08/14 Boston Globe: Town ends ties with No Place for Hate

Town ends ties with No Place for Hate
Watertown targets group's sponsor
By Christine Pazanese, Globe Correspondent August 15, 2007

Under pressure from its Armenian residents, the Town Council in Watertown voted last night to rescind its participation in the No Place for Hate program.

The council's 8-to-0 vote (one councilor was absent) was a response to objections by Armenian Americans who say the Anti-Defamation League, one of the program's sponsors, refuses to acknowledge what many consider a genocide committed against Armenians by the Turks from 1915 to 1917.

"We cannot join with the ADL when they refuse to acknowledge the [Armenian] genocide," said Councilor Marilyn Petitto Devaney, who introduced the proclamation to withdraw from the program.

Watertown, with one of the largest populations of Armenians in the country, was one of 67 communities in Massachusetts to adopt the program. It joined No Place for Hate in July 2005 and reaffirmed its participation in June.

Andrew Tarsy, regional director of ADL's New England office, last night condemned as "distortions and rhetoric" suggestions that the ADL has denied a genocide occurred and has been working against congressional legislation to formally acknowledge the slaughter.

Thirteen members of the town's No Place for Hate committee met Monday with Tarsy to "ask for clarification on the ADL's position" and to "express our strong objections to its stance," said Will Twombly, the committee's cochairman. "We find the ADL's position unacceptable," he said.

Despite his attempt to clarify the ADL's position, Tarsy was taunted last night as he defended the success of the program throughout the state.

"We believe Turkey needs to do more," said Tarsy, who added that ADL leadership has been using its relationship "to push Turkey to confront its role in a meaningful way."

David Boyajian of Newton, who first alerted Watertown officials of the ADL's position on the genocide in early July, applauded the council's decision. "I hope the next step is for No Place for Hate to sever its ties with the ADL and to encourage the ADL to lobby for recognition of the Armenian genocide," he said.

It was not clear last night whether Armenians plan to lobby other towns to drop out of the program.

"We regret the controversy, but we cannot remain silent on a blatant issue of hypocrisy," Grace Kulegian, a Watertown resident and member of the Armenian National Committee of Eastern Massachusetts, told last night's gathering.

Many in the crowd implored the council to cut ties with the ADL and suggested the good works begun under No Place for Hate could continue independently.

"I don't think the ADL has a monopoly on battling intolerance," said Narini Badalian of Watertown.