PRESS KIT: A History of Opposing Recognition of the Armenian Genocide

The following are unedited excerpts from the American, Israeli and Turkish press.


Turkey was so alarmed by a proposed House resolution calling the mass slaughter of Armenians by Turks during World War I a "genocide" that it dispatched its foreign minister to persuade American Jewish leaders to lobby against it.

At a suite at the Willard Hotel in Washington on February 5, Abdullah Gül met with representatives of the Anti-Defamation League, American Jewish Committee, American Jewish Congress, American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Friends of Lubavitch, Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, and United Jewish Communities. According to one participant in the meeting, the Turkish foreign minister "made a hard sell," against House resolution 106, whose short title is "Affirmation of the United States Record on the Armenian Genocide Resolution."

Turkey Up in Arms over House Resolution against Armenian ‘Genocide'
By Eli Lake - The New York Sun
February 22, 2007

The Turkish lobbying has had some effect. B'nai B'rith International, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the American Jewish Committee and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) are set to convey a letter from Turkish Jews who oppose the resolution to U.S. congressional leaders. The ADL and JINSA have added their own statements opposing the bill. "I don't think congressional action will help reconcile the issue," said ADL National Director Abraham Foxman. "The resolution takes a position; it comes to a judgment. "The Turks and Armenians need to revisit their past. The Jewish community shouldn't be the arbiter of that history, nor should the U.S. Congress."

U.S. Jews enter debate on Armenian/Turkish history
By Ron Kampeas - Jewish Telegraphic Agency
April 27, 2007

Four large U.S. Jewish groups have lent support to Turkey's position in opposing the passage of two resolutions pending in Congress that call for official recognition of World War I-era killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as genocide. B'nai B'rith International, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the American Jewish Committee and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) have recently conveyed a letter from Turkish Jews who oppose the resolution to U.S. congressional leaders, officials from the groups told the Turkish Daily News.

In their letter, leading Turkish Jews have urged congressional leaders to postpone considering the genocide measures. In conveying the letter to Congress officials, the four U.S. Jewish groups tacitly agreed to its contents. Going further, the ADL and JINSA have also added their own statements opposing the bill.

Four Jewish groups back Turkey on Armenian genocide
Turkish Daily News
April 26, 2007

Jewish support for the Armenian grievances has not been unanimous. Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank), who represents a large Armenian constituency and has introduced House Resolution 106 calling for U.S. recognition of the 1915 genocide, has sent letters to four Jewish organizations criticizing their positions. The Jewish legislator admonished the American Jewish Committee (AJ Committee), B'nai B'rith International, the Anti-Defamation League and Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), which had jointly transmitted to House leaders a letter from the organized Jewish Community of Turkey.

In his written response, Schiff took the action of the American Jewish organizations as "tantamount to an implicit and inappropriate endorsement of the position of the letter's authors." He added, "I cannot see how major Jewish American organizations can in good conscience and in any way support efforts to deny the undeniable." In a phone interview, Schiff reaffirmed his criticism of the Jewish organizations and surmised that their opposition was influenced by Israel, worried about harming its good relationship with Turkey. "It would be a terrible mistake if the Israeli government became involved in this matter," he said.

The Armenian Genocide Debate Pits Moral Values Against Realpolitik
By Tom Tugend, Jewish Journal
May 4, 2007

Post-August 21, 2007

U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who is the lead sponsor of the congressional resolution, rejected any attempt to connect the controversy to the Israeli-Turkish alliance. "There is no connection between what the U.S. Congress does on this resolution and Israel, unless ADL makes one," Schiff said. The ADL "may end up hurting Israel by bringing Israel into the fight."

Schiff acknowledged that Turkey might be sending such a message to Jewish organizations. But, he added, Jewish groups "should have told Turkey from the beginning, 'We're not involved in this fight, and if we get involved it will be on the side of recognition.' They didn't do that, and now I think they are suffering the repercussions."

[David] Harris, of AJC, dismissed concerns that congressional actions could adversely impact Turkey's Jews or the country's ties to Israel.

Jewish Telegraphic Agency: Under fire, ADL recognizes Armenian killings as genocide
Ben Harris
August 21, 2007

And the final thing the Turks "get" from Israel is access to the Jewish lobby in Washington. Talk candidly to Turkish academics, politicians and journalists and they will say that one of the reasons Israel is valuable to Turkey is because of the ADL, the American Jewish Congress, B'nai Brith and similar organizations. Without a strong lobby of its own in Washington, Turkey looks to these organizations to put in a good word in Congress or with the administration when issues of importance to Ankara - such as issues regarding the Armenians or Cyprus - make their way to those bodies.

Diplomacy: The politics of principles
Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post
August 23, 2007

Foxman said in his letter that the ADL had huge respect for the Turkish people and has never desired to put the Turkish people and their leaders into a difficult situation, expressing deep regret over what the Turkish people had to go through in the past few days since it agreed to recognize the alleged genocide, reversing a long-held policy, the Anatolia news agency said……"The wrong step that has been taken is corrected," said Erdoğan in subsequent comments to reporters. "They said they shared our sensitivity and expressed the mistake they made. … They said they will continue to give us all the support they have given so far," he added.

ADL Corrects ‘Genocide’ Mistake in Letter, Erdoğan Says
Today's Zaman
August 25, 2007

Turkey expects Israel to "deliver" American Jewish organizations and ensure that the US Congress does not pass a resolution characterizing as genocide the massacre of Armenians during World War I, Turkish Ambassador to Israel Namik Tan told The Jerusalem Post Sunday. ...Tan said he understood that Israel's position had not changed, but "Israel should not let the [US] Jewish community change its position. This is our expectation and this is highly important, highly important."... In the eyes of the Turkish people, Tan said, his country's strategic relationship with Israel was not with Israel alone, but with the whole Jewish world. "They [the Turkish people] cannot make that differentiation," he said. Tan said he understood that the American Jewish organizations were just that - American Jewish organizations. But "we all know how they work in coordinating their efforts [with Israel]," he added. The Turkish people "are waiting for this effort on the part of Israel to straighten out, to put this issue in perspective," he said.

While senior Israeli government officials said Sunday that Israel was trying to explain to Turkey that it did not control the American Jewish organizations, Tan did not accept that argument. "On some issues there is no such thing as 'Israel cannot deliver‚'" he said, adding that this was one of those issues. Tan, who served two terms in Washington in the 1990s and worked closely with American Jewish organizations on this issue, said Israel had proven its ability to deliver the organizations on this matter in the past.

Turkey: 'Israel must get US Jews to back down'
Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post
Aug 27, 2007

Meeting with representatives of groups including the Conference of Presidents, the Appeal of Conscience, the Foundation, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Congress, and Bnai Brith International in New York late Wednesday Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan described the genocide claims as baseless. The allegations were not supported by any scientific or historical grounding.

Following the meeting, Abraham Foxman, the National Director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), said that at times there could be disagreement between friends, referring to the League’s had accepted the events of 1915 as being tantamount to genocide. However, Foxman said that the issue should not be the subject of a resolution of the US Congress. “We believe that a matter between Turkey and Armenia related to history should be tackled between the two parties, not in the US Congress or the parliament of any other country,” he said. “This is not a political matter and those in the Congress are not historians.”

Turkish PM meets representatives of US Jewish community
September 27, 2007

Malcolm Hoenlein [executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations] [who] met with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan during last month's UN General Assembly, said, "There is the same commitment on the part of the organized community to support Turkey."

In August, the Jewish-run Anti-Defamation League, facing pressure from grassroots activists, reversed its long-held policy of not recognizing the Armenian genocide when ADL National Director Abraham Foxman declared that what happened to the Armenians was "indeed tantamount to genocide." But Foxman maintained the ADL's position, opposing a congressional resolution on the matter.

Yet despite the [27-21 ] vote, US Jewish groups said they lobbied against the bill - just as they have done in the past. "Behind-the-scenes support [from US Jewish groups] has been quite powerful" in persuading congressmen to oppose the bill, said Cagaptay. It may yet help prevent the bill from being brought to a vote in the full House.

Jerusalem Post: Turkey blames US Jews for genocide bill
Yigal Schleifer
October 23, 3007

The real reason is that in war and peace, Turkey is a critical strategic ally and economic partner of the US and Israel, and the US and Israel do not want to risk upsetting this ally, so, with help in Congress from the ADL, AJC and the like, they enforce the lie that there was no Armenian genocide. Or if there was a genocide, it is not clear who was responsible. Or if it is clear that the Ottoman Empire was responsible, it is not clear that Turkey should inherit the guilt.

A key Jewish argument for continuing this policy of denial is that breaking it would endanger the 20,000 or so Jews of Turkey, whose leaders have warned against crossing their government on this matter. But if Israel and its lobby in Washington really believe this, then they've as much as sentenced the 25,000 Jews in Iran to death, haven't they? Is anyone in the Israeli government or AIPAC suggesting that they lower the volume on Iran for the sake of Iranian Jewry? So the Turkish Jewish community isn't a real reason for denying the Armenian genocide, it's another excuse.

Jerusalem Post: Rattling the Cage: Jews of power, Jews of truth
Larry Derfner
October 31, 2007

Under a longstanding relationship, Jewish organizations have lobbied against legislation undermining U.S.-Turkish relations (ADL Spars with Armenians, Oct. 29). This strengthened U.S.-Turkish strategic ties and Israel's ties with its sole regional ally. It also furthered the well-being of Turkey's 20,000 Jews - living amidst 70 million Muslims - who are protected by their government but menaced by extremists.

Armenian activists deserve respect for preserving the memory of horrors suffered by their ancestors. But there is respectable, if not unanimous, historical literature concluding there was no genocide. I saw evidence in Van, Turkey, of massacres of Muslims by Russian soldiers collaborating with Armenian insurgents.

Jerusalem Report: Letter: ADL and the Turks
Joel J. Sprayregen
(Former National Vice Chair of ADL and a member of the Executive Committee of JINSA)
November 26, 2007


Every year on April 24, the day that Armenians commemorate the killings, a resolution calling for the use of the controversial term is proposed in Congress and then beaten back. Some Jewish groups claim credit for ensuring that such a resolution never passes.

Jewish advocacy groups, including the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, B’nai Brith and American Jewish Committee “have been working with the Turks on this issue” for more than 15 years, said Yola Habif Johnston, director for foundations and community outreach at Jinsa. “The Jewish lobby has quite actively supported Turkey in their efforts to prevent the so-called Armenian genocide resolution from passing,” she said.

Showdown Set in ‘Genocide’ Debate
Rebecca Spence, The Jewish Daily Forward
Sep 02, 2006

On Sunday, in the Armenian capital of Yerevan, the 90th anniversary of the Armenian genocide - the slaughter of at least 1 million Armenian civilians by the Turkish Ottoman regime - will be memorialized.

What does the State of Israel and many of its American Jewish lobbyists have to say about it, about this first genocide of the 20th century? If they were merely standing silent, that would be an improvement. Instead, on the subject of the Armenian genocide, Israel and some US Jewish organizations, notably the American Jewish Committee, have for many years acted aggressively as silencers. In Israel, attempts to broadcast documentaries about the genocide on state-run television have been aborted. A program to teach the genocide in public schools was watered down to the point that history teachers refused to teach it.

In the US Congress, resolutions to recognize the genocide and the Ottoman Turks' responsibility for it have been snuffed out by Turkey and its right-hand man on this issue, the Israel lobby.

Rattling the Cage: Playing politics with genocide
Larry Derfner – The Jerusalem Post
April 21, 2005

The Jewish community in the U.S. and the Israel issue are also entwined in the pressure campaign preventing approval of the resolution. "The community is certainly a player on this issue," said a key Jewish activist in Washington, who like many others involved in the issue, asked to remain off the record. Representatives of Jewish organizations reported "a sense of discomfort," as one described it, when coming to explain their position on the Armenian resolution; on one hand, the Jews as a community are sensitive to the tragedy experienced by the Armenian people, but on the other hand, there are Israel-Turkey relations to consider. "We have always had a level of uncertainty regarding the balance that should be kept between the moral factors and the strategic interests," one Jewish organization official cautiously explained.

Last year, Jewish organizations, primarily the American Jewish Committee (AJC), have been more active in thwarting the resolution acknowledging the Armenian genocide. This year the politicians managed of their own accord and the resolution will be postponed even without the involvement of Jewish organizations. But a central activist in a Jewish organization involved in this matter clarified that if necessary, he would not hesitate to again exert pressure to ensure the resolution is not passed and the Turks remain satisfied. The same activist said he had received numerous requests in the past to work against the Armenian cause in Congress. "The State Department asked us, other people in the administration did, even the Turkish Jewish community asked us to act on this issue," he said. The prevailing opinion among the large Jewish organizations is that "Turkey's relations with the United States and Israel are too important for us to deal with this subject," according to one community activist who was involved in blocking Resolution 193 last year. The more expansive explanation, offered in meetings and discussions, is that "the Armenian genocide is a matter for historians, not for legislators."

The Jewish community's involvement in the issue of the Armenian genocide is affected by the status of Israel-Turkey relations. One senior organizational official related that during the honeymoon years of Turkish-Israeli ties, the Jewish organizations were more enthusiastic about openly helping Turkey thwart previous Armenian-related resolutions in Congress.

Armenian lobbyists are facing a lost cause
Nathan Guttman – Haaretz International
August 12, 2004