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Armenian Genocide controversy

Posted by Fredsvenn den mars 3, 2008

The Anti-Defamation League (or ADL) is an interest group founded in 1913 by B’nai B’rith in the United States whose stated aim is «to stop, by appeals to reason and conscience and, if necessary, by appeals to law, the defamation of the Jewish people. Its ultimate purpose is to secure justice and fair treatment to all citizens alike and to put an end forever to unjust and unfair discrimination against and ridicule of any sect or body of citizens.»


With an annual budget of over $50 million, the ADL has 29 offices in the United States and three offices in other countries, with its headquarters located in New York City. Since 1987, Abraham Foxman has been the national director in the United States. The national chairman in the United States is Glen Lewy.


Some complain that criticism of Israel, even by Jews, is being attacked by the ADL as anti-semitic. Jewish linguist and activist Noam Chomsky, who repeatedly came under the ADL’s criticism, wrote in his 1989 book Necessary Illusions:


The ADL has virtually abandoned its earlier role as a civil rights organization, becoming ‘one of the main pillars’ of Israeli propaganda in the U.S.… These efforts, buttressed by insinuations of anti-Semitism or direct accusations, are intended to deflect or undermine opposition to Israeli policies, including Israel’s refusal, with U.S. support, to move towards a general political settlement.


…one of the ugliest, most powerful pressure groups in the U.S. … Its primary commitment is to use any technique, however dishonest and disgraceful, in order to defame and silence and destroy anybody who dares to criticize the Holy State (‘Israel’).


Michael Lerner, a prominent left-wing rabbi, has criticized the ADL on similar grounds:

The ADL lost most of it credibility in my eyes as a civil rights organization when it began to identify criticisms of Israel with anti-Semitism, still more when it failed to defend me when I was receiving threats to my life from right-wing Jewish groups because of my critique of Israeli policy toward Palestinians (it said that these were not threats that came from my being Jewish, so therefore they were not within their area of concern).


The ADL has also drawn fire from some Orthodox Jewish leaders who charge it is more interested in promoting a dogmatic form of secularism than in promoting religious tolerance and in the process promoting anti-Christian bigotry and hatred. Orthodox Rabbi Daniel Lapin has charged:


The most deeply held values of the ADL are a hatred of Judaism and Christianity – and a secularization of society.


Armenian Genocide controversy


In 2007, calls came from within the Jewish community to fire Abraham Foxman for his stance on the Armenian Genocide. Foxman had opposed calls for the U.S. Government to recognise it as a «genocide».


“I don’t think congressional action will help reconcile the issue. The resolution takes a position; it comes to a judgment,” said Foxman in a statement issued to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “The Turks and Armenians need to revisit their past. The Jewish community shouldn’t be the arbiter of that history, nor should the U.S. Congress.»


The ADL felt the safety of Israel, which considers Turkey a rare Muslim ally, was paramount to the issue.


In early August of 2007, complaints about the Anti-Defamation League‘s refusal to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide led to the Watertown, Massachusetts unanimous town council decision to end their participation in the ADL «No Place for Hate» campaign.

In early August of 2007, an editorial in The Boston Globe criticized the ADL saying that «as an organization concerned about human rights, it ought to acknowledge the genocide against the Armenian people during World War I, and criticize Turkish attempts to repress the memory of this historical reality.»


On 17 August, 2007, the ADL fired its regional New England director, Andrew H. Tarsy, for breaking ranks with the main organization and saying the ADL should recognize the genocide.


In a 21 August 2007 press release, the ADL changed its position to one of acknowledging the genocide but maintained its opposition to congressional resolutions aimed at recognizing it. Foxman wrote, «the consequences of those actions,» by the Ottoman Empire against Armenians, «were indeed tantamount to genocide.» The Turkish government condemned the league’s statement. Andrew H. Tarsy was rehired by the league on 27 August, though he has since chosen to step down from his position.


The ADL was criticized by many in the Armenian community including The Armenian Weekly newspaper, in which writer Michael Mensoian stated:


The belated backtracking of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in acknowledging the planned, systematic massacre of 1,500,000 Armenian men, women and children as “…tantamount to genocide…” is discouraging. Tantamount means something is equivalent. If it’s equivalent, why avoid using the term? For the ADL to justify its newly adopted statement because the word genocide did not exist at the time indicates a halfhearted attempt to placate Armenians while not offending Turkey. Historians use the term genocide simply because it is the proper term to describe the horrific events that the Ottoman Turkish government unleashed on the Armenian people.


After Foxman’s capitulation, the New England ADL pressed the organization’s national leadership to support a congressional resolution acknowledging the genocide. After hours of closed-door debate at the annual national meeting in New York, the proposal was ultimately withdrawn. The organization issued a statement saying it would «take no further action on the issue of the Armenian genocide.» Tarsy submitted his resignation on December 4.


Since August, human rights commissions in other Massachusetts communities have decided in to follow Watertown’s lead and withdraw from them ADL’s No Place for Hate anti-discrimination program.


Westwood joins Arlington, Belmont, Lexington, Newton, and Watertown in suspending or cutting ties with the ADL, believing its refusal to directly acknowledge the historical genocide runs counter to the ADL’s mission of fighting against hatred and fostering an atmosphere of mutual respect. About 60 cities and towns across the state, including many south of Boston, belong to the ADL’s local No Place for Hate program.


«I think the community wished it didn’t have to come to this,» said Town Administrator Michael Jaillet. «We wish our sponsor had taken a different position and stood up for the truth.»



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