Jewish Defense League Demands Recognition of Armenian Genocide

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Jewish Defense League Demands Recognition of Armenian Genocide

By Harut Sassounian

Publisher, The California Courier

Last month, in a column criticizing the willingness of the American Jewish Committee to serve the interests of Turkey, I emphasized that there were countless other Jewish organizations and individuals who sided with the Armenians.

In response to that column, I received a strong letter from the Jewish Defense League (JDL) confirming my opinion that it is important for Armenians to distinguish between Jewish groups serving Turkey’s interests and those backing the Armenians.

The JDL is a well-known activist organization that champions various Jewish causes and supports the interests of the State of Israel. The JDL also defends the truth about the Armenian Genocide.

Here is the full text of the JDL letter, dated Feb. 22, 2005:

“I read with great interest your editorial ‘American Jewish Group to Lobby for Turkey’s EU Membership.’ I believe you should have mentioned the Jewish organizations that demand not only Turkey’s but also the world’s recognition of the Armenian Genocide. Additionally, I respectfully ask that you include the Jewish Defense League on that list.

“My late husband, Irv Rubin, who was the international chairman of the Jewish Defense League, always observed April 24 in solidarity with the Armenian people. During our marriage of 22 years that ended with his 2002 untimely death, I heard Irv say countless times, ‘If the world had taken notice of what the Turks did to the Armenian people, the Holocaust would not have happened.’

“If I can be so forward as to give advice, I would say to the American Armenian community: People will not remember the Armenian Genocide unless Armenians make them remember it. Just as the Jewish community raised great amounts of money in order to erect buildings and monuments so the world would never forget, the Armenian community has a responsibility to commemorate their tragedy in the same way. As the philosopher George Santayana so beautifully stated, ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ ”

The above letter was signed by Shelley Rubin, the Administrative Director of the Jewish Defense League (website email :

In a subsequent e-mail exchange, Mrs. Rubin asked that JDL’s name be added to the long list of organizations co-sponsoring the congressional resolution on the Armenian Genocide.

Mrs. Rubin was outraged, however, when she found out that John Evans, the US Ambassador to Armenia, was forced by his Turkophile superiors to issue a clarification, thus withdrawing his use of the term Armenian Genocide. She suggested that tens of thousands of Armenian-Americans and others converge on Washington, D.C., on April 24 to hold a mass demonstration, demanding that the Bush administration stop playing childish word games with the Armenian Genocide and call this monstrous Turkish crime by its proper name - genocide!

Reacting to this offensive clarification, Cong. Frank Pallone, Jr., the co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, defended Amb. Evans in his speech on the floor of the House of Representatives. Cong. Pallone reminded the Bush administration that President Reagan himself used the term Armenian Genocide in 1981. While the genocide was still in progress, another ambassador, the U.S. envoy to Turkey, Henry Morgenthau, described the barbaric Turkish actions as “a campaign of race extermination.”

Nine major Armenian-American organizations sent a joint letter to Pres. Bush last week, calling on him to use the term Armenian Genocide as Pres. Reagan and Amb. Evans had done. A similar letter, signed by a large number of House members, is being sent to Pres. Bush.

Meanwhile, deepening the crisis between the Bush Administration and Armenians worldwide, Amb. Evans was forced by his superiors “to correct” his original statement for a second time. He amended his earlier clarification: “although I told my audiences that the United States policy on the Armenian Genocide has not changed…” to read “although I told my audiences that the United States policy on the Armenian tragedy has not changed….” The Turkish press quickly claimed a second victory by reporting that the State Department had made the correction, complying with the request of Faruk Logoglu, Turkey’s Ambassador to Washington.

It is appalling to see how callous Bush administration officials are in undermining the credibility of one of their best diplomats, just to cater to Turkish dictates.

Fortunately, the former U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, Harry Gilmore, rose to the defense of his colleague, by telling Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty this week that he concurs with Amb. Evans. “The Armenian events were genocide…. From my thorough study of the events of that period, I am persuaded that they do indeed constitute a genocide,” Gilmore said.

Another positive development was a report in the Turkish press this week, that Turkey’s then president Turgut Ozal, during his official visit to Washington in 1991, entertained the thought of recognizing the Armenian Genocide. Nuzhet Kandemir, the former Turkish Ambassador to the United States, told the Hurriyet newspaper that President Ozal asked him: “This Armenian Genocide issue is becoming a big headache for us. If, as Turkey, we recognized this genocide, and ended this thing, wouldn’t that be better?”

It is noteworthy that Pres. Ozal used the words “Armenian Genocide,” without any qualifiers. Even though Amb. Kandemir reported that he was able to convince Pres. Ozal not to make any rash decisions on this issue, it is clear that Turkish officials are realizing the inevitability of their recognition of the Armenian Genocide. The sooner they do it, the better for Turkey’s prospects for joining the European Union and its acceptance into the ranks of civilized nations!

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