Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Turkish Jews Protest Anti-Defamation League on Armenia

From the Jerusalem Post:
Turkey's small Jewish community has come out against the Anti-Defamation League's new policy position that the massacre of Armenians during World War I was "tantamount to genocide." Silvio Ovadio, head of the Jewish community in the country, issued a statement saying, "We have difficulty in understanding" the ADL's new position on the matter, the Turkish media reported on Thursday. The ADL position only reflected the opinion of "related institutions of the American Jews," the statement emphasized. "We declare that we are supporting Turkey's belief that the issue should be discussed at the academic level by opening archives of all related parties and that parliaments are not the places for finding out historical facts via voting‚" the statement read. The Turkish press also published a letter from prominent Turkish Jewish businessman Jak Kamhi to Foxman on Thursday. In his letter, Kamhi said that "by accepting this false comparison between the uniquely indisputable genocide for which the term was coined - the Holocaust, and the events of 1915, the ADL has committed an act of the most inexplicable injustice against the memory of the victims of the Holocaust, as well as against the sensitivities and pride of the Turkish people, who deserve your praise for their centuries-long tradition of compassion and their culture of humanity and cohabitation that remains an example to the world." Kamhi took issue with Foxman's assertion that there was a consensus among historians that the massacre was tantamount to genocide, saying there was no such agreement.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), under pressure from Turkey and Israel, has struggled with its position on 1915 for some time now. In 2007, the ADL moved to recognize 1915 as "genocide," only to reverse itself shortly later. ADL's most recent change in position has divided the organization, and sparked a firestorm in the United States at a time when the American Jewish community and the powers that be are equivocating on what before has been firm opposition to genocide recognition.

According to the U.S. Department of State's International Religious Freedom Report, there are approximately 23,000 Jews livining in Turkey. The population used to be larger, but several Jews left Turkey following the Second World War and the creation of Israel, as well as the Turkish Republic's infamous 1942 passage of the "Wealth Tax," which largely targeted the money of Jews and other minorities that had up to the time controlled a significant share of the wealth in the new Turkish Republic.

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