08/21 Haaretz: ADL says Turkish massacre of Armenians was a 'genocide'

ADL says Turkish massacre of Armenians was a 'genocide'

By Shmuel Rosner, Haaretz Correspondent

Bowing to a barrage of criticism from Jewish groups and Armenian-Americans, Anti-Defamation League Chairman Abe Foxman "revisited" the organization's stance Tuesday, announcing a new policy recognizing the 1915-1918 Turkish massacre of Armenians as "genocide."

"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," said a statement from the group released Tuesday.

The statement went on to say that ADL officials "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."

Over the past two weeks, the ADL has faced a tremendous amount of pressure over the issue. Two weeks ago the town of Watertown, a suburb of Boston with a large Armenian community, decided to cut its ties with the ADL sponsored "No Place for Hate" program, after they discovered that the ADL was not planning to support a bill that would force the American government to accept that the massacre was in fact a genocidal act.

The ADL itself was split over the issue; it fired New England regional director Andrew Tarsy for telling The Boston Globe he agreed the killings were genocide and that he "strongly disagrees with the ADL's national position."

Foxman had explained that he did not support the bill in fear that it would hurt both the U.S. and Israel's relations with Turkey while putting the Jewish community in Turkey in danger.

This stance was reiterated in the ADL statement, which said that "we continue to firmly believe 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."

The Armenian National Committee of America praised the ADL for its new position, but expressed sorrow over the opposition to passing legislation on the issue.

The organization remains "deeply troubled... that elements of its national leadership seek to prevent the United States from taking this very same principled step by adopting the Armenian Genocide Resolution currently before Congress," said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian.