08/30 The Beacon: Local group weighs ADL move

Local group weighs ADL move
Christian Schiavone
Thu Aug 30, 2007, 06:53 AM EDT

Acton, Mass. - Members of the Acton No Place for Hate group were poised earlier this week to become the second such group in the state to cut their ties to the Anti-Defamation League because of the League’s refusal to acknowledge the killing of over a million Armenians as genocide.

The decision came just hours before the ADL issued a statement reversing its position and using the word “genocide” to refer to the massacre of up to 1.5 million Armenians by Muslim Turks following World War I.

The controversy began two weeks ago when the town councilors in Watertown, which has a large Armenian population, voted to end the town’s participation in the No Place for Hate program because of the ADL’s stance on the issue. Days later, the ADL fired its New England regional director, Andrew Tarsy, for breaking with the policy by saying the killings amounted to genocide.

Tarsy was rehired on Monday.
Acton would have been the second town to cut its ties to the ADL, a national organization that fights discrimination.

“We really felt like it was important for ethical reasons to take a stand,” said Lauren Gilman, one of three co-chairs the Acton’s No Place for Hate group.

Gilman said group members had been uneasy with the ADL’s position on the Armenian genocide before, but felt that because their group’s efforts are locally focused that they could continue their affiliation.

“When it got to the point that the regional director took a stand and got fired, we thought it had gone to far,” said Gilman.

Gilman and the other members agreed to draft a letter formally seeking to suspend their affiliation with the ADL until the League changed its position. Gilman said the group would not go forward with suspending their affiliation because of the change in policy.

The ADL had previously condemned the killings of Armenians as an atrocity, but stopped short of calling it genocide.

Following a wave of outcry after Tarsy’s dismissal highlighted the issue, Abraham Foxman, the ADL’s national director, issued a statement Tuesday reversing the League’s position.

“[T]he consequences of those actions were indeed tantamount to genocide. If the word genocide had existed then, they would have called it genocide,” he wrote.

Foxman added, however, that the ADL does not support a congressional resolution to recognize the killings as genocide, citing risks to the relationship between Turkey, the United States and Israel that such a move could create.

State Rep. Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton, who is a second co-chair of the local No Place for Hate group and a candidate in the race for the 5th Congressional District, said if elected, he would support such a resolution.

“Any holocaust, any genocide needs to be recognized so it never happens again,” said Eldridge, pointing to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, and the current mass killings in the Sudan. “I really felt like we had to take a stand.”

While Acton does not have a large Armenian population, Eldridge said it was important for the town to push for recognition of the massacres of Armenians as genocide.

“It’s an important issue for any community that’s committed to civil rights,” he said.

Eldridge also praised Tarsy for breaking ADL policy regarding the massacres of Armenians.

Acton’s No Place for Hate group holds an annual Martin Luther King Day breakfast, and has worked to highlight the needs of the town’s growing Brazilian population.

Gilman said that the work of the Acton group, which has been in existence for about five years, is important as the town’s population becomes more diverse.

“I’ve seen huge change in terms of the community and languages I hear just standing in line at the grocery store,” she said.

Christian Schiavone can be reached at 978-371-5743 or at cschiavo@cnc.com.

Source: http://www.wickedlocal.com/acton/homepage/x1136425708