08/24 Boston Globe: Turkey condemns statement by ADL

Turkey condemns statement by ADL
By Michael Levenson, Globe Staff August 24, 2007

The Turkish government, reacting to a controversy that started in Watertown, yesterday condemned the Anti-Defamation League's decision to call the massacre of Armenians by Ottoman Turks a genocide.

"We consider the statement of the ADL as an injustice to the unique character of the Holocaust, as well as to the memories of its victims," the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement. "We expect it to be rectified."

Burak Akcapar, first counselor of the Turkish Embassy in Washington, D.C., said Turkey has registered its concerns with Israel, the United States, and "friends everywhere."

"We are concerned that a great injustice has been done by the ADL with this statement," Akcapar said in an interview, adding that there is much scholarly debate on the issue. "It has ignored our point of view about the change of position. We are talking to all friendly parties about that. Our position is very clear."

The swift and strong reaction from a major foreign government marked the latest escalation in a revolt that started last week in Watertown Town Hall, where town councilors voted 8 to 0 to withdraw from an Anti-Defamation League program called No Place For Hate.

The councilors were protesting the Anti-Defamation League's refusal to state that the slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians, beginning in 1915, was genocide.

After the vote, the League's New England director, Andrew H. Tarsy, defied the organization's policy and agreed to use the term. He was fired the next day.

Jewish leaders in Boston and beyond protested, pointing out that Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, among others, have recognized the Armenian genocide.

Under mounting pressure, the Anti-Defamation League released a statement on Tuesday saying that the killings were "tantamount to genocide," but it stopped short of supporting a congressional resolution recognizing the genocide, saying it was counterproductive.

The Anti-Defamation League and other Jewish groups had raised concerns that passage of the resolution could jeopardize the safety of Turkey's Jews.

Yesterday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry stated its continued opposition to the resolution, but said the League's concerns that it could lead to retaliation against Jews was unfounded.

"The Jewish community in Turkey is part of our society, and its members do not have any reason to worry," the ministry said in a statement.

The Foreign Ministry said it objected to the use of the word genocide because it is "historically and legally baseless" and said that contrary to the Anti-Defamation League's new position, "there is no consensus among the historians on how to qualify the events."

"The attempt of the ADL to rewrite the history is in contradiction with the realities, and the rationale behind this is incomprehensible," the ministry said.

Dikran Kaligian, an Armenian-American living in Watertown, said he was not surprised by the Turkish response.

"These are the tactics that the Turkish government uses," Kaligian said. "They're fighting a losing battle against history and against logic. So about the only thing they have in their arsenal is blackmail. This is another form of it: 'How could you do this to us?' "

Yesterday, the Anti-Defamation League released a statement reiterating that it does not support congressional efforts to recognize the Armenian genocide.

"The force and passion of the debate today leaves us more convinced than ever that this issue does not belong in a forum such as the United States Congress," the League said yesterday. "The proper role of those of us who deeply believe the controversy must be resolved is to promote and support Turkey and Armenia in efforts to bring them together to begin the process of reconciliation."

This statement was issued a day after national League director Abraham H. Foxman agreed to have the organization's policy-making body reconsider the resolution at its next meeting in November.

The Anti-Defamation League's unwavering stance angered some Armenian leaders.

"It's an attempt to appease the government of Turkey by backtracking away from their position and [to] avoid supporting the legislation," said Aram Suren Hamparian, executive director of the Armenian National Committee, an advocacy group in Washington. Hamparian called it "patently illogical" for the League to acknowledge the genocide and not ask Congress to do the same.

"Although independent scholars may have reached a consensus about the genocide, in an effort to help accomplish the reconciliation, there is room for further dispassionate scholarly examination of the details of those dark and terrible days," the League said.

Keith O'Brien of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Levenson can be reached at mlevenson@globe.com.

Source: http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2007/08/24/turkey_condemns_statement_by_adl/