American Jewish Congress Honors
Turkish Leader Who Denies Genocide
By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier
The American Jewish Congress (AJC) honored Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Prime
Minister of Turkey, with its "Profiles in Courage" award during a luncheon
held in New York City on January 26.
The Prime Minister of Turkey arrived in New York on January 25 for a six-day
visit that included a three-hour meeting with Pres. Bush at the White House
on January 28. A group of congressmen sent a joint letter to Pres. Bush
urging him to press Erdogan to lift the blockade of Armenia. In addition,
the ANCA set up a WebFax message calling upon Pres. Bush to request that
Turkey recognize the Armenian Genocide. The congressional letter made no
such request, considering the fact the White House itself opposes the
recognition of the Genocide. Nevertheless, the ANCA's request on the
Genocide is useful, as it would pressure Pres. Bush to push other issues
important for Armenia, such as the lifting of the blockade.
Upon learning that the AJC was planning to honor Erdogan, the American
Hellenic Institute and the Armenian National Committee of America sent last
week a joint letter to the AJC expressing their "profound disappointment."
The Greek and Armenian American organizations pointed out that "Erdogan is
the Prime Minister of a nation with among the world's worst records on
torture, human rights, and jailing journalists. His government occupies over
a third of the independent country of Cyprus and has consistently blocked a
peaceful Cyprus resolution. The Turkish government, under his leadership,
actively and openly pressures the United States, Israel, and other nations
to deny the Armenian Genocide.... Mr. Erdogan's government also blockades
humanitarian aid to Armenia; places unfair restrictions on Turkey's
Christian communities, and commits ethnic cleansing against and denies the
most basic rights of its Kurdish population. These are not the actions of a
leader who deserves the praise of the American Jewish Congress.... We cannot
believe that your decision to honor Mr. Erdogan reflects the views of the
mainstream Jewish American community."
To support their assertion that the leaders of AJC are out of step with most
Jewish Americans, the AHI and ANCA cited the fact that 20 other Jewish
American groups are supporting a congressional resolution that mentions not
only the Armenian Genocide, but also the Holocaust, as well as the Rwandan
and Cambodian genocides. The AJC, on the other hand, "despite both personal
and written appeals," has failed to do so. It is incredible that a major
Jewish American group would not support a congressional resolution that
mentions the Holocaust just because it also mentions the Armenian Genocide!
Clearly, some American Jewish groups are much more sensitive to Israel's
relations with Turkey than taking a proper position on the Armenian
Genocide! The leaders of AJC are obviously free to pursue their
self-perceived or rather misperceived interests, at the expense of others
who have been the victims of genocide -- a fate not unlike the one suffered
by the Jews under the Nazis! The AJC should be made aware, however, that its
callous attitude towards the Armenian Genocide causes serious pain to all
Armenians and damages long-term Jewish-Armenian relations around the globe!
How would the leaders of the AJC have reacted if a major Armenian American
group in New York had honored the leader of a neo-Nazi group that denied the
Holocaust? Would any Jewish American group show any understanding, if told
that it is in Armenia's strategic interest to cultivate good relations with
Germans? Armenian Americans react with similar indignation and outrage when
a Jewish group honors a Turkish leader who denies the facts of the Armenian
Just two days before the AJC honored Erdogan, he had
met with the President
of Switzerland and shamefully distorted the facts of the Armenian Genocide
by saying, "both Armenians and Turks died during the events in that period
and the issue should be left to historians." Regrettably, such statements do
not seem to bother the leadership of the AJC. When I asked the President of
AJC, Jack Rosen, why his group was honoring Erdogan, I received the
following nonsensical answer: "because Turkey is a country that exemplifies
the possibility of a democratic Moslem future." This award, rather than
honoring Erdogan, besmirches the reputation of the American Jewish Congress.
Those who wish to express their opinion on this issue, can write to: Mr.
Jack Rosen, President, American Jewish Congress, 15 East 84th Street, New
York, NY 10028; or e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org. The letter writers
should be mindful that many Jews disagree with the position taken by the
AJC. Therefore, critical comments should be specifically directed to the AJC
rather than Jews in general. Otherwise, Armenians would be alienating the
many righteous Jews who recognize the Armenian Genocide and are themselves
ashamed of the Jewish and Israeli leaders who deny the Genocide.