheir lives in the final years of the Ottoman Empire, many of them victims of mass killings and forced exile," Bush said in the statement.

"I join my fellow Americans and Armenian people around the world in commemorating this tragedy and honoring the memory of the innocent lives that were taken," he said. "The world must never forget this painful chapter of its history."

Also on Tuesday, former U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Evans, who reportedly had his tour of duty cut short because he had referred to the killings asgenocide in violation of the official U.S. position, said that Turks needed to confront the facts and to show contrition before there can be reconciliation.

He also said that he believed Turkey's efforts had a role in his firing.

Nearly 100 Armenians gathered in front of the Turkish embassy here on Tuesday to protest against Ankara, while a smaller group of Turks held a rival demonstration across the street.

Source: http://www.turkishdailynews.com.tr/article.php?enewsid=71599

04/21/07: LATimes: Genocide Resolution Still Far From Certain

Larger forces may quash a measure on Armenian deaths in Turkey

By Richard Simon

WASHINGTON — It was the year 2000, and Rep. George P. Radanovich was on his way to the Capitol, expecting the House to pass a long-debated resolution he was sponsoring to recognize the Armenian genocide almost a century ago.

But just as the Republican from Mariposa prepared to step onto the House floor, Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) called off the vote because President Clinton personally had warned him that the symbolic but emotion-charged resolution could damage national security. Turkey, an important U.S. ally, long has insisted that the deaths of about 1 million Armenians in the waning days of the Ottoman Empire were not acts of genocide.

Seven years later, however, with Congress in the hands of Democrats, the resolution's backers believe they stand their best chance yet of winning passage—even though the Bush administration, like previous Democratic and Republican administrations, is working hard to kill it.

Radanovich is predicting that the resolution's fate once again will come down to a phone call between the president and the House speaker. This time the speaker is Democrat Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, who as a member of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues has been a passionate supporter of the genocide resolution.

But there's a rub:

During almost 20 years representing the Bay Area, home to thousands of voters of Armenian descent, Pelosi has had a relatively free hand in deciding her position on the volatile issue. But today she comes at it as a leader of the Democratic Party and a high-profile player in the U.S. government. She has shown, by her maneuvering on Iraq war funding and her recent visit to Syria, that she is not reluctant to take on the White House. And she has learned that Republicans will be quick to seize any opportunity to brand her a lightweight in foreign affairs.

Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish research program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said Pelosi must now weigh the resolution "through a perspective she never did before."

Also in a bind

And the speaker is not the only one in a bind on the issue. The Israeli government and many of its U.S. supporters face similar crosscurrents because opposing genocide is at the core of the Jewish state, but Turkey is the closest thing to an ally Israel has in the Muslim world.

As a result, although its prospects are bright, the resolution is far from assured of passage.

Radanovich predicted that if the leadership decided to bring it to the floor, President Bush would call Pelosi and ask her not to do so, in the interest of national security. Then, said Radanovich, usually a Bush ally, "Pelosi is going to have to make a choice: to agree with the president or respectfully disagree." Radanovich said that he hoped she "respectfully disagrees" and puts the measure to a vote.

"If it gets to the floor," he said, "it passes."

Pelosi hasn't signaled whether she will schedule a vote.
The resolution is supported by 191 House members, the most sponsors it has had in 20 years, according to the Armenian National Committee of America. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) backs it, as do more than a quarter of his colleagues. California's two Democratic senators, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, are among them.

Mark Parris, a U.S. ambassador to Turkey during the Clinton administration who now is at the Brookings Institution, said that when the Democrats won control of Congress in November, "the Turks knew there was going to be a problem."

Almost everyone, including the Turkish government, agrees that hundreds of thousands of Armenians died in eastern Turkey between 1915 and 1918 as World War I and the crumbling of the Ottoman Empire engulfed the region in turmoil. It's how they perished that continues to stir ferocious disagreement.

Armenians, along with most historians and many Western governments, say more than 1 million died at the hands of Turkish forces—victims of either murder or mass deportation that led hundreds of thousands to succumb to exposure and disease.

Turks say there was no government-sponsored program targeting Armenians. Rather, they insist, large numbers of Armenians—and Turks—died in the chaos of war and an uprising staged by Armenians seeking to capitalize on a government weakened by World War I. "There were numerous deaths on both sides, due to war, disease, hunger and civil strife," the Turkish American Heritage Political Action Committee said in a recent letter to lawmakers.

Not forgetting

Though the events lie far in the past, Armenians and Armenian Americans have worked hard to keep the memory alive. The Turkish government and the ultranationalists who are resurgent in that country have worked equally hard to keep the U.S. government from taking a position.

Caught in the middle of the debate are Israel and its supporters. "It's a terrible predicament," said David Twersky of the American Jewish Congress. "As Jews, we have a tremendous reverence for the moral imperatives of history. But then there is the aspect that no Muslim country is closer to Israel than Turkey. So we feel paralyzed by a set of conflicting emotions."

Turkish officials say the renewed push to recognize an Armenian genocide could not come at a worse time.

The issue is so incendiary that even a symbolic recognition by Congress could embolden ultranationalists there to unleash enough anti-American sentiment to shut down important U.S. military bases and affect Washington's position throughout the Middle East.

Civilian and military leaders of the Turkish government, including Foreign Minister Abdullah G, met at a Washington hotel in February with more than a dozen leaders of major Jewish organizations in an effort to prevent action on the resolution. Members of the Anti-Defamation League and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) took part in the gathering.

"I believe the right thing for the Jewish community is to recognize the Armenian genocide as a fact, because virtually every historian and scholar of note in this area calls it a genocide," said Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America. "As friends of Turkey, we need to encourage them to just recognize the truth, honor the victims and be done with it. This would only enhance Turkey's standing in the world."

Other Jewish leaders, believing the security needs of the U.S. and Israel trump distant history, are siding with Turkey.

"I don't think a bill in Congress will help reconcile this issue. The resolution takes a position. It comes to a judgment," said Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. "The Turks and Armenians need to revisit their past. The Jewish community shouldn't be the arbiter of that history," he said. "And I don't think the U.S. Congress should be the arbiter either."

Events planned

Tuesday is Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, and events are planned across the country to press for action on Capitol Hill. There are an estimated 1 million to 1.5 million Americans of Armenian descent.

The pending congressional resolution calls on the president to "accurately characterize the systematic and deliberate annihilation of 1.5 million Armenians as genocide." It also calls on the president to ensure that U.S. foreign policy reflects "appropriate understanding and sensitivity concerning issues related to human rights, ethnic cleansing, and genocide documented in the United State record relating to the Armenian genocide."

Similar resolutions were approved by the House in 1975 and 1984, but never made it through the Senate. A 1990 resolution was blocked by a Senate filibuster. The outlook this year in that chamber is uncertain.

Although the word "genocide" stirs passionate feelings, Los Angeles Times policy is to use it because a large body of historical evidence and authoritative recent research support the accuracy of the term to describe the events.

At least one Turkish historian, Taner Akm, has concluded that the Turkish government did commit genocide against the Armenians. In his book "A Shameful Act," Akm cites numerous Ottoman documents that he says prove beyond a doubt that the Turkish leaders, under the cover of World War I, planned and carried out the murder of more than half of the Armenian people.

"For Turks to discuss the genocide openly, we would have to begin by conceding that some of our national fathers were thieves and murderers," said Akm, who teaches at the University of Minnesota. "This is why the subject is so taboo."

Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank), one of the resolution's chief sponsors, said: "One way you can tell that prospects for passage have improved this year is the intensity of the opposition." Schiff's district is home to more Armenian Americans than any other.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates are among those working to scuttle the measure, contending it could jeopardize Turkey's support for U.S. troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And a steady stream of Turkish officials, government-hired Washington lobbyists and companies with business interests in Turkey have been moving through Capitol offices, warning of a diplomatic backlash if the resolution passes.

Some say Pelosi's past support for the measure does not assure she will push for a vote anytime soon. No vote has been scheduled in the House Foreign Affairs Committee or the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, usually the first stops for such legislation.

"I'm absolutely confident that, ultimately, Speaker Pelosi will do what is in the best interests of our nation," said Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.), co-chairman of the Congressional Caucus on Turkey and an opponent of the resolution. He noted that supplies destined for U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan pass through Turkey.

Radanovich dismissed such concern, saying: "The Turkish government will throw a fit, and three months later, they'll be over it."

Copyright 2007
The Los Angeles Times

Source: http://www.genocidewatch.org/news/TurkeyGenocideResolutionStillFarFromCertain21April2007.htm