Comments to Lexington Board of Selectmen by Armenian Community Representatives

We would like to begin by acknowledging, once again, the valuable work performed by the Lexington No Place for Hate steering committee. We have always honored their commitment to making Lexington a diverse, bias-free, and tolerant community over the past seven years, and we thank them.
Our objective, rather, has been to disassociate Lexington from No Place for Hate’s creator and sponsor, the Anti-Defamation League, an organization that purports “to secure justice and fair treatment to all citizens alike,” but in practice, denies the rights of many, including the Armenian community.
The ADL’s failure to recognize unambiguously the Armenian Genocide and its efforts, on behalf of Turkey’s denialist government, to oppose Congressional affirmation of this genocide is unconscionable.
The ADL’s disingenuous August statement ostensibly recognizing the Armenian Genocide was carefully worded to ensure that the Turkish massacres and exile of Armenia’s from their homeland of over 2,500 years did not meet the international legal standard for genocide. This hypocrisy must not go unchallenged.
As recently as three weeks ago, the ADL’s national director endorsed Turkey’s call for a joint commission to study the events of 1915, a proposal that the International Association of Genocide Scholars labeled a “red herring [that] would only serve the interests of Turkish genocide deniers.”
As an organization that actively engages in genocide denial, the ADL simply does not have the moral authority to teach tolerance or combat hate in our cities and towns.
Whether the ADL works “very hard at the local level” with “a lot of personal involvement” with local No Place for Hate committees, as stated by New England ADL Director Andrew Tarsy, or whether local committees are largely free of ADL influence as argued by Lexington’s No Place for Hate steering committee, is simply irrelevant.
What is critical is the fact that No Place for Hate is a registered, trademarked program of the Anti-Defamation League and our local committees work under the ADL’s name. Indeed, they require regular recertification by the ADL. For Lexington’s local human rights body to perform anti-bias and anti-hate work through an organization engaging in genocide denial is contradictory and absurd.
Thus, we ask that the No Place for Hate committee be reconstituted as a town-sponsored human rights commission, for it is vital that the work continue. We look forward to meeting with the town and the members of the steering committee to achieve this.
The Armenian community thanks our friends and neighbors, numerous individual members of the Jewish community, organizations such as Jewish Voice for Peace, and local human rights commissions who voiced strong support for our call to sever ties with the ADL.
By voting to rescind its endorsement of the ADL’s No Place for Hate program, Lexington’s Board of Selectmen will uphold the human rights and dignity not only of its Armenian residents, but of all people everywhere. Human rights are universal and should never be subordinated to political interests, whether on the local, state, national, or international level.
For if one group is denied its rights, all groups are endangered – as evidenced by Hitler’s quote just prior to his invasion of Poland and unleashing of the Holocaust. “Who, after all,” he asked, “speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenia’s?”
Let us speak tonight of the annihilation of the Armenia’s and take a principled stand against the ADL’s denial of the Armenian Genocide. Lexington, Massachusetts has served as a symbol for justice and human rights since 1775. Let us honor that legacy now by ending our association with the Anti-Defamation League.

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