08/29 Turkish Daily News: US Jewish group sticks to 'Armenian genocide' recognition

US Jewish group sticks to 'Armenian genocide' recognition
Wednesday, August 29, 2007

'We will not hesitate to apply the term genocide in the future,' says the ADL's Foxman

WASHINGTON - Turkish Daily News

The U.S. Jewish group Anti-Defamation League has confirmed its commitment to the recognition of World War I-era Armenian killings in the Ottoman Empire as genocide, shortly after its top official sent a letter to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, expressing his organization's "deep sorrow" for causing pain to Turkey's leaders and people.

In a controversial shift in position last Tuesday, the ADL's National Director Abraham Foxman announced that his group had come to the understanding that the Armenian killings "indeed were tantamount to genocide." But he added the ADL remained opposed to efforts to pass genocide resolutions in the U.S. Congress, saying such moves would be counterproductive.

The ADL's move was a huge disappointment for the Turkish government and caused public anger, prompting Foxman to send a letter to Erdoğan Friday, voicing his wish for the continuation of good relations with Turkey.

"I am writing to you at this very difficult time to express deep regret for any pain we have caused to you and the Turkish people in these past few days," Foxman said in the letter provided by the ADL to the Turkish Daily News. "It was certainly not our intent to hurt or embarrass the Turkish people and their leaders."

But in a Monday article published by The Jewish Advocate, a Jewish weekly newspaper serving the greater Boston area, he said that the ADL will stick to the term genocide in reference to the Armenian killings.

'Congressional resolutions counterproductive'

"While 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, we will not hesitate to apply the term genocide in the future," Foxman said.

He referred to the ADL's contacts with Turkish Jews and the group's larger moral foundations in explaining the new position.

"We have heard repeatedly from [the Turkish Jewish community's] leaders how concerned they are about the impact of American Jewish involvement in efforts to label as genocide Turkish actions against Armenians during World War I... For us, as a Jewish defense organization, such concern cannot go unheeded," he said.

"Still, we had a dilemma. As an organization committed to educating people on the dangers not only of anti-Semitism but of hatred of all kinds, we could not ignore the terrible tragedy that befell Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire," Foxman said. "And we have not. In meetings with high-level Turkish officials, we have pressed them to come to grips with the past and speak about what happened. We have done that again and again and we will continue to do so," he said.

He added: "We think the Turkish government should address the moral implications of its history with the Armenians, particularly because Turkey occupies the critical spot in the great struggle of our time, the effort to see a moderate Islamic model triumph over Islamic extremism."

Turkey seeking Israel's help

The recognition of the Armenian killings as genocide was the right move, Foxman said.

"As long as the ADL is an organization committed first to the safety and security of the Jewish people, we cannot in good conscience ignore the well being of 20,000 Jews in Turkey," he said. "We will, however, continue to push the Turkish government in the right direction."

In an effort to prevent a spillover to other U.S. Jewish groups, Turkey has been urging Israel to use its influence on them.

"Israel should not let the [U.S.] Jewish community change its position. This is our expectation and this is highly important, highly important," Namik Tan, Turkey's ambassador to Israel, was quoted as saying by the Jerusalem Post Monday.

An Armenian genocide resolution pending in the U.S. House of Representatives, Congress' lower chamber, 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 226 lawmakers in the 435-seat House.

Controversial official reinstated

In a related development, the ADL has reinstated its New England regional director a week after he was fired for publicly saying the group should change its national policy by recognizing the Armenian genocide claims, the Associated Press reported.

Andrew Tarsy got his job back Monday after talks with Foxman.

Foxman said in an interview with The Boston Globe Monday that he and Tarsy "see eye to eye" after talks held over the last week. "And after our conversation, I decided to take him back, to reinstate him. And I'm delighted he's back."

Tarsy's firing came at a time when the ADL had not recognized the genocide claims.

The ADL's regional board had unanimously asked Foxman to bring Tarsy back.

Foxman, in his last Tuesday statement, admitted that the ADL's shift in position had also stemmed from an effort to prevent disruption of Jewish unity.

Israeli Foreign Minister calls Gül

Meanwhile Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni called Abdullah Gül on Monday to reiterate Israel's support, the Turkish Daily News learned. Lvini said Israel will continue to do its utmost so that the American Jewish organizations' stance remained unchanged despite the statement of the ADL, according to diplomatic sources. Israeli President Shimon Perez and PM Erdoğan spoke on the phone last week, the former pledging that he will step in to ask the ADL to reverse its position. Perez talked to ADL's National Director Foxman, who then send a letter to Prime Minister Erdoğan expressing sorrow.

Source: http://www.turkishdailynews.com.tr/article.php?enewsid=82022