08/05 Milford Daily News: Rethink the Armenian Genocide

By Frank Mazzaglia/Local columnist
Sun Aug 05, 2007, 12:21 AM EDT

An unlikely squabble broke out last week between Watertown's Armenian community and the Anti-Defamation League. This is what happened.

Along with scores of other cities and towns, Watertown proclaimed itself a "No Place for Hate" community back in 2005. The idea, of course, was to promote public policy against discrimination. Indeed, Watertown is one of the most densely populated communities in the Commonwealth. It is also home to the state's largest Armenian concentration. Closely built houses encourage neighborliness. Still, there is genuine anger out there.

It turns out that the Anti-Defamation League, which sponsors "No Place for Hate," refuses to acknowledge a dark period from 1915 to 1923. That's when the Turkish army implemented a policy of ethnic cleansing and mercilessly murdered an estimated 1.5 million helpless Armenian civilians. Turkey's subsequent denial of having anything to do with the Armenian genocide caused Hitler himself to believe he could get away with the ruthless slaughter of Jews which we now know as the Holocaust.

Leaders of Watertown's Armenian community want to maintain the "No Place for Hate" program but are lobblying to separate its connection with the ADL.

Mark me down as one who believes that there is real danger in looking the other way when any nation attempts to cover up shameful episodes of its past. Japan attempted to do that by changing school textbooks and omitting its unspeakable attrocities in China and Korea.

Modern China, too, gets more than a bit touchy when the subject of Tibet comes up.

Turkey's refusal to accept any responsibility for its past history against the Armenian people, however, gets a bit more problematic because of its political and strategic importance. Even the United States drags its feet when it comes to Turkey. It's more in our interest to be concerned about the present and the future than to dwell on the past.

Still, there are some of us who get very angry with anyone who denies the Holocaust. That's why the ADL's position, or rather lack of position, about the Armenian genocide just doesn't make sense.

Founded in 1913 to fight anti-Semitism, the ADL has taken risky positions which have done us all proud. The ADL condemned the senseless killings in Darfur and the genocide in the Balkans. That's part of the problem. There's nothing 'selective' about genocide. It's wrong to condemn one genocide and turn a blind eye to another.

Following World War II, a huge wave of anger was directed against Pope Pius XII for his 'silence' during the Holocaust. Some still seem to think the Swiss Guard could have been a real match against the SS. Dan Kurzman's new book "A Special Mission," however, reveals evidence concerning a secret Nazi plot in which Hitler planned to kidnap and then kill Pope Pius XII precisely because he was aiding and abetting Jews whenever and wherever he could. Notwithstanding Kurzman's evidence, there has been no apology for the defamation.

The real problem comes right down to money. To acknowledge its past would mean that Turkey would have to pay compensation to Armenians who suffered under the genocide in the same way the German government was required to compensate the victims of its Nazi past.

The sad fact remains that no amount of compensation could ever be enough for what Jews and Armenians have suffered at the hands of morally sick tyrants.

Sadder yet is the growing conflict between two groups that have both experienced the terrible result of senseless hatred and intolerance. In the end, the ADL's refusal to support the truth about the Armenian genocide places a serious dent in its own integrity. That's why it makes sense for the ADL to re-think its position. It's too important an organization to risk losing its moral authority.

The faster wise minds come to that conclusion, the better it will be for us all.

Frank Mazzaglia can be reached at fmazzaglia@aol.com