08/30 Jewish Advocate: Fallout from ADL's position elicits international response

Fallout from ADL's position elicits international response
By Raphael Kohan - Thursday August 30 2007

Andrew H. TarsyTurkey calls on Israel to keep Jewish organizations in line

Now that the Anti-Defamation League has reinstated Andrew H. Tarsy to its New England Region, ADL leaders say they want to move past the issues that have divided them in recent weeks, even as the organization is faced with international fallout.
“The ADL has confronted a very important issue and done a significant thing for acknowledging the Armenian genocide,” said Tarsy in a meeting on Monday with the Advocate and Abraham H. Foxman, ADL’s national director. “But now we go forward.”
Foxman fired Tarsy on Aug. 17 after he spoke out publicly against ADL’s official position at the time.
The events of the past month, which stemmed from a debate surrounding recognition of the Armenian massacres during World War I as genocide, have raised serious questions about the relationships of local chapters to national organizations, as well as the relationships of morally-concerned American Jews to the political realities facing the state of Israel and the Jewish Diaspora.
“It’s a much bigger issue than the community here may realize,” said Foxman. “These are two moral imperatives that come into conflict, and one has to make a choice.”
Upon learning of Foxman’s reversal on the term “genocide” last week, diplomatic officials in Jerusalem expressed disbelief, the Jerusalem Post reported. One senior Foreign Ministry official even declined to comment because he did not believe the authenticity of the statement.
One of the issues the controversy highlights is how Boston Jews overwhelmingly responded in support of Tarsy and recognizing the Armenian genocide, regardless of what political repercussions may follow in the Middle East.
“It is relatively easy to say this in Massachusetts, bordered by Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York,” reporter Herb Keinon wrote in the Jerusalem Post. “American Jews can take the high moral ground on issues such as these, because there is no real consequence; they don’t have to pay any tangible cost.”
Consul General of Israel to New England Nadav Tamir said there is an understandable difference between policy-makers in the Jewish state and Jewish organizational heads in the Bay State.
“They have their own interests and issues,” Tamir said of American Jewish groups. “Sometime they have to be more ideological. They don’t have realpolitik like countries have.”
Even as the ADL has held steadfast that a congressional resolution on the genocide would prove “counterproductive,” Turkish officials have been angered by the human rights organization’s shift last week.
“Turkey expressed chagrin that we had to take sides on this issue,” said Foxman. “How would you feel if you woke up in the morning and the newspaper headline read, ‘Jewish lobby stabs Turkey in the back?’”
The question remains, however, of how an organization’s ideological stance impacts another country’s political agreements, like the Turkish-Israeli alliance, which is precisely what seems to be hanging in the balance.
Foxman’s reversal set off alarm bells in Turkey that not even statements reinforcing Israel’s unchanged position on genocide recognition could pacify.
Turkish Ambassador to Israel Namik Tan, who cut short his summer vacation after learning of ADL’s position change, told the Jerusalem Post: “Israel should not let the [U.S.] Jewish community change its position. This is our expectation and this is highly important.”
Despite the role of American Jewish organizations in lobbying on Israel’s behalf, the Jewish state does not set their agenda, according to Tamir.
“They’re not getting dictates from Israel,” he said. “We will try to explain to the Turks that Jewish organizations are not representing the Israeli government necessarily.”
For all the international implications encompassed by the events of the last few weeks, Jonathan Sarna, professor of American Jewish History at Brandeis University, said there may be fallout that also impacts the dynamic of Jewish organizational life.
“This will be remembered as a very unusual episode where a rebellious chapter managed to transform the parent organization,” said Sarna. “My sense is we’ll see other examples of chapters rebelling in different ways against the dictates of the center.”
Yet others maintain it is precisely the international relationships fostered by a national headquarters that allow it to be best informed on diplomatic concerns, which fall outside the jurisdiction of local chapters.
“The issue for the ADL is not whether or not there was genocide against the Armenians – there clearly was,” Grand Rabbi Y. A. Korff said in a statement. “Rather the real issue for the ADL is, after considering all the complexities, competing interests, and the consequences, what their official policy should be and how, or by whom, that decision should be made.”
With Foxman expressing one view and local Jewish groups expressing another, the national ADL head said the public attacks against him and ADL proved most upsetting to him.
“I found it personally disheartening that good people in the Jewish community were not willing to give us the benefit of the doubt that we were acting in good faith in the best interest of the Jewish community,” said Foxman.
For now, Foxman and Tarsy are both looking to put this ordeal behind them so they can move forward in promoting new initiatives on the organization’s agenda.
“I hope it will be a learning experience for us all,” said Foxman. “We paid a high price for it, but it brings the community a better understanding of what’s at stake.”

Source: http://www.thejewishadvocate.com/this_weeks_issue/news/?content_id=3596