The American Jewish Congress has been through a rough patch recently, having weathered the financial crisis particularly poorly. Last year, it laid off most of its staff and temporarily suspended operations. Yet, in the last few months, it has tried to renew its presence. Its president, Richard S. Gordon, visited the White House, and the group also found time to issue a statement on the death of Osama bin Laden.
Yet, if the American Jewish Congress hopes to fully re-emerge onto the stage of Jewish advocacy organizations, it must rectify one of its major wrongs. On January 26, 2004, the group presented Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan with its “Profiles of Courage” award for promoting peace between cultures. Even at the time, the award was a mistake, but the American Jewish Congress’s leadership had put wishful thinking above dispassionate analysis about Erdoğan’s actions and the changes he sought to implement.
Regardless, there can be no question now. Erdoğan’s regime embraces anti-Semitic incitement for political gain. The prime minister has embraced the crudest blood libel, and his aides have marketed it for mass release in Turkish cinemas. He unapologetically embraces terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah which seek to annihilate not only Israel, but also the Jewish people. That the American Jewish Congress honored the same man who subsequently accepted the Muammar Qaddafi human rights prize is a stain on the American Jewish Congress, one its leadership should formally rectify. It’s long past time for the American Jewish Congress to revoke Erdoğan’s profiles of courage award and deny Erdoğan a claim to tolerance he does not deserve.