After meetings in Turkey, Foxman says fallout over 'genocide' flap is 'behind us'

The Turks viewed this as a reversal of the organized Jewish community's position on the issue.

Abe Foxman 224.88 AJ (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Abe Foxman 224.88 AJ
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The controversy and fallout over the Anti-Defamation League's statement last year that Turkish actions toward Armenians during World War I was "tantamount to genocide" is "behind us," ADL National Director Abe Foxman said Monday in Jerusalem, where he arrived from Ankara and a series of meetings with Turkey's leadership. Last August, Foxman - who was in a dispute in the Boston area over the ADL's position on the Turkey-Armenia issue - infuriated Turkish leaders by issuing the following statement: "We have never negated but have always described the painful events of 1915-1918 perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire against the Armenians as massacres and atrocities. On reflection, we have come to share the view of Henry Morgenthau, Sr. (the US ambassador to the Ottoman Empire 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... "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 Turks and Armenians and may put at risk the Turkish Jewish community and the important multilateral relationship between Turkey, Israel and the United States." The Turks viewed this as a reversal of the organized Jewish community's position on the issue, and warned that Turkish-Israeli ties could be harmed if the American Jewish organizations did not work - as they had done in the past - to ensure that the US Congress did not pass a resolution characterizing the massacre of Armenians during World War I as genocide. The legislation was eventually removed from the table after US President George W. Bush, and numerous former secretaries of state and defense, wrote letters saying that passing the legislation would harm American interests. "They were angry," Foxman said of the Turkish response to the ADL's statement last year. "But I think today there is an understanding of where we were, and that we were opposed to Congressional legislation, and that we stood very firm that that was not the way to resolve the issue, and that there is nothing cataclysmic about using the 'genocide' word." Foxman, who met with President Abdullah Gul, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Foreign Minister Ali Babacan and other key government figures, said his message was that the Turks should be "proactive" and try to help today's Armenia as part of an effort to resolve the historic affair. "In the conversations I had with all of them I said there is a need to be proactive, that they need to deal with live Armenians, and strengthen the relationship between Turkey and Armenia, and by strengthening the relations today - frontier issues, opening borders - it will place the historical issue in the background and be much easier to deal with," Foxman said. By the same token, Foxman said that the Armenian community in the US should understand that pressure to use "certain words they want us to use is not going to help one Armenian." Rather, Foxman said, one of the ways the American Jewish community can help the Armenians it to "help convince the Turkish government to normalize relations" with Armenia.