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Conference of Presidents considering genocide resolution

One day after two major organizations publicly declared the Ottoman Empire’s slaughter of Armenians a genocide, the Jewish community’s main umbrella body on Israel affairs is debating whether or not to take a position on the issue and a related congressional resolution.

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations held a conference call early Wednesday to discuss adopting a position. The call came a day after the Anti-Defamation League dramatically reversed its own stance, using the genocide term to describe the massacres. Also on Tuesday, the executive director of the American Jewish Committee, David Harris, took a similar step in a piece on the Web site of The Jerusalem Post.

Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice-chairman of the Conference of Presidents, confirmed that member organizations were discussing the matter. Sources said that during the conference call, the ADL’s national director, Abraham Foxman, defended his organization’s new position.

Despite their public statements on Tuesday, both the ADL and the AJC continue to oppose a proposed congressional resolution that would declare the massacres a genocide. Foxman has cited concerns about harming Israeli-Turkish relations and the security of the Jewish community in Turkey. Harris dismissed those worries, but says a congressional resolution could end up hurting U.S. strategic interests and its ties with Turkey, which adamantly rejects the genocide label.

Morton Klein, the president of the Zionist Organization of America, told JTA that his organization thinks that it is “imperative for Jews to acknowledge the truth of the Turkish genocide against Armenians, notwithstanding Turkey’s relationship with Israel.” He also voiced support for the congressional resolution.

“Acknowledging that truth of a century ago doesn’t indict the present Turkish people or the present Turkish government, just like acknowledging the Holocaust doesn’t indict the present German people or the present German government,” Klein said. He added: “It’s high time for Turkey to acknowledge that truth of history and move on.”

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