08/24 TDN: Armenians pressure US Jewish groups on genocide claim

Armenians pressure US Jewish groups on genocide claim
Friday, August 24, 2007

Bush administration reiterates its opposition to the passage of a genocide resolution in the House

WASHINGTON - Turkish Daily News

Bolstered by a move taken by the Jewish group Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to qualify World War I-era killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as genocide, U.S. Armenians are now putting pressure on several other Jewish organizations to change their stance on the genocide debate.

The targeted Jewish groups, which had backed Turkey's position to oppose Armenian genocide resolutions pending in Congress, mainly include the ADL, the American Jewish Committee (AJC), B'nai B'rith International and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.

These groups have in recent months forwarded to the U.S. Congress a letter from Turkey's Jewish community opposing the congressional resolutions on Armenian genocide claims.

The Armenians are working in cooperation with several Jewish grassroots groups, which are also urging their umbrella organizations to reverse their positions on the genocide controversy.

The ADL's national director Abraham Foxman announced Tuesday that after revisiting the issue, his group came to the understanding that the Armenian killings "were indeed tantamount to genocide."

No backing for congressional recognition

Bu he said the ADL was still against the passage of an Armenian genocide resolution pending in the House of Representatives, Congress' lower chamber.

"We continue to firmly believe that a congressional resolution on such matters is a counterproductive diversion and will not foster reconciliation between Turks and Armenians and may put at risk the Turkish Jewish community and the important multilateral relationship between Turkey, Israel and the United States," Foxman said.

The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), a radical U.S. Armenian group, said the ADL should do more.

"The ANCA welcomes the Anti-Defamation's League's decision to finally end its longstanding complicity in Turkey's international denial campaign by properly recognizing the Armenian genocide," said ANCA's executive director Aram Hamparian. "We remain deeply troubled, however, that elements of its national leadership seek to prevent the United States from taking this very same principled step by adopting the Armenian genocide resolution currently before Congress."

Disappointed by the ADL's shift in position, Turkey is signaling that it will seek the Israeli government's help to prevent a spillover among U.S. Jewish groups. Israel does not officially recognize the Armenian claims on genocide.

Like the ADL, the AJC hinted that its position not to support the genocide bill's passage in the House remained in place. "We've said this before – the issue is best resolved by the interested parties not by a third party," Kenneth Bandler, AJC communications director, told the Jerusalem Post. "It's not going to be helpful for an arm of the U.S. government to lay in with a resolution declaring genocide."

State Dept. rejects Armenian calls

In a related development, President George W. Bush's administration said Wednesday that it remained opposed to congressional moves to qualify the Armenian killings as genocide.

State Department spokesman, Gonzalo Gallegos, said Washington's policy on the matter remained in place.

"We mourn the victims of the tragic events of 1915, call on Turks and Armenians to come to terms with the past through candid and heartfelt dialogue, and we oppose attempts to make political determinations on the terminology of this tragedy," he said.

But despite the administration's opposition, the genocide resolution pending in the House may be brought to a floor vote and pass any time after Congress returns from recess in early September. The measure now has the backing of 225 lawmakers in the 435-seat House.

Top Turkish officials have warned that any Armenian genocide bill's passage in Congress will greatly damage U.S.-Turkish relations in a lasting way.

Analysts said that the Armenians, while inching toward their key objective of winning congressional genocide recognition, are also seeking maximum publicity and a moral high ground through support from the Jews, victims of the Holocaust.

Source: http://www.turkishdailynews.com.tr/article.php?enewsid=81646