Wexler blasted for opposing Armenian genocide resolution
WASHINGTON — It's an issue that is splitting the Jewish community and has entered a South Florida congressional primary: How can a Jewish congressman not recognize the 1915 massacre of possibly 1.5 million Armenian civilians as genocide? The issue was raised Tuesday - recognized by many countries as Armenian Genocide Memorial Day - by Ben Graber, a former state representative and former Broward County mayor who plans to challenge U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler of Delray Beach in next year's Democratic primary.
Graber, who is Jewish and the son of Holocaust survivors, called Wexler an "embarrassment" to the Jewish community for opposing a resolution in the House of Representatives that recognizes the killing and deportation of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire as genocide.
The resolution was sponsored by Rep. Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California who is Jewish. It has been bottled up in the House Foreign Affairs Committee whose chairman is Rep. Tom Lantos - also a Democrat from California who is Jewish and a Holocaust survivor.
Wexler, who is also Jewish and serves as co-chairman of the Congressional Turkey Caucus, said there is debate among historians about whether the killings should be classified as genocide.
"There is no question that hundreds of thousands of Armenians were massacred, that is not debatable," Wexler said, noting that the killings took place during World War I when the Armenian population in the Ottoman Empire sided with the czarist Russians.
"The only question before the Congress is does the Congress have the expertise to make that historical conclusion" that the killings were genocide.
Wexler said his position is in line with that adopted by most major Jewish organizations - including the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee, U.S. presidents of both parties, and the Israeli government.
He said it would be unfair to describe his position or those taken by the Jewish organizations or Israel as being "deniers" of genocide.
The issue has international significance because of Turkey's role as a Western-leaning Muslim country that in recent decades has adamantly denied the killings were genocide. Turkey has made it illegal for its citizens to publicly take that position.
Turkey also is a rare Muslim ally of both the United States and Israel.
"To totally undermine that relationship could be extremely costly for America and Israel," Wexler said.
"I want to make sure we deploy our American troops out of Iraq as soon as possible," Wexler said. "In order to best accomplish that, we need to have cooperation from Turkey." Graber said Wexler and other opponents of the resolution were being "hypocritical." "If it was the Jewish Holocaust that was in question, you can be certain that there would be no question about the facts. There are some things that you just can't deny. You have to say ëyes it happened,' accept it, and go forward." Just as the current generation of Germans blames the World War II Holocaust on the Nazis, Graber said the current generation of Turks should blame the Armenia genocide on the Ottomans.
"This is something that is too important and too big to not recognize for political reasons," he said. "It's an issue of what is right."
Saturday, April 28, 2007
Posted by lukery at 4/28/2007 06:38:00 PM