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American Jewish Committee: First Half of 20th Century Was So Long Ago, Who Knows Whether Genocides Took Place?

I've been sent a recording and transcript of a public exchange that took place yesterday between Barry Jacobs of the American Jewish Committee and Aram Hamparian of the Armenian National Committee. It happened at a Washington, DC lecture on Israeli-Turkish … Read More

By / February 22, 2008

I've been sent a recording and transcript of a public exchange that took place yesterday between Barry Jacobs of the American Jewish Committee and Aram Hamparian of the Armenian National Committee. It happened at a Washington, DC lecture on Israeli-Turkish relations. Hamparian takes Jacobs and the AJC to task for its participation in the world's most successful campaign of genocide denial, i.e. Turkey's campaign to deny the systematic murder of over a million Armenians during World War I. (For those tuning in late, The Armenian Genocide was the prototypical genocide in that it compelled Raphael Lemkin, the Polish-Jewish lawyer who coined the term "genocide," to seek ways to criminalize the mass-slaughter of whole communities. The AJC has abetted its denial by actively supporting Turkish efforts to prevent recognition of the genocide.) Jacobs responds by suggesting that the AJC can't hope to say whether the genocide took place, because, jeez, World War I was so long ago! Then he swiftly non sequiturs to the very different argument that it's bad to acknowledge past genocides unless it makes good geopolitical sense. And then he adds that that's not just the position of the AJC, but also the position of "the Jewish community." Well, all I can say is that whoever Barry Jacobs is talking about when he refers to "the Jewish community," their positions are morally bankrupt and a public disgrace to American Jews. Transcript below.

Aram Hamparian, Executive Director of the Armenian National Committee of America: Your efforts to score points in Ankara at the expense of the Armenian Genocide issue is a transparent transaction that, I think, squanders the moral capital of the Jewish community, undermines our collective efforts to fight Holocaust denial, and, if the ADL [Anti-Defamation League] experience of the last few months is any indication, is very far outside of the mainstream of your own community, and it's just so painful to come and hear you echo those same themes again. I just had to share that with you. Barry Jacobs, Director of Strategic Studies of the American Jewish Committee: It's not about the position of the American Jewish Committee and the American Jewish community. It's not about, we are not historians, which is a polite, bullshit way of saying we're not going to take responsibility, we are not going to make a decision on 1915. But the relationship between United States and Turkey, if we want to, I don't know where you are, whether you are right or left, if you're left in the United States and want to get out of Iraq, well, look you at the map, Brits have pulled out of Basra, there are only two ways to get out of Iraq, you have to go south, you have to go north, and if you go north you got to go through Turkey. So the argument that finally persuaded Congress, and I know this is not – I'm looking for a strong enough word – [unintelligible] but, the message was that the bilateral relationship between the United States and Turkey will suffer greatly if this resolution is passed. The Jewish Community believed that also, and that's been our position. And the world is not made up of choices between good and bad, at least not in the Foreign Service when I was in it, it's made up between choices between bad and worse. So we take practical positions, and the position of all the Jewish organizations, including ADL, was not have a position on the facts of what happened, or not taking a public position on what happened in 1915, we did not think, do not think, that the United States Congress is the place to settle this. And that's all I can tell you. And that's the real world and that's the position of United States Government and of the Government of Israel.

UPDATE:

In a comment below, Pilisopa says "The AJC's and ADL's behavior is a reflection of what their membership will tolerate."

Unfortunately, that's the truth. All this will continue until enough members and donors call up these orgs and say, "Please don't waste your time calling me, or mailing me anything, or requesting my donations or support, until you've made the decision to stop supporting this campaign of genocide denial."

For that to happen, we need more people in the Jewish community to understand very clearly what's going on here. I sincerely hope and believe that the March 6 event at UCLA can help make this happen. But we'll see. — Joey

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