Joint Letter Comes in Wake of Official Armenian Government Protest over Statements by Israeli Ambassador Minimizing the Armenian Genocide

February 20, 2002

WASHINGTON, DC – The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) has joined with the American Hellenic Institute (AHI) and the American Kurdish Information Network (AKIN) in expressing their collective reservations regarding a December 18th letter signed by nine major Jewish American organizations praising Turkey unconditionally and calling upon President Bush to provide additional economic and military aid to the Turkish government.

The joint Armenian-Greek-Kurdish letter, dated February 13th, includes a point-by-point response to a series of fundamental errors and important omissions in the letter signed by the nine Jewish American groups. The joint letter points out that the Jewish groups decision to avoid any reference of Turkey’s past genocides and ongoing human rights abuses, “appears to represent a retreat from the Jewish American community’s proud tradition of standing up for human rights, universal values, and the cause of international justice.” It also challenges the assertion by these nine groups that “additional American support for Turkey,” in the form of “debt forgiveness, trade concessions, and/or further International Monetary Fund relief,” will serve either U.S. interests or advance American values.

“In turning a blind eye to Turkey’s genocidal past and ongoing human rights abuses, these organizations are out of step with the Jewish American community’s proud tradition of moral leadership, and, sadly, in sharp contrast to the warm relations that have always characterized the Jewish community’s relations at the grassroots level with Greeks, Armenians, and other minorities,” said Aram Hamparian, Executive Director of the ANCA.

“We are especially disappointed that the representatives of these groups, by advocating so aggressively and uncritically for an unrepentant perpetrator of genocide, threaten to undermine a strong Jewish-Armenian relationship that has endured for thousands of years, and that has, in the past century, been so tragically but also powerfully reinforced by our common experience as victims of genocide, who must now confront the denial of these terrible atrocities.”

The nine Jewish American organizations that cosigned the plea for U.S. assistance to Turkey were: the American Jewish Committee, American Jewish Congress, Anti-Defamation League, B’nai B’rith International, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Hadassah – The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, and Orthodox Union.

The full text of both the letter by Jewish organizations and the collective response by the ANCA and other Greek and Kurdish groups may be found on the ANCA website –

Armenian Foreign Ministry Protests Statements by Israeli Ambassador
In Armenia this week, fallout continued from a highly charged statement by Israeli Ambassador Rivki Kohen in which she downplayed the significance of the Armenian Genocide. During a February 8th press conference in Yerevan, Kohen argued that the “Holocaust was a unique phenomenon, since it had always been planned and aimed to destroy the whole nation. At this stage nothing should be compared with Holocaust.”

The Armenian Foreign Ministry responded to these remarks by issuing a diplomatic note of protest this week arguing that Armenia considers any attempt to reject or belittle the significance of the Armenian Genocide as inadmissible, regardless of the motivation. According to the Armenian government, Armenia has never specific drawn parallels between the Armenian Genocide and the Jewish Holocaust, considering any crime against the human race “unique” with its political, legal, historical, and moral consequences.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry responded to Yerevan’s concerns stating that, “Israel recognizes the tragedy of the Armenians and the plight of the Armenian people. Nevertheless, the events cannot be compared to genocide, and that does not in any way diminish the magnitude of the tragedy.” The Israeli Foreign Ministry, consistent with the Turkish government’s strategy of endlessly deferring judgment on the Armenian Genocide, argued that there was a lack of evidence of the Genocide, stating that, “this issue requires extensive research by a wide spectrum of people and academic dialogue that are based on testimony and proof.”

Turkish/Israeli Lobby Step up Cooperation on Capitol Hill
Meanwhile in the House of Representatives last week, Congressional Turkish Caucus Co-Chairman Robert Wexler (D-FL), introduced legislation “commending the Republic of Turkey and the State of Israel for the continued strengthening of their political, economic, cultural, and strategic partnership and for their actions in support of the war on terrorism.” The legislation, H. Con. Res. 327, introduced on February 12th, currently has six co-sponsors including Representatives Ander Crenshaw, Eliot Engel (D-NY), Mark Foley (R-FL), Tom Lantos (D-CA), James Moran (D-VA), and Ed Whitfield (R-KY).

Rep. Wexler is currently leading a Congressional delegation to Turkey, which is scheduled to meet with Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, Foreign Minister Ismail Cem, Speaker of the Parliament Omer Izgi, and other top Turkish officials. Rep. Wexler also plans on meeting with religious leaders of the Greek, Armenian, and Jewish communities. Joining Wexler on the trip are fellow Congressional Turkish Caucus members Kay Granger (R-TX), Jim Moran (D-VA), Cliff Stearns (R-FL) and Tom Tancredo (R-CO).

Other legislation, H.Con. Res. 265, introduced by Rep. Albert Wynn (D-MD) last November, praises Turkey for its role in the U.S.-led war on terrorism. This resolution currently has 30 cosponsors.


For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Elizabeth S. Chouldjian
Email / Tel: (202) 775-1918
Armenian National Committee of America
888 17th Street, NW, Suite 904, Washington, DC 20006
Tel. (202) 775-1918 * Fax. (202) 775-5648 *
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