Rep. Adam Schiff

US House Passes Armenian Genocide Resolution

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WASHINGTON – House Resolution 296, recognizing the Armenian Genocide and opposing its denial, was accepted by the US House of Representatives by a lopsided majority of 405 to 11 (and 3 present votes) on October 29.

This non-legally binding resolution states that the sense of US policy is to 1) commemorate the Armenian Genocide officially; 2) reject attempts to associate the US government with its denial; and 3) encourage education and public understanding of the facts of this genocide, and its relevance to current crimes against humanity.

The Armenian Genocide is broadly defined in the resolution to include among its victims Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Syriacs, Arameans, Maronites, and other Christians.

Turkey’s recent incursion into Syria against the Kurds seems to have been a final blow to any American support for Turkish genocide denial. The US House also just passed economic sanctions against Turkey, indicating a shift in policy towards Turkey may be occurring, and the genocide resolution was another tool to be used to pressure the latter.

“I think some of us are a little bit annoyed with Turkey, and we want them to know how much annoyed we are,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., told National Public Radio (NPR) last week.

Rep. Eliot Engel

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), according to the Washington Post when asked on October 29 whether President Donald Trump’s green light to Turkey’s Syrian invasion eased the way toward Armenian Genocide recognition, replied, ““There was just an aura of what the Turks could be doing, is engaged again in genocide, by the greenlight that the president gave them. So that was sort of a callback.”

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The House of Representatives passed resolutions on the Armenian Genocide twice previously, in 1975 and 1984, but so far none have gone to the Senate to become law.

Tellingly, according to the NPR article, there are no plans at present to bring a parallel resolution to a Senate vote.

Nonetheless, resolution sponsor and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) declared to the Los Angeles Times that the lopsided vote indicated that “The Turkish lobby has few friends and allies anymore.”

Another longtime supporter, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Northridge), said in the same piece: “It is critical that we counteract Turkey’s genocide denial because genocide denial is the last act of a genocide,” Sherman said. “First, you obliterate a people, then you seek to obliterate their memory, and finally you seek to obliterate the memory of the obliteration.”

Vice chairman of the Democratic Caucus Katherine Clark stated, “If you do not recognize the darkest pages of history, you will never fully learn the lessons that it holds. Today, I am proud to stand with my constituents from Watertown, a thriving Armenian-American community, and support this critical resolution that recognizes the Armenian Genocide.”

No opposition from the US State Department to the resolution has been publicly mentioned, unlike prior instances of lobbying, often at the behest of Turkey.

The two Armenian advocacy organizations in Washington, the Armenian Assembly of America and the Armenian National Committee of America, worked for this resolution while many other non-Armenian organizations also supported it in advance of the vote. The National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) issued a statement which read in part: “From the 4th Century, the Armenian community has been a living and vibrant witness to the Gospel that is at the heart of our shared Christian faith. This community suffered through genocide at the turn of the 20th century, with the loss of one-and-a-half million lives through persecution by the Ottoman Empire…The Armenian people have provided inspiration by standing against the evil of genocide wherever and whenever it is committed. Now is the moment for the United States of America to recognize the Armenian Genocide.”

The American Jewish Committee’s Executive Director David Harris stated: “This week, US Congress takes up a resolution on #ArmenianGenocide. Starting in 1915, Ottoman Empire decimated Armenian Christian population. 1st genocide of 20th century. To this day, Turkey tries to deny this documented crime. Don’t let it. That’s why we support H.Res. 296.”

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) issued a statement reading: “ADL today endorsed a bipartisan House resolution that recognizes the Armenian Genocide and urges Members of Congress to ensure its passage.”

“This historic Congressional resolution, while long overdue, is an important step toward raising awareness and educating the American public about the horrific genocide committed by the Ottoman Empire against Armenians during the early part of the 1900s,” said ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt. He continued: “The 20th century saw the worst episodes of genocide in recorded human history, beginning with the Armenian Genocide, through the Holocaust and all the way to the atrocities in Bosnia and Rwanda. Indeed, historians note that Hitler viewed the Armenian Genocide and the world’s indifference toward it as inspiration to launch his own genocidal campaign across Europe. We believe that remembering and educating about any genocide – Armenian, the Holocaust, Bosnia, Rwanda, and others – is a necessary tool to prevent future tragedies and begins with recognition.”

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