Captivating video:Watertown says “No” to Anti-Defamation League for genocide denial

Muzzlewatch was one of the first outlets that covered the shameful story about the four major Jewish organizationsAnti-Defamation League (ADL), B’Nai Brith, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) and the American Jewish Committee (AJC)– that are working to oppose Congressional recognition of the Armenian genocide. As my colleague Mitchell Plitnick wrote:

Israel does not recognize the Armenian genocide and this has occasionally caused controversy in Israeli society. Again, few Israelis would deny the genocide, but Turkey is one of Israel’s few allies, and a Muslim country at that, so they are not willing to rock the boat.

Boston Globe wrote yesterday:

Under pressure from its Armenian residents, the Town Council in Watertown voted last night to rescind its participation in the No Place for Hate program.

The council’s 8-to-0 vote (one councilor was absent) was a response to objections by Armenian Americans who say the Anti-Defamation League, one of the program’s sponsors, refuses to acknowledge what many consider a genocide committed against Armenians by the Turks from 1915 to 1917.
“We cannot join with the ADL when they refuse to acknowledge the [Armenian] genocide,” said Councilor Marilyn Petitto Devaney, who introduced the proclamation to withdraw from the program.

Watertown, MA has one of the largest Armenian populations in the country. And they, like many cities, decided to endorse the ADL’s laudable No Place for Hate program. David Boyajian deserves credit for first informing the town about the ADL’s inexcusable track record on Armenian genocide. No Place for Genocide Denial is a citizens group that offers the most comprehensive source for articles, petitions and information related to the issue.

Watch video of the town meeting here. It’s an incredible document showing how fresh the wounds of the genocide are… and how painful it is when others, especially those who regularly remind the world of their history of profound suffering, actively try to deny others that same recognition.

This is a bittersweet victory. The Anti-Defamation League does a lot of tremendous and important work. But over time, their commitment to promoting Israel right or wrong has trumped their original mission to fight bigotry. They have used the charge of anti-Semitism as effectively as anyone to silence criticism of Israel, as we have frequently covered here. Protecting Israeli human rights violations, and now working actively to deny Armenians the right of full recognition of their profound loss and genocide, brings shame on us all.

Many in the mainstream Jewish community feel that sense of shame.

See Leonard Fein’s On Armenian Genocide, Politics Trumps Truth or the letter below from BU professor Michael Siegel:

Andrew H. Tarsy
Regional Director
Anti-Defamation League

Dear Mr. Tarsy:

As a long-time ADL supporter, it is with great disappointment that I write you today to express my disgust with your organization’s refusal to publicly acknowledge the Armenian genocide, and in particular, your July 26 response to the recent controversy in Watertown, in which you refused to acknowledge the genocide, and instead, stated that the question of whether a genocide occurred: ” was one to be resolved between the two countries — Armenia and Turkey.”

Can you imagine if an organization gave a similar response to a question about whether a Holocaust occured, killing 6 million Jews? Can you imagine what we would say if an organization refused to acknowledge that the Holocaust occurred, instead stating that this is an issue that needs to be resolved between Israel and Germany?

And can you imagine if an organization gave a response similar to that given by ADL president Abraham Foxman’s answer to a question about why the ADL did not support Congressional action to recognize the Armenian genocide: “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.” Can you imagine if an Armenian organization refused to recognize our Holocaust and tried to block government recognition of the Holocaust, evading the question by stating: “The Jews and Germans need to revisit their past. The Armenian community shouldn’t be the arbiter of that history, nor should the U.S. Congress.”

I’m afraid that for groups which deny the Holocaust, more than just historical indifference or ignorance is at the heart of that denial. What you and I both know is at the heart of Holocaust denial is anti-semitism and hatred. Unfortunately, the Anti-Defamation League’s refusal to acknowledge the Armenian genocide smacks of the same, or at least it leaves that impression. Is this truly how the ADL wants to portray itself? Not only is the group alienating its non-Jewish allies, but many Jewish supporters, like myself, cannot act too quickly to distance ourself from the organization in light of these hateful and hurtful comments.

Genocide denial is precisely the opposite of what the ADL is supposed to stand for. Ironically, by refusing to acknowledge the Armenian genocide, and by having the gall to do so in front of a community made up of a large number of Armenians, the ADL is demonstrating or introducing hatred, rather then keeping hate out of Watertown.

Because the ADL’s statements, actions, and position are so starkly in contrast with the mission of Watertown’s No Place for Hate organization, I have no choice but to call for the organization to sever its ties with the ADL, and to re-organize under another name but without the ADL affiliation. I would certainly hope that you will reconsider your position and publicly acknowledge the Armenenian genocide and apologize to the Armenian community in Watertown so that such an embarrassment is not necessary.

Just as there is no place for Holocaust denial and the underlying hatred associated with it, there is no place for denial of the Armenian genocide. If anyone understands the implications of genocide denial, shouldn’t it be the ADL? Shouldn’t it be us Jews?

Michael Siegel, MD, MPH
Associate Chair of Academics
Social and Behavioral Sciences Department
Boston University School of Public Health

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