American Jewish Committee

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In an August 2007 blog post, the American Jewish Committee's executive director, David Harris, wrote that while he could not escape the conclusions of credible experts that the 1915 events were in fact "genocide," he argued, as Ankara does, that Turkish and Armenian historians should review the record and seek common ground.

Obama Criticized By U.S. Jewish Group

Emil Danielyan

23.04.2015

An influential Jewish-American lobby group has criticized U.S. President Barack Obama’s decision to again avoid publicly using the word genocide to honor some 1.5 million Armenians massacred by the Ottoman Turks.

In that regard, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) also commended Pope Francis and the European Parliament for reaffirming their recognition of the Armenian genocide last week.

“We regret that the U.S. has indicated, at least as of now, that it will not recognize the Armenian genocide during commemoration events this week,” the AJC executive director, David Harris, said in a statement on Wednesday. “This decision is particularly troubling in light of President Obama’s remarks (as a senator) in 2008, when he spoke poignantly about the Armenian genocide.”

“As we know from our own Jewish experience, no country of good will should succumb to political pressure -- in this case, by Turkey -- when confronted with a question of moral integrity and historical accuracy. We hope that the U.S. will reverse its announced decision, and publicly acknowledge this atrocity by its rightful name -- genocide,” added Harris.

The Armenian Assembly of America, which has been campaigning for genocide recognition along with other U.S.-Armenian groups, welcomed the statement. “The Armenian Genocide was the ghastly precursor to the Holocaust and is a tragedy that unites the Armenian and Jewish people,” its executive director, Bryan Ardouny, said.

Harris’ statement underscored recent years’ change in the AJC’s position on the genocide issue. The AJC as well as other Jewish-American organizations had for decades opposed U.S. recognition of the genocide in view of Turkey’s geopolitical significance to Israel. Some of them even helped Turkey block pro-Armenian resolutions in the U.S. Congress.

In 2007, the Jewish group Anti-Defamation League (ADL) declared that the Armenian massacres “were indeed tantamount to genocide” after weeks of controversy in which critics questioned whether an organization dedicated to remembering Holocaust victims could remain credible without acknowledging the genocide.

Israel’s government is facing similar criticism from a growing number of Israeli politicians and pundits. In what may have been a response to that criticism, it has decided to send a delegation of two Israeli lawmakers to Friday’s official ceremonies in Yerevan to mark the 100th anniversary of the genocide.

The Associated Press reported on Wednesday that the low-level delegation is under strict instructions to refer to the 1915 slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians as a "national tragedy," rather than "genocide." Nevertheless, one of its members, Nachman Shai, said it is time for Israel to acknowledge that genocide took place in the Ottoman Empire.

"In foreign policy, there are interests and there are values," Shai told the news agency. "In this case I think values should trump interests. As Jews, we must recognize it."

Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin is also known as a supporter of Armenian genocide recognition. According to TheTower.org, Rivlin reaffirmed his view on the subject at a closed meeting with journalists in Jerusalem last week. “The Nazis used the Armenian genocide as something that gave them permission to bring the Holocaust into reality,” he said, according to the publication.