08/23 Jewish Advocate Editorial: The ADL and history

The ADL and history

This has been a whirlwind two weeks for the Jewish community in Boston. Discussion, debate, sadness and outrage have characterized a community response to the heated events that initially took root in Watertown, and subsequently found an audience in the halls of the headquarters of the Anti-Defamation League in New York City.
Along the way, the Boston community lost Andrew H. Tarsy as the executive director of the Anti-Defamation League New England Region, after he was fired by Abraham H. Foxman, the organization’s national leader. And Foxman himself partially reversed his position this week, recognizing the massacres of the Armenians at the hands of the Turks as “tantamount to genocide.”
If anything was constant this week – as the emotionally-charged issue unraveled – it was that the story was continuously changing and evolving. First Tarsy held firm to his organization’s position, and then suddenly reversed himself – calling on the national office to not only recognize the Armenian massacres as genocide, but to also lobby in favor of a congressional resolution. And then just as suddenly, Foxman, who had previously stated that he would not be “an arbiter of someone else’s history,” decided to revisit the issue of semantics and language: “On reflection,” he wrote in a statement, “we have come to share the view of Henry Morgenthau, Sr. that the consequences of those actions were indeed tantamount to genocide.”
In short, the Jewish community has found itself deeply embroiled in this issue. Sensitive to the history of genocide and the power of words, people have signed petitions targeting Foxman and his initial position, which was deemed highly unwelcome by many of his colleagues.
The controversy has raised serious questions about who, and how, an organization sets its policies and agendas; who is in the best position to make these determinations and what should happen if a regional director – and his Board – disagree with a position put forward by the corner office at national headquarters. In fact, the ensuing controversy raises more questions than it can provide answers.
It might not have been the best thing for Tarsy to publicly counter the national director’s view. After all, by doing so he lost his job and the ADL has suffered a blow to its reputation. Yet in speaking out, Tarsy unknowingly put into motion a series of events resulting in a national leader reconsidering his views.
Will this benefit the ADL and the Jewish community in the long run? It is an issue that will certainly continue to unfold. And given the comment from official sources in Turkey that “This [new ADL position] could have a negative impact” on relations with Israel and the Jewish Community, we will also have to watch those developments – and any impact on the Jewish community in Turkey – resulting from an issue that originated locally but has international implications.

Source: http://www.thejewishadvocate.com/this_weeks_issue/editorial/?content_id=3534