WATERTOWN, MASS–Bedford, Massachusetts this week became the second municipality in two weeks to end ties with the Anti Defamation League following the decision of the ADL’s meeting of its national commissioners to "take no further action on the issue of the Armenian Genocide," reported the Armenian National Committee of Eastern Massachusetts.
Bedford joined the city of Medford, which also decided to end ties with the ADL’s No Place for Hate program because of the ADL’s policy on the Armenian Genocide. Needham and Newburyport this month also took steps toward ending their communities’ ties with the ADL.
Over the past few months, other Massachusetts towns including Watertown, Newton, Westwood, Belmont, Arlington, and Lexington have withdrawn from the ADL’s NPFH program, due to the ADL’s policy on the Armenian Genocide.
The ADL held its national commissioners’ meeting on November 2 at which time the ADL was expected to formally evaluate its policy on the Armenian Genocide.
In a one-sentence press statement dated November 2, the ADL announced that it "decided to take no further action on the issue of the Armenian genocide."
Human rights groups and Armenian and Jewish American organizations were not satisfied.
"Municipalities were left with no choice," stated Sharistan Melkonian of the ANC-EM. "Many of us had hoped that the ADL would rethink its policies at its national commissioners’ meeting, properly and unambiguously recognize the Armenian Genocide, and put an end to its efforts to actively oppose its reaffirmation by Congress. It is disappointing that the ADL didn’t come to the right side of this issue."
"The national commissioners of the ADL had an opportunity to restore the league’s credibility as a Human Rights organization by unequivocally recognizing the Armenian Genocide and ending its opposition to the US recognition of this Genocide. Instead, they missed this opportunity and chose to take no action on Armenian Genocide recognition during their annual meeting," said Herman Purutyan, chair of the Massachusetts Armenian Assembly. "Town after town people are coming to the conclusion that an organization that refuses to properly recognize a genocide and actively opposes its wider recognition is not the right partner to promote tolerance in our communities."
"With this decision, the ADL has formally chosen political expediency over a clear moral imperative–that of condemning and combating genocide and Holocaust denial in all its forms–and has disqualified itself as a defender of human rights for all," stated Sevag Arzoumanian a member of the No Place for Denial web blog team. "What the Armenian community, the Jewish community and the human rights community expected of the ADL national meeting was that they take a clear stand to distance themselves from the policies of the past: aiding and abetting the government of Turkey to diminish and deny the Armenian Genocide in the United States."
On November 19, the Bedford Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to suspend the town’s participation in the ADL-sponsored NPFH program. Selectmen noted that the ADL’s failure to further clarify its position regarding the Armenian Genocide at its National Convention in early November was the reason for this action. The Board of Selectmen acted on the recommendation of Bedford’s Violence Prevention Coalition, which met the previous week and issued a statement recommending suspending the town’s participation in the NPFH program because of the ADL’s position on the Armenian Genocide.
"The stance of the ADL regarding the Armenian Genocide is contrary to the mission of the VPC," read the VPC statement. "We expect the ADL to unambiguously acknowledge the Armenian Genocide and endorse the Resolution regarding it now before Congress."
"In view of this defining moment for the organization with its final decision on this critical human rights matter, it is clear that the ADL does not have the moral authority to sponsor any kind of tolerance and diversity program," said a letter from the Bedford Armenian community urging the Selectmen to follow through with the VPC’s decision. "None benefit when the sponsor of a town program discriminates against a segment of the town’s population, denying its historical truths and seeking to prevent recognition of this."
Less than one week before the Bedford decision, the Medford City Council voted to suspend the city’s membership to the NPFH program citing the ADL’s failure to support national recognition of the Armenian genocide. In light of this decision, the Medford Human Rights Committee this week removed NPFH signs across the city.
On November 14, the Needham Human Rights Commission voted to recommend that the town’s Board of Selectmen’suspend its involvement in the NPFH program. At the Needham HRC meeting, two representatives from the regional ADL spoke about the results of the organization’s national commissioners’ meeting. The Needham decision came approximately a month and a half after the HRC sent a letter to the ADL asking the organization to unequivocally recognize the Armenian Genocide and back Congressional legislation doing the same.
In September Needham’s HRC sent a letter to the ADL declaring that the HRC was surprised and disappointed "that the national board of the ADL has not stood with the Armenia’s as they seek justice and fair treatment."
The letter further called on the ADL to "acknowledge the Armenian genocide as a genocide, not ‘tantamount to genocide;’ support the Congressional resolution officially recognizing the Armenian genocide; and to make these policy changes promptly."
The HRC and others had hoped the ADL would change its policy at its November 2 meeting.
Also on November 14, the Newton Human Rights Commission–which two months prior had voted to "cease participation in the ADL sponsored NPFH program" unless the ADL came to the right side of the issue at their November meeting–resolved to take "no further action" or have any further discussion of the issue. The commissioners simply stated, "the HRC and the City of Newton stand firm on their prior decision."
Just one day before the Needham and Newton action on November 13, the Arlington No Place for Hate steering committee voted to permanently end its relationship with the ADL. Earlier this fall Arlington’s NPFH program had suspended its association with the ADL because the ADL has failed to recognize unambiguously the Armenian Genocide and has opposed efforts in Congress to do so. The decision was endorsed by the town’s Human Rights Commission and its Board of Selectmen in hopes that the ADL would change its policy at its November meeting.
Earlier this month Newburyport’s Commission for Diversity and Tolerance also voted to sever ties with the ADL’s NPFH program.
"If the ADL didn’t purport to be a human rights organization whose mission is ‘to secure justice and fair treatment to all citizens alike,’ they would be considered like any other advocacy organization," stated Melkonian. "But they claim to be a human rights organization and as such, have come into our towns, our schools. They teach our children. We all expect more from human rights organizations. We expected more from the ADL."
The ADL has for many years refused to acknowledge that the systematic massacre of 1.5 million Armenia’s between 1915 and 1923 was genocide. To make matters worse, the ADL has actively engaged in efforts to oppose Congressional affirmation of the Armenian Genocide.
Only after intense pressure, which started in Watertown, Massachusetts earlier this summer did the national ADL issue a "Statement on the Armenian Genocide" on August 21, 2007.
Referring to the events of 1915-1918, the statement declared, "The consequences of those actions were indeed tantamount to genocide." Aside from the fact that the Armenian Genocide began in 1915 and continued through 1923, the statement was not a full, unequivocal acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide.
Not only was the qualifier "tantamount" inappropriate, but the use of the word "consequences" was seen by many as an attempt to circumvent the international legal definition of genocide by avoiding any language that would imply intent, a crucial aspect of the 1948 UN Genocide Convention definition.
In October the Armenian National Committee of Massachusetts and the Armenian Assembly of Massachusetts sent a joint letter and information packet through the New England ADL to the ADL commissioner’s meeting.
The letter contained three specific demands. "We ask that the ADL remain true to its mission and 1) fully and unequivocally acknowledge the Armenian Genocide, 2) refrain from advocating for Turkish calls for a "historical commission," and 3) express support for U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide."
In addition, the national office of ANCA sent a letter to the ADL officially endorsing the contents of the Massachusetts community letter. "I am writing, as you prepare for your national meeting, to go on the record formally requesting that the national leadership of the Anti-Defamation League clearly recognize the Armenian Genocide and openly support proper U.S. recognition of this crime against humanity," stated Aram Hamparian, Executive Director of the ANCA. "We share the points raised and concerns expressed by our Massachusetts chapter, along with our friends in the Armenian Assembly’s Massachusetts chapter, in their letter, and join with them in respectfully requesting an apology from Abraham Foxman for his longstanding denial of the Armenian Genocide."
A strongly worded letter addressed to Foxman was also sent by Archbishop Khajag Barsamian on behalf of the Diocese of the Armenian Church. "While the ADL’s position on the recognition of the genocide has become clearer, I urge you and your colleagues to take the next, necessary step and make unequivocally clear the condemnation of the Armenian Genocide… To acknowledge the Armenian Genocide only to speak against resolutions condemning it sets a terrible, moral precedent. Recognition leads to condemnation and without that, there can be no steps towards prevention… I urge you and all members of the ADL leadership, to join in removing all objections to the condemnation of any and every genocide and crime against humanity."
These letters and the "Informational Packet" which accompanied the ANC/Assembly letter can be accessed at: http://adlandag.blogspot.com
For complete information about the ADL controversy surrounding the Armenian Genocide visit www.noplacefordenial.com
The Armenian National Committee is the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots political organization. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the United States and affiliated organizations around the world, the ANC actively advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.