1917) Letter to Mr Foxman by Omer Engin Lutem, Director, Eraren

Daily Bulletin: Special Issue

We are publishing the following special issue of our Daily Bulletin as a result of an important development. . .

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), one of the most prominent Jewish organizations in the United States, recently issued a statement whereby the events of 1915 were deemed to be “tantamount to genocide.” It appears that the ADL has come under the pressure not only of the Armenian Diaspora, but also of certain Jewish circles within the U.S.

It is the case that this reversal of the ADL’s long-held position on this matter came at a time of uneasy relations between Turkey and Israel. This development surely has not made things any better.

If the Armenian Genocide Resolution (H.Res.106) is adopted any time soon, the Turkish public may hold the Anti-Defamation League accountable which may in turn impair relations between Turkey and Israel. To preclude such a development form taking root, it is essential that the Anti-Defamation League revises its statement of August 21, 2007

On the other hand, the ADL having recently cited that it supports the establishment of a joint commission to assist Turks and Armenians to reconcile differences over their shared past, as well as having made mention of the “Nobel Laureates call for tolerance, contact and cooperation between Turks and Armenians” has been viewed in a postive light.

The letter sent on behalf of the Institute for Armenian Research to the ADL addressing the aforementioned statements is to be found below.

Dear Mr. Foxman,

On August 21, 2007, you issued a statement on behalf of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to the effect that the events of 1915 were tantamount to genocide. However, you have not clarified on what basis the ADL has altered its long-held position in this regard.

Without substantiating this claim by authentic documentary evidence, the statement in question cannot be viewed as grounded in historical truth. Thus, as it presently stands, it appears highly questionable that the ADL’s reversed position is of any benefit to our shared goal of precluding defamation.

It should be recalled that several distinguished scholars of Ottoman history such as Bernard Lewis, Stanford Shaw, Pierre Oberling, Roderic Davison, J.C. Hurewitz, and Justin McCarthy, among many others, have rejected describing what occurred as amounting to genocide. As such, describing the events of 1915 as genocide is a matter which remains highly controversial whereby it differs greatly from the reality of the Holocaust.

Having said that, I would like to emphasize that making statements pronouncing that the events of 1915 amount to genocide, devoid of the substantiation of such allegations, only works to strengthen a legacy of prejudice as opposed to one upholding historical truth. It is for this very reason that I believe the statement issued on behalf of the Anti-Defamation League to the effect that the events of 1915 are tantamount to genocide should be revised.

No doubt, uncritically accepting the view that the events of 1915 constitute genocide will preclude a full and impartial discussion of the issue at hand. In this light I agree that a Congressional resolution to that effect would be a “counterproductive diversion”. I also share in the belief that this would not foster reconciliation between Turks and Armenians, and would seriously impair the relationship between Turkey, Israel and the United States.

However, I contest that such a resolution may put the Turkish Jewish community at risk. Not only are the historic ties between the Turks and Jews profound, but the members of the Jewish community are esteemed citizens of the Turkish Republic. The Jewish community in Turkey continues to thrive, benefiting from all freedoms including the right to freedom of religion. Furthermore, the institutions of the Jewish community are protected by the law of the land .

Addressing the gap in perceptions over how to classify the events of 1915 and the promotion of understanding thereof, can only be fostered by engaging in honest debate and promoting unrestricted academic research. As is known Turkey, with this view in mind, officially proposed to Armenia in April 2005, to establish a Joint History Commission for the purpose of conducting historical research on what occurred prior to and following 1915 by utilizing Turkish, Armenian and third party archives.

Unfortunately, Armenia still has not responded favorably to this proposal. I firmly believe that the materialization of this proposed initiative would foster reconciliation between Turks and Armenians. As such, I welcome your statement of August the 23rd and view it as an important step forward in this regard.

Furthermore, I would like to inform you that upon the initiative of our Institute; 86 Turkish scholars, writers and retired diplomats answered favorably to the “Nobel Laureates call for tolerance, contact and cooperation between Turks and Armenians”. We are presently awaiting a response from the Elie Wiesel Foundation in order to materialize and further this initiative.


Ömer Engin Lütem
Ret. Ambassador
Director of the Institute for Armenian Research


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