By Khatchig Mouradian
WATERTOWN, Mass. (A.W.)—On Aug. 23, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) released a statement that reiterated its objection to the Armenian Genocide Resolution pending in Congress and continued to ambiguously recognize the Armenian genocide by calling “for further dispassionate scholarly examination of the details of those dark and terrible days.”
“The force and passion of the debate today leaves us more convinced than ever that this issue does not belong in a forum such as the United States Congress,” the statement read.
“We must encourage steps to create an atmosphere in which Armenia will respond favorably to the several recent overtures of Turkey to convene a joint commission to assist the parties in achieving a resolution of their profound differences,” it continued.
Several genocide and Holocaust experts expressed outrage over the idea of convening with Turkish state historians who have made a career out of denying and trivializing the Armenian genocide. When Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested the idea of a “joint commission” a few years ago, the International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS) sent an open letter to Erdogan saying, “We are concerned that in calling for an impartial study of the Armenian Genocide you may not be fully aware of the extent of the scholarly and intellectual record on the Armenian Genocide. … We want to underscore that it is not just Armenians who are affirming the Armenian Genocide but it is the overwhelming opinion of scholars who study genocide: hundreds of independent scholars.”
Genocide and Holocaust scholars in the U.S. and Europe, contacted by the Armenian Weekly today, harshly criticized the ADL’s statement as well as its hypocritical approach to the Armenian genocide in general.
“ADL is getting into the issue a bit late to be of any substance," said Dr. Stephen Feinstein, director of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the University of Minnesota. "Furthermore, by Foxman saying there was a need to protect the Turkish-Jewish community, the question is, protect from what if they have lived as a loyal minority for 500 years? This suggests that the ADL is missing the point and cannot be part of the discourse,” he added.
“A commission now would be a disaster. The Turkish state must make clear that they have a very strong intention to resolve this issue. The rhetoric of the Turkish authorities is not conducive of a solution. As long as people like Yusuf Halacoglu—a very radical, nationalist, even racist historian—Gunduz Aktan and Sukru Elekdag give the tone for the policy of Turkish government, I don’t think that you can reach any result from a commission,” said Turkish-born historian and sociologist Taner Akcam, author of A Shameful Act: The Armenian genocide and the Question of Turkish responsibility. “For them the commission would be the continuation of the war they are waging against the Armenians, whom they consider as the enemy,” he added.
“We don’t need a historical commission. We need historians to have completely free and open access to the archives in Turkey so scholars and anyone else can research, write and talk about this history without fear of intimidation,” said Professor Eric Weitz, author of A Century of Genocide: Utopias of Race and Nation. “That is the key issue: free and open debate without intimidation from the state and from anti-democratic organizations that are allowed to operate with the tacit support of the state.”
“Furthermore, not the regional ADL leader [Andy Tarsy] but Abraham Foxman should be fired," Weitz added. "He should have been fired a long time ago for many other statements and comments in addition to his long-standing refusal to recognize the Armenian genocide.”
“I’m entirely in agreement with Eric Weitz on the access [to archives] and free debate,” said Dr. Donald Bloxham of the University of Edinburgh who was recently awarded the 2007 Raphael Lemkin prize for his book The Great game of Genocide: Imperialism, Nationalism and the Destruction of the Ottoman Armenians.
“And I reject the silly commission idea,” Bloxham added.