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Sunday, September 02, 2007

Jewish lobby changes stance on Armenian genocide

From the Cyprus Weekly:

Jewish lobby changes stance on Armenian genocide

But group stands against Congress resolution

By Philippos Stylianou

THE Anti-Defamation League (ADL), representing the powerful Jewish lobby in America, has taken a sudden, albeit reluctant, step towards recognising the 1915 Armenian genocide by the Turks.

But it stood firmly against a US Congress resolution to that effect, fearing repercussions on the Jewish community in Turkey and on the relations of the United States and Israel with that country.

Although watered down, the ADL move has met with fierce reaction from Ankara with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan complaining to Israeli President Shimon Perez over it.

According to Anatolia news agency, Erdogan said that the ADL had sent him a fax retracting the genocide statement and admitting they had made a mistake in changing their stand on the issue.

"They said that they share our sensitivities in particular on account of this statement regarding us, and they expressed the mistake they had made in the written fax they sent us," Erdogan is said to have told the press.

Confront past

Asked if the retraction would be limited to the facsimile message or the ADL would "declare it to the world", Erdogan said that it had already been posted on the ADL website.

But only the statement on the recognition of the Armenian genocide, dated August 21, 2007, appeared on the ADL webpage and no retraction had been posted on it.

The Cyprus Weekly has sought to clarify the issue with the Israeli Embassy in Nicosia but without success.

In its surprise statement of August 21, the Anti-Defamation League said that they had all along described the 1915-1918 events perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire against the Armenians as massacres and atrocities.

"On reflection – the statement added – we have come to share the view of Henry Morgenthau (US Ambassador to Turkey at the time) that the consequences of those actions were indeed tantamount to genocide. If the word genocide had existed then, they would have called it genocide."

Urging the Turkish nation to "confront its past and work to reconcile with the Armenians over this dark chapter of its history," the ADL concluded as follows:

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

Dramatic U-turn

The development, described as a dramatic U-turn by influential Jewish circles, came only four days after the Anti-Defamation League sacked its New England Regional Director, Andrew H. Tarsy.

According to the website "Ynet - Jewish World", Tarsy blasted the organisation for failing to recognise the Armenian genocide, pointing out that this position was "morally indefensible."

Tarsy’s dismissal caused tension among American Jews and forced the ADL to issue the genocide statement. An ADL official source stated afterwards: "We changed our position and we hope the Turkish government doesn’t take it out on the Jews." The source was also revealing about the position previously held by the Jews on the Armenian genocide issue.

"The ADL has always sought guidance form the Turkish Jewish community, which told us to back the Turkish government on this. So we have always backed Turkey’s stance," the source said.

The Jewish community in Turkey was established 500 years ago and today numbers 27,000 people, of whom 24,500 live in Istanbul. Another 2,400 live in Izmir (Smyrna) from which the total Greek population was expelled or slaughtered in 1922.

The Armenians, one of the ancient indigenous people of Asia Minor along with the Greeks, numbered several million until 1915. Taking advantage of the World War I upheaval ally enemy Turkey proceeded to exterminate more than 1,5 million Armenians through mass deportations, called "death marches", forced labour, executions and other privations

To date, Turkey refuses to admit its responsibility for the genocide, despite calls by Europe and the international community at large.

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