In a dramatic reversal, the Anti-Defamation League’s national director issued a statement Tuesday using the term “genocide” to describe the massacres perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire against the Armenians.
The ADL and its national director, Abraham Foxman, have faced mounting criticism in recent weeks for refusing to use the genocide label and essentially opposing a proposed congressional resolution that would do so. The controversy heated up last week when Foxman fired the director of the ADL’s New England region for denouncing the organization’s position in an interview with the Boston Globe.
“In light of the heated controversy that has surrounded the Turkish-Armenian issue in recent weeks, and because of our concern for the unity of the Jewish community at a time of increased threats against the Jewish people, ADL has decided to revisit the tragedy that befell the Armenians,” Foxman said in his statement.
“We have never negated but have always described the painful events of 1915-1918 perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire against the Armenians as massacres and atrocities,” Foxman said. “On reflection, we have come to share the view of Henry Morgenthau, Sr. that the consequences of those actions were indeed tantamount to genocide. If the word genocide had existed then, they would have called it genocide.”
Foxman said that he had consulted with “friend and mentor Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel and other respected historians who acknowledge this consensus.”
Criticism reached a high point when it became public that the ADL and 3 other Jewish groups were lobbying against Congressional recognition of the Armenian genocide. The ADL’s position on the resolution appears to not have substantively changed.
The JTA went on:
The ADL leader said the organization still believes “that a Congressional resolution on such matters is a counterproductive diversion and will not foster reconciliation between Turks and Armenians and may put at risk the Turkish Jewish community and the important multilateral relationship between Turkey, Israel and the United States.”
While the Armenian community of Watertown in particular should be acknowledged for their tremendous and often painful work on this issue, it should be remembered that Foxman likely changed his position because it caused so much outrage in the Jewish community, and among ADL members and supporters, who understood full well that refusing to use the genocide word was simply unconscionable.
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