Expressing sadness over an influential US Jewish group's labeling of the World War I killing of Anatolian Armenians as genocide, Turkey's Jewish community stressed Wednesday that they supported Ankara's view that the issue should be discussed at the academic level by opening all historical archives in the relevant countries.
The New York-based Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on Tuesday reversed its longtime policy by calling the World War I killing of Anatolian Armenians a genocide -- a change that comes days after the ADL fired a regional director for taking the same position. ADL Director Abraham Foxman's statement that the killings of Armenians by Muslim Turks "were indeed tantamount to genocide" came after weeks of controversy in which critics questioned whether an organization dedicated to remembering Holocaust victims could remain credible without acknowledging the Armenian killings as genocide.
Armenians claim up to 1.5 million of their kinsmen died in a systematic genocide campaign by Ottoman Turks around the time of World War I, but Ankara categorically rejects the label, saying that both Armenians and Turks died in civil strife during World War I when the Armenians took up arms for independence in eastern Anatolia and sided with Russian troops invading the crumbling Ottoman Empire.
"We have difficulty in understanding this immediate change of view," read a statement released Wednesday from the office of Silvio Ovadio, head of the Jewish Community of Turkey. In a letter to Foxman, prominent Turkish Jewish businessman Jak Kamhi said the ADL "committed a very great injustice to the memory and status of the Holocaust, to the people and government of my country, and to all those who continue to share our common vision and struggle for reconciliation and for the avoidance of absolutely unnecessary complications in the relations between our countries.
"By accepting this false comparison between the uniquely indisputable genocide for which the term was coined -- the Holocaust, and the events of 1915, the ADL has committed an act of the most inexplicable injustice against the memory of the victims of the Holocaust, as well as against the sensitivities and pride of the Turkish people, who deserve your praise for their centuries-long tradition of compassion and their culture of humanity and cohabitation that remains an example to the world," Kamhi said. He also emphasized throughout the text that there was no "consensus" among scientists and historians that events of World War I constituted "genocide," contrary to the ADL's conviction that there is.
Two separate resolutions are pending in the US Senate and House of Representatives, urging the administration to recognize the killings 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 is opposed to the resolution, but the congressional process is an independent one. In his message on 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 adhered to the administration policy of not referring to the incident as genocide.
Meanwhile, in his statement posted on the organization's Web site, Foxman noted that the ADL "continues 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."
"We want to emphasize that reports which have yet been aired on Internet sites and which start as 'the Jewish' can be misleading for public opinion and that this view has been reflecting solely 'related institutions' of the American Jews," said the statement from Ovadio's office.
"We declare that, like we have done in the past, we are supporting Turkey's belief that the issue should be discussed at the academic level by opening archives of all related parties and that parliaments are not the places for 'finding out historical facts via voting'," the statement also noted, referring to the fact that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sent a letter to Armenian President Robert Kocharian in 2005, inviting him to establish a joint commission of historians and experts from both Turkey and Armenia to study the events of 1915 in the archives of Turkey, Armenia and other relevant countries around the world.
The Jewish Community of Turkey has meanwhile pledged that it will continue exerting efforts for the protection of the Turkish Republic's interests and positions.
The ADL's policy reversal sparked reactions from the Turkish community living in the US as well from Nurten Ural, president of the Assembly of Turkish American Associations (ATAA), who expressed disappointment over the decision. She said Turks and Armenians both suffered during the war and calling it genocide by the Turks is like being accused of a crime you did not commit, The Associated Press reported on Tuesday.
Ural said many historians do not believe genocide occurred and if the congressional resolution passes it would damage relations with Turkey, which is valued in the West as a friend of Israel in the hostile Middle East and a bulwark against radical Islam.
"This is not a political issue, this is a historical issue and it should be left to the historians," Ural said. "The US needs Turkey and Turkey needs the US in many, many ways. It would be really bad for both countries."
The controversy began in July after Newton resident David Boyajian wrote a local Watertown paper about the ADL's stance and urged the community's "No Place for Hate" program to sever ties with the ADL.
Last week Watertown, home to a large Armenian population, withdrew from the ADL's "No Place for Hate" program to combat hate crimes because of the organization's refusal to call the massacres genocide. Also last week during a meeting on the subject in the town, ADL New England Regional Director Andrew Tarsy was booed by the packed crowd. Later in the week, he changed his position and said he strongly disagreed with the national organization.
The ADL subsequently fired Tarsy after he agreed the killings were genocide.
Last Mod: 23 Ağustos 2007, 12:35
No change in Israel's stance on World War I incidents
The ADL decision prompted the Israeli Embassy in Ankara to issue a written statement on the same issue underlining that there has been no change in Israel's official stance in regards to the incidents during World War I.
"As Jews and as Israelis we are especially sensitive and morally obligated to remember human tragedies, which include the killings that took place among the Armenian population during the latter part of the First World War, in the years 1915-1916, during the last years of the Ottoman Empire. The State of Israel has never denied these horrible events; on the contrary, we understand the intensity of the emotion connected with this matter on both sides, considering the high number of victims and terrible suffering which the Armenian people endured," the embassy noted.
"Yet, notwithstanding this, over the years, the subject, undesirably, has become a loaded political issue between the Armenians and the Turks, and each side has been trying to prove the justice of its claims," the embassy continued.
"The State of Israel, therefore, asks that neither one side nor the other be taken and that no definitions be made of what happened. We hope that both sides will enter into an open dialogue which will enable them to heal the open wounds that have remained for many decades," the statement concluded.
Kamhi: Injustice to memory of Holocaust, Turkish people
In a letter to Anti-Defamation League (ADL) National Director Abraham Foxman, Jak Kamhi, a prominent businessman and a respected member of the Turkish Jewish Community, expressed deep disappointment over the group's decision to uphold Armenian claims of genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Empire. Kamhi also said the ADL has committed an act of the "most inexplicable injustice" against the memory of the victims of the Holocaust, as well as against the "sensitivities and pride of the Turkish people." The full text of Kamhi's letter is as follows: Dear Abe, I write to you concerning the "ADL Statement on the Armenian Genocide" dated Aug. 21, 2007, in which you add the prestige of the ADL to those who, for all sorts of reasons, have long lobbied for acceptance of the much-disputed claim that the historical events in question constituted a "genocide." The purpose of this letter is to explain to you the depth of my disappointment and my foreboding. The Statement's assertion that there is any "consensus" of historians on this matter is absolutely untrue. If there were, this matter would have been closed a long time ago. In fact, reputable and serious historians, having studied the available literature and archival data as professional experts, do not accept that the events of 1915 can properly be described as genocide. Has no one at the ADL read these works? If they had, they would also know that the objectivity of Henry Morgenthau Sr. on this particular question is highly questionable. While I have boundless respect for the inspiring work and courage of Elie Wiesel, I have never been able to reconcile his brilliant defense of the unique nature of the Holocaust -- the very synonym of Genocide -- with the view that the Holocaust might somehow also be comparable to the utterly dissimilar events during the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. In any case, it is clear that both sides can bring forth the names of eminent scholars: this matter cannot be resolved in that manner, because there is no consensus of distinguished experts and historians. I simply cannot understand the rationale for the ADL's action in making a pronouncement on one side of a highly sensitive and delicate matter on which you appear to be either uninformed or uncaring, and why this has been done at this particular time. The massacres and atrocities that undoubtedly occurred in that corner of the collapsing Ottoman Empire at the end of the bloodiest war in human history, are a tragic and unforgettable part of the histories of the all the victims -- Christian Armenians, Muslim and non-Muslim Turks, Kurds and others in an Empire that was after all characterized by centuries of peaceful coexistence of numerous ethnic and religious groups. This tragedy is also part of the history of those powers who provoked, encouraged and armed insurgent groups in order to hasten the chaotic collapse of the Ottoman state that had (as the ADL has a duty to remember) provided sanctuary for Jews expelled or otherwise persecuted in Europe over centuries. Russia, France and Great Britain invaded, gave arms, promises and material support to Armenian nationalist groups and gangs. Contemporary accounts of that time are replete with examples of massacres committed by Kurds against Armenians, and by Armenians against Moslem Turks. Is the ADL not aware of these historical facts? Such chaos and horror marked the ends of other Empires: it was the British who invented the term "concentration camp" in the Boer War; hundreds of thousands were killed in massacres in India and during the Partition. Similar tragedies befell literally millions of people in French and Italian North Africa, in the Belgian Congo, and on every continent in European wars of expansion and colonialism. Rivers of blood have repeatedly flowed in the Balkans. Does the ADL intend to issue Statements and pronouncements declaring all these events as genocides? By accepting this false comparison between the uniquely indisputable genocide for which the term was coined -- the Holocaust -- and the events of 1915, the ADL has committed an act of the most inexplicable injustice against the memory of the victims of the Holocaust, as well as against the sensitivities and pride of the Turkish people, who deserve your praise for their centuries-long tradition of compassion and their culture of humanity and cohabitation that remains an example to the world. If the ADL had listened to wiser and objective counsel, such a terrible mistake could not have been made. I have in the past made strenuous and repeated efforts in writing and in discussions with you and your colleagues, to explain this situation in great detail. One of the documents that we have previously sent is attached once again. It may begin to show the realities of the situation, and the very deep waters that the ADL has now chosen to stir. Your Statement concludes very correctly that congressional resolutions are counterproductive, will hinder the reconciliation between Turks and Armenians that we all desire, will put at risk the Turkish Jewish community and the important multilateral relationship between Turkey, Israel and the United States. It is perfectly clear that this resolution by the ADL will have exactly the same effect, only the degree of damage differs: how could it possibly be otherwise? This Statement will put back the painstaking efforts by many of us in Turkey, including our brothers in the Armenian Community, to resolve this highly emotive issue without prejudgment. It will now be seized upon by all those who seek to destroy all our work and create discord and bitterness between our countries. In time, the ADL may understand and accept that you have committed a very great injustice to the memory and status of the Holocaust, to the people and government of my country, and to all those who continue to share our common vision and struggle for reconciliation and for the avoidance of absolutely unnecessary complications in the relations between our countries. I hope and trust that you will do your utmost to correct the unfortunate situation and perceptions arising from this matter, in continuance of our common efforts to enhance relations between our countries Turkey and the United States of America, and with Israel, based upon our shared vision of hope and humanity for all peoples. Yours Sincerely, Jak V. Kamhi