ADL National Director Causes Shake-Up in New England Organization Over Genocide Recognition

WATERTOWN, Mass.–Turmoil in the New England Regional Anti-Defamation League (ADL) continued this weekend with two Board Members resigning following the firing of Regional Director Andrew H. Tarsy, for public calls on ADL National Director Abe Foxman to reverse policy and properly characterize the Armenian Genocide, reported the Armenian National Committee of Eastern Massachusetts.
"We are disappointed and outraged to hear that Mr. Tarsy was removed from his position simply for speaking openly and honestly about the Armenian Genocide," stated ANCEM chairperson Sharistan Melkonian. "Mr. Foxman and the ADL National Leadership are clearly out of step with their own membership, who have rightly concluded that genocide denial is morally indefensible and will only serve to diminish the credibility of this once-respected civil rights organization."
Reports of Tarsy’s firing and the resignations by Stewart L. Cohen and Boston City Councilman Mike Ross came just days after the New England ADL Board voted to call on the ADL National leadership to reverse their position, properly characterize the Armenian Genocide as ‘genocide,’ and support Armenian Genocide legislation (H.Res.106 / S.Res.106). According to an August 17th Boston Globe article, Tarsy told reporter Keith O’Brien, "I strongly disagree with ADL’s national position. It’s my strong hope that we’ll be able to move forward in a relationship with the Armenian community and the community in general." Just 48 hours prior, Tarsy had defended the ADL National’s genocide denial position at the Watertown Town Council. Tarsy, clearly uncomfortable in his remarks before the capacity crowd at the Council meeting, was challenged when he evaded the word ‘genocide’ in describing the murder of over 1.5 million Armenia’s by the Ottoman Turkish government from 1915-1923.
A myriad of Watertown residents urged the Town Council to take action, including ANC-EM spokesperson Grace Kehetian Kulegian, who stated "on behalf of Watertown’s Armenian community ‘s and our century-long history of service and sacrifice for our town ‘s we call upon the Town Council to dissociate itself from the ADL until such time that: The Anti-Defamation League, through its National director, Mr. Foxman, openly and unequivocally acknowledges the Armenian Genocide and supports congressional affirmation of this crime against humanity.
The Watertown Town Council voted unanimously that evening to cut ties with the ADL, by disassociating with their "No Place for Hate" program.
Following the New England ADL’s public call for ADL National to reverse their position, the National ADL posted an "Open Letter to the New England Community," refraining from characterizing the events of 1915-1923 as ‘genocide.’ The letter also claimed that the ADL "takes no position" on Armenian Genocide legislation (H.Res.106 / S.Res.106) while stating "We believe that legislative efforts outside of Turkey are counterproductive to the goal of having Turkey itself come to grips with its past."
"Mr. Foxman is sadly reading from a page in the Turkish government’s genocide denial playbook," stated Melkonian. "Instead of helping Turkey confront this dark page in human history, the ADL is enabling its continued genocide denial a decision which comes at the expense of its own reputation." The ADL statement comes as additional towns in Massachusetts prepare to follow Watertown’s lead in ending their association with the ADL and Armenian Genocide denial.
Foxman’s claims of neutrality regarding Armenian Genocide legislation contradict earlier published statemen’s in the Boston Globe and Los Angeles Times, where Foxman noted "The Turks and Armenia’s need to revisit their past. The Jewish community shouldn’t be the arbiter of that history. And I don’t think the U.S. Congress should be the arbiter either." According to press reports, Foxman joined the American Jewish Committee, B’nai B’rith and JINSA in forwarding a letter from Turkey’s Jewish Community citing concerns about Armenian Genocide legislation to Members of Congress. According to an April 27th Jewish Telegraphic Agency article by Ron Kampeas, the ADL and JINSA "added their own statemen’s opposing the bill."
The Watertown – ADL controversy erupted in recent weeks, with Boston area civil rights advocates, and local Armenian and Jewish American community members expressing disappointment and outrage at recent statemen’s by ADL National Director Abe Foxman denying the Armenian Genocide. Editorials and community letters in the local Watertown Tab and Boston Globe cast a shadow on the credibility of the anti-racism program, "No Place for Hate", due to its affiliation with the ADL.
Reporter Keith O’Brien first reported Tarsy’s firing in a front-page Boston Globe article on August 18th. The news was accompanied by a strongly worded Globe editorial, titled "No Synonyms for Genocide," arguing that the national ADL should not "pick and choose among genocides," and stating "if the national ADL doesn’t acknowledge the [Armenian] genocide, it is complicit in a cover-up." An op/ed coauthored by Massachusetts State Representative Rachel Kaprielian and Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz, published in the Boston Globe on the same day, noted "For any organization or official to believe that there are differing sides to the Armenian Genocide is as much an outrage as it would be for Germany to say that the work of Jewish scholars, witnesses, and victim testimonies represented merely the "Jewish side" of the Holocaust." Kaprielian and Dershowitz went on to praise the New England Regional ADL for taking a principled stand, noting that the "regional chapter was courageous and correct in its decision to affirm its position that the [Armenian] genocide was fact."
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