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Reform Jews Urge Obama to Recognize Armenian 'Genocide'

Reform Jews Urge Obama to Recognize Armenian 'Genocide'
Armenian Genocide memorial in Yerevan, Armenia. (Takepicsforfun/Dreamstime.com)

By    |   Friday, 24 April 2015 12:14 PM

The leader of the Union for Reform Judaism has written President Barack Obama to chastise him for not using the word "genocide" when speaking about Armenians who were murdered a century ago by the Ottoman Empire in Turkey, Haaretz reported.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the union's president, made the call in an open letter he sent to Obama, ahead of the centennial anniversary of what is widely known as the Armenian Genocide.

"Failing to call the slaughter of over 1.5 mission Armenians in the 1915 genocide diminishes the suffering of those who were annihilated," said Jacobs, who according to The Washington Post has spoken out to commemorate the mass killings over the past six years.

Instead, much to the disappointment of Armenians in America, the president, likely concerned about damaging relations with a key NATO ally in the region, described the slaughter as a "massacre," a "terrible carnage," "horrific violence" and a "dark chapter of history," the Post said.

Said Obama: "Beginning in 1915, the Armenian people of the Ottoman Empire were deported, massacred and marched to their deaths. Their culture and heritage in their ancient homeland were erased. Amid horrific violence that saw suffering on all sides, one and a half million Armenians perished."

The White House, reported Haaretz, has pushed back on using the word "genocide" amid fears of harming ongoing relations with Turkey. Obama's National Security Adviser Susan Rice also spoke out, calling on the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu to do more to improve his nation's relationship with the Armenian community and to also encourage more discussions within his country.

Cavusoglu, who was in Washington this week, said the term, if used by Obama, would have a "detrimental effect" on the relationship between the two nations.

In a statement released Thursday, the president expressed his support, Haaretz said. "I have consistently stated my own view of what occurred in 1915, and my view has not changed. A full, frank, and just acknowledgment of the facts is in all our interests."

In his statement, the president relied upon research by Jewish lawyer Raphael Lemkin, who came up with the term "genocide" in 1943, Haaretz said.

Pope Francis, speaking out on the 100th anniversary of the violence, used the word "genocide" in his own remarks, CNN reported. His words prompted Turkey to withdraw its ambassador to the Vatican in a diplomatic kerfuffle.

Groups supporting Armenians have pointed out that Obama pledged in his 2008 campaign to "speak truthfully" about "the Armenian genocide." The then-candidate also said that voters deserved a president who would "speak truthfully" to what happened in 1915, CNN said, noting his flip-flop amid growing tensions in the Middle East.

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The leader of the Union for Reform Judaism has written President Barack Obama to chastise him for not using the word "genocide" when speaking about Armenians who were murdered a century ago by the Ottoman Empire in Turkey, Haaretz reported.
Armenia, Reform Jews, Obama, 1915 genocide, Turkey
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2015-14-24
Friday, 24 April 2015 12:14 PM
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