BOSTON–The Boston Globe reported Friday that in an emergency meeting Thursday afternoon, the regional ADL board adopted resolutions calling on the national organization, which has refused to recognize the Armenian genocide, to change its policy, according to a source familiar with the proposal, reported the Globe.
The Boston Globe’s Keith O’Brien reported that Andrew H. Tarsy, the ADL’s New England regional director who had defended the ADL’s position as recently as Tuesday, reversed course, saying the ADL should acknowledge the genocide.
"I strongly disagree with ADL’s national position," Tarsy told the Globe in an interview. However, he declined to explain his change of heart. "It’s my strong hope that we’ll be able to move forward in a relationship with the Armenian community and the community in general," Tarsy told the Globe.
This development was the latest in a debate that started weeks ago in Watertown, Mass., where residents were angered to learn that the ADL was the sponsor of the town’s antibigotry program "No Place For Hate." Many began calling for Watertown to pull out because the ADL refused to properly recognize the Armenian Genocide.
On Tuesday, the Watertown Town Council voted unanimously to end its relationship with No Place For Hate.
The Boston Globe reported that by Thursday, residents in Newton, Belmont, Somerville, and Arlington were rethinking the program, and local Jewish leaders were renouncing the ADL’s stand.
The Globe said that ADL leaders agree that Armenia’s were massacred by Ottomon Turks during World War I. The ongoing debate focuses on the Armenian stance that what happened was genocide and the ADL’s refusal to acknowledge that.
The ADL’s national director, Abraham H. Foxman, has said that had no position on the Armenian Genocide Resolution pending in Congress and has, in the past, questioned whether what happened was genocide and said he believes that Congress should not be considering the matter.
The board of the regional ADL refused to release the text of the resolutions it adopted Thursday, in deference, one source said, to the national organization. The board would not comment further. Foxman did not return the Boston Globe’s call seeking comment.
But Tarsy’s remarks made clear that the regional arm of the ADL was prepared to part ways with the national office on the issue of Armenian Genocide, a move welcomed by the leader of the Armenian National Committee, based in Washington, reported the Globe.
"It’s a positive move," said Aram Hamparian, executive director of the Armenian National Committee told the Globe. "It’s the New England ADL trying to bring the national ADL over to the right side of the issue."
Hamparian told Asbarez that “We welcome the New England’s ADL’s action today as a meaningful step toward moving their national organization to the right side of this issue. We remain hopeful that, as the ADL’s regional and local leadership learns more about the truly unfortunate controversy sparked by Abraham Foxman’s hateful commen’s, the many sincere and principled members of this proud organization will make sure they distance themselves from the denial of the Armenian Genocide.”
“Ultimately, the best measure of ADL’s stand ‘s and the surest path to the restoration of its standing as an organization opposed to all genocides ‘s is its national leadership’s willingness to join with human rights advocates of all backgrounds in calling upon the President and Congress to work toward the adoption of the Armenian Genocide Resolution,” he added.
"Why are they taking this position? Because they’re being pressured to," James Russell, the Mashtots professor of Armenian studies at Harvard University told the Globe. "Because Israel is in a very dangerous neighborhood and Turkey, at the moment, is a friend and military ally."
The Globe said that the “No Place For Hate” program was positive, most agreed. Under the program, communities organize diversity days and other events focused on challenging bigotry, and after a year they receive placards to be posted, declaring the community as "No Place For Hate," explained the Boston Globe.
The debate quickly became about something bigger, hurting the reputation of an organization that has spoken out against Holocaust denial, ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, and genocide in Darfur.
"I’m a longtime supporter of the ADL, and I think the work the organization has done has often been stellar," Rabbi Ronne Friedman, senior rabbi of Boston’s largest synagogue, Temple Israel told the Globe. "But I’m really saddened that Abe Foxman, the national director, has failed to affirm the historical fact of this genocide, and I really think that failure represents a moral myopia," he added in commen’s to the Globe.
Friedman told the Globe that he spoke about this issue during services last week and urged his congregation to reach out to Armenian-Americans and let them know that many Jews stand with them.
Jews, being victims of Adolf Hitler’s genocide plan, should understand the importance of this issue, Friedman’said.
"Hitler referenced the Armenian genocide as proof that the Germans could move forward with impunity in the defamation of the Polish population, men, women and children," Friedman told the Globe. "So the idea that we’d fail to recognize historical fact and fail to ensure that the Armenian-American community is affirmed and supported in its quest for justice and truth — I think that’s terribly unfortunate."
The Globe reported that officials in other "No Place For Hate" Massachusetts towns were rethinking their involvement in the program. In Newton, officials were drafting a letter demanding that the ADL change its position.