The Anti-Defamation League’s reversal last week of its position on the Armenian genocide has set off a flurry of diplomatic activity in Turkey and Israel.
Officials in Ankara and Jerusalem, in coordination with American Jewish leaders, were working this week to contain the fallout from the ADL’s statement, which recognized the World War I massacres of Armenians by Ottoman Turks as “tantamount to genocide.”
Jewish leaders warned that recognizing the genocide, as Congress is now considering, could undermine American strategic interests in the Middle East and Turkey’s robust military and economic partnership with Israel. Also deemed at risk was the security of Turkish Jewry, which sent a letter earlier this year opposing a congressional resolution on the matter.
Nabi Sensoy, Turkey’s ambassador in Washington, told JTA that his government was strongly opposed to any congressional action, but that the Turkish Jewish community had nothing to fear in any case. Sensoy was less sure that Turkey’s relations with Israel and the United States would survive a resolution unscathed.
“I cannot really dismiss that if this resolution does pass that there will be certain impacts on certain relationships,” Sensoy said. “There is no doubt about it.”
Of those raising the specter of reprisals against Turkish Jewry, Sensoy said, “I’m very disturbed to hear this kind of remark coming from anywhere. They seem to be forgetting the history of Turks and Jews, which goes back at least 500 years. We’ve always had the best of relations between Turks and Jews and the Turkish Jewish community is part and parcel, and an integral part, of the Turkish community.”
On Sunday, the ADL released a second statement reiterating its support for a joint Turkish-Armenian commission to investigate the matter — a move Turkey supports — and its opposition to a resolution in Congress. Foxman also wrote to Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, “to express regret for any pain we have caused to you and the Turkish people in these past few days.”
In Turkey, those steps were seen as backtracking. Erdogan said the ADL had rectified its “mistake,” according to the Turkish Daily News. Sensoy said he felt the ADL had reversed itself again and that its current position reflected a more “balanced situation.” “We are expecting the American Jewish organizations to be neutral about this,” Sensoy said. “Although we’re aware of the fact that this is a very sensitive issue for the Israeli people and the Jewish community, what we have to seek is the truth.”
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