BY RACHEL KAPRIELIAN
The controversy in Watertown over the Anti-Defamation’s League’s anti-bigotry program, "No Place for Hate," has struck an important chord in the historical and global struggle for human rights. Moreover, it reopened a deep wound for the Armenian people, whose nation was devastated, half their population murdered, and the remainder deported in what was the first genocide of the 20th century.
The tragedy is compounded by the denial by Turkey itself. In 1915, Henry Morganthau, then US ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, worked tirelessly to bring the genocide to the world’s attention and warned the US secretary of state that "a campaign of race extermination" was occurring against "peaceful" Armenia’s.
The New York Times published 145 articles in 1915 and stressed that what was happening to the Armenia’s was a "deliberate"policy of extermination." Thousands of eyewitness accounts, official government documen’s, and photographs buttress the historical truths.
The Association of Genocide Scholars and the community of Holocaust scholars, as well as numerous others, have written that this horrific event was genocide. In 2000, 126 leading Holocaust scholars — including Nobel Prize laureate Elie Wiesel — published a statement in The New York Times that sought both to "affirm the incontestable fact of the Armenian Genocide and urge Western Democracies to officially recognize it."
The matter is not subject to interpretation. In recent decades, the Armenian genocide has been referred to as "the forgotten genocide" and to understand it is to note that it was the template for the genocides that followed: the Holocaust, Pol Pot’s genocide in Cambodia, the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, and today in Darfur. Adolf Hitler famously said in 1939 upon the commencement of his own "final solution:"Who now remembers the Armenia’s?"
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. To deny genocide victims their history and suffering is tantamount to making them victims again.
Justice and memory demand that we recognize the Ottoman Turkish genocide against the Armenia’s for what it was: the destruction of a large part of an ancient and vibrant community as well as the horrible model of what Hitler did to Jews and what the janjaweed is doing to the victims of Darfur.
The Anti-Defamation League has done enormous good around the world. Its regional chapter was courageous and correct in its decision to affirm its position that the genocide was fact.
No Place for Hate is a wonderful project that is not limited to Watertown. It represents the defense of human rights yesterday, today, and tomorrow and challenges our strongest determination, our greatest will, and our most humanitarian spirit.
To assure that "Never Again" remains more than an aspiration we must all join together to proclaim the truth, no matter how painful or difficult.
Rachel Kaprielian is a state representative from Watertown. Alan Dershowitz is a professor at Harvard Law School.