Coalition Describes ‘Historical Commission’ as a Turkish ‘Ploy’ to Advance Ankara’s Denial
BOSTON, Mass.—A broad coalition of Boston-area Jewish and Armenian groups and community members launched a campaign this week urging U.S. officials to stand up to Turkey’s multi-million dollar campaign of genocide denial, specifically calling on Congress and President Obama to officially recognize the Armenian Genocide, reported the Armenian National Committee of Massachusetts (ANC-MA).
The Coalition to Recognize the Armenian Genocide’s online petition declares, “We believe universal human rights and historical truth must guide American foreign policy.”
“This initiative is important because it demonstrates how on a grassroots level, in both the Jewish and Armenian communities, there is a demand for justice for the Armenian Genocide,” said ANC member and coalition co-chair Laura Boghosian. “It is vital that the powerful in Washington, whether they are in the State Department or in lobbying organizations, realize that they will be called to task when they sacrifice principle and historical truth for political expediency.”
The online petition, hosted on change.org—a prominent activism portal created following the election of President Obama—provides a simple form to take action, as well as a link to resources and background on the Armenian Genocide, Turkey’s denial of that crime against humanity, and why denial of the Armenian Genocide endangers everyone.
The petition’s letter to members of Congress and President Obama states, “As we confront the specter of genocide and its denial in the 21st century, our government has a duty to ensure that the lessons of the past are not forgotten. The time is long overdue for the United States to stand up to Turkish pressure and join the 43 individual U.S. states and numerous countries and international bodies that have affirmed the Armenian Genocide.”
The campaign draws special attention to international condemnation of Turkey’s calls for a “historical commission” regarding the Armenian Genocide—most recently incorporated in the Turkey-Armenia protocols. Genocide scholars have long expressed skepticism about any initiative calling for a “historical commission.”
“Because Turkey has denied the Armenian Genocide for the past nine decades, and currently under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code, public affirmation of the genocide is a crime, it would seem impossible for Turkey to be part of a process that would assess whether or not Turkey committed a genocide against the Armenians in 1915. Outside of your government, there is no doubt about the facts of the Armenian Genocide, therefore our concern is that your demand for a historical commission is a political sleight of hand designed to deny those facts,” noted a November 2009 letter signed by seven former presidents of the International Association of Genocide Scholars (Helen Fein, Roger W. Smith, Frank Chalk, Joyce Apsel, Robert Melson, Israel W. Charny, and Gregory Stanton).
The coalition is an outgrowth of a dialogue between members of the Boston-area Jewish and Armenian communities that was initiated by Rabbi Howard L. Jaffe of Temple Isaiah, Lexington, Mass., in reaction to the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) lobbying for the Turkish government against affirmation of the Armenian Genocide. Rabbi Jaffe first advocated recognition of the Armenian Genocide in October 2007, when he told the New York Times that he must do what is “right and righteous.” In 2008, he co-authored an article with Boghosian that condemned the ADL’s lobbying and called upon the Jewish community to join in efforts to recognize the Armenian Genocide. He also invited the local Armenian community to participate in a joint Genocide-Holocaust commemoration at the temple, inviting Dr. Richard Hovannisian to speak on the parallels between the Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust.
Joining Rabbi Jaffe and Boghosian on the steering committee of the dialogue group were Rabbis Ronne Friedman and Elaine Zecher of Temple Israel in Boston, ANC member Dikran Kaligian, and Temple Isaiah members Howard Cohen and Alan Millner.
Individuals and activists representing a impressive collection of Boston-area anti-genocide and community organizations signed on and participated in dialogue meetings over the past year.
The effort was supported by the ANC-MA, the Armenian American Action Committee of Massachusetts (ARAMAC-MA), and Investors Against Genocide, a broad-based coalition formed as a result of the grassroots “No Place for Denial” campaign spotlighting the ADL’s denial of the Armenian Genocide. Although the ADL has stated that the death of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Turkish government was “tantamount to genocide,” it continues to aggressively lobby against U.S. affirmation of that crime against humanity. Complete details of the campaign can be viewed a www.noplacefordenial.org.
To sign the petition, visit http://www.change.org/actions/view/tell_congress_to_recognize_the_armenian_genocide.
To learn more about the initiative and the Armenian Genocide, visit http://www.recognizearmeniangenocide.org.