SAN FRANCISCO–Responding to a question about the Anti-Defamation League’s reluctance to unequivocally recognize the Armenian Genocide, Abe Foxman, National Director of the ADL said, ";No one can dictate to you to use the word that you want us to use. We will use the words that we feel comfortable with."
Foxman’s statement was part of a somewhat rambling answer to a question posed at the conclusion of a speech on April 7 in San Francisco related to his book, "Deadliest Lies: The Israel Lobby and the Myth of Jewish Control." The speech took place at the Jewish Community Center. Foxman’spoke about international anti-Semitism directed towards Jews and Israel. He repeatedly condemned and called for an end to the use of racist, anti-Jewish euphemisms.
The first question posed to Foxman asked why he has chosen to use euphemisms in regard to the Armenian Genocide. Foxman prefaced his response by informing the audience that some people are not happy with the Anti-Defamation League’s position the issue of the Armenian Genocide, and he went on to state that the issue should be resolved between Turks and Armenia’s. (Full text below.)
After years of lobbying against Armenian Genocide recognition in Congress and refusing to unequivocally acknowledge the Armenian Genocide, Foxman’s position was publicized last year in the New England media, prompting a public outcry which included conflict among ADL officials. As a result, on August 21, the ADL published an ad in several Boston-area community newspapers, stating in part, "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 Armenia’s. We have never negated but have always described the painful events of 1915-1918 perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire against the Armenia’s as massacres and atrocities. 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."
Although some applauded the ADL’s new position, it also prompted criticism for its use of the qualifier "tantamount," and the term “consequences of those actions" suggesting the Armenian Genocide was not carried out with the intent to destroy a people, as defined by the U.N. and the 1948 Genocide Convention.
The ADL has also recently reiterated its opposition to US recognition of the Armenian Genocide, and has supported Turkey’s call for an "impartial study" of the Armenian Genocide. Turkey has repeatedly called for an "historical commission," despite its prime minister’s statemen’s that Turks could never have committed a genocide, and its continued criminal prosecutions of citizens who discuss the Armenian Genocide.
Turkish press has reported that the ADL wrote to Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, expressing its sorrow for the discomfort the acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide caused Turkey’s leadership and people. Erdogan announced, “The wrong step that has been taken is corrected ; They said they shared our sensitivity and expressed the mistake they made [and] will continue to give us all the support they have given so far.”
The national ADL’s position on the Armenian Genoicde runs counter to the position of a wide range of Jewish organizations in the Bay Area. In November, 2007, the San Francisco Bay Area’s Jewish Community Relations Council re-iterated its support for official recognition of the Armenian Genocide. As the Jewish community’s public affairs arm, the JCRC represents more than 80 Jewish organizations across the Bay Area. The organization, which includes the membership of the San Francisco chapter of the ADL, overwhelmingly approved a policy statement re-issuing a 1989 letter to Armenian community leader Bishop Aris Shirvanian, expressing support for the Armenian Genocide resolution pending in the U.S. Senate at that time. Senate Joint Resolution 212 sought to designate April 24th as a national day of remembrance of the Armenian Genocide.
Foxman’s full answer to the question about his position on the Armenian Genocide was:
"The question is, this is a public issue, a public debate. There are people out there who are not happy with the Anti-Defamation League’s position on the issue of the Armenian Genocide. To reply to your question, the Anti-Defamation League, has for as many year as I know, and I’ve been involved for 43 years in the league and its director for 21 years, has always described, the events of 1915-1918, between Turkey and/in the Ottoman Empire and the Armenian people as a massacre, as a terrible tragedy, and an issue, that, it should be resolved between the Turkish people and the Armenian people.
We never denied it; We never challenged or questioned; We didn’t use the words that you use; And it’s not a moral question of, to use your words. We could use your words. Usually a certain word becomes a political issue. And it would be as if we, the Jewish people, would say to you or everybody else, ‘Unless you use the word [Shoah] and Holocaust to describe the events of 1933-1945, unless you use our words, you are a Holocaust denier.’ That’s nonsense. We have used the word. We have used it in the context of what we believe in applying it. But we have never, never, in terms of an organization, and a people, denied the tragedy, of the massacre. But we haven’t used the word that you want to use. And you use this, and this is for all you here now, not only to accuse us, but to point to the Anti-Defamation league, to prevent us from teaching diversity, I think that’s wrong. But we’ve all, you know, wanted to share the pain. But no one can dictate to you to use the word that you want us to use. We will use the words that we feel comfortable with. And we’ve used the word genocide; And so now it’s, "Not only do you have to use the word, but you have to support legislation in Congress,’ which we don’t, and we don’t, we’re "immoral," etc. And we have articulated our position. I’ve used the word genocide; Some people don’t like exactly how we’ve formulated it, but that’s what makes this country a democracy. And we have never denied it, we don’t deny it, but again you don’t have a right to dictate to us how the word should be formed, in what manner, and what shape;"
Flyers detailing the ADL’s position on the Armenian Genocide, which were being distributed on the sidewalk in front of the Jewish Community Center, were destroyed by security guards.