Barry Jacobs, Director of Strategic Studies at the American Jewish Committee (AJC), is retiring from his organization at the end of October. The "good news" was confirmed by an AJC official. The reason I characterize Jacobs’ departure as "good news" is that he has been at the forefront of AJC’s attempts over the years to undermine the adoption of various congressional resolutions on the Armenian Genocide.
Several months ago, I wrote a column calling for Jacobs’ dismissal from AJC because of his long-standing anti-Armenian efforts. Although I am sure that my column had no bearing on his departure, I am pleased that he will not be around any longer to carry out the Turkish government’s denialist directives.
I had called for Jacobs’ dismissal after his infamous public confrontation with Aram Hamparian, the Executive Director of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), on February 21, in Washington, D.C. On that occasion, Jacobs had declared: "We are not historians, which is a polite, bullshit way of saying we’re not going to take responsibility, we are not going to make a decision on 1915. ;The bilateral relationship between the United States and Turkey will suffer greatly if this [Armenian Genocide] resolution is passed. The Jewish community believed that also, and that’s been our position. And the world is not made up of choices between good and bad, at least not in the Foreign Service when I was in it; it’s made up between choices between bad and worse. So we take practical positions, and the position of all the Jewish organizations, including ADL, was not to have a position on the facts of what happened, or not taking a public position on what happened in 1915, we did not think, do not think, that the United States Congress is the place to settle this. And that’s all I can tell you. And that’s the real world and that’s the position of United States Government and of the Government of Israel."
For over 10 years, with the full blessing of his bosses, Jacobs aggressively campaigned to subvert all efforts to bring about the acknowledgment of the Armenian Genocide by the U.S. Congress. In an interview published by the Turkish Daily News on July 29, 1999, he pledged that Jewish organizations would "take an active and vigorous role in being friends of Turkey in the United States;. We will champion to the best of our ability Turkish interests in the U.S. Congress. We will be Turkey’s friends officially in Congress" and work to help get favorable legislation passed, he said.
Speaking more like a paid lobbyist than the representative of a human rights organization, Jacobs shamelessly declared: "We want to work with your [Turkish] Embassy in Washington, the Turkish-American community and Turkey’s many friends and win our battles on Capitol Hill. We want the American people and our leaders to understand what Turkey and its citizens have accomplished. We want our media to accurately reflect Turkey’s importance and achievemen’s. We don’t want those who are not friends of Turkey to have the means to use human rights or other issues against your interests."
Jacobs acknowledged that AJC’s extensive support for Turkey "brought us [Jewish organizations] into open conflict with Greek-Americans and Armenian-Americans. It has been welcomed by the Turkish government, but we have paid a price. The price has been that we have the Greek and Armenian-Americans very angry at us."
Jacobs admitted that his excessively pro-Turkish position had even elicited complaints from many Jewish members of his own organization who asked: "Why are we supporting Turkey, which has a terrible human rights record?"
I have no illusion that Jacobs’ retirement would alter his organization’s pro-Turkish agenda. Nevertheless, the departure of an official, who cultivated extensive contacts with Turkish denialists for more than a decade, would hopefully diminish the effectiveness of AJC’s activities against Armenian issues. A similar situation would occur should Abraham Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), leave his influential position at the ADL.
While it is clear that the departure of a particular AJC or ADL official is not going to change the long-standing pro-Turkish policies of these organizations, it is equally important to recognize that in recent years closer contacts have been established between Armenian and Jewish American leaders and members of their respective communities.
One would hope that those who replace Jacobs and Foxman would reassess their organizations’ questionable stand on the Armenian Genocide and join the growing ran’s of Jewish leaders who sympathize with the tragic history of the Armenian nation and resent being used as a tool to carry out Turkey’s denialist policies.