09/07 Belmont Citizen: Commission advises Selectmen to pull out of NPFH Program

Commission advises Selectmen to pull out of No Place for Hate Program
Cassie Norton
Fri Sep 07, 2007, 01:22 PM EDT

Belmont, Mass. - The Human Rights Commission voted unanimously to recommend to the Board of Selectmen that Belmont withdraw from the No Place for Hate Program and sever all ties with the Anti-Defamation League.

The committee cited the ADL’s failure to unambiguously recognize the Armenian Genocide and its continued opposition to Congressional resolutions recognizing the genocide of hundreds of thousands Armenians in the early 20th century.

“We very much like the No Place for Hate campaign,” HRC chairwoman Laurie Graham said in an interview. “It’s a viable curriculum and program. But the connection to the ADL makes it imperative that we part with it.”

She said the group’s “sticking point” was the ADL’s refusal to support HR 106, a congressional bill which calls for the recognition of the Armenian genocide in U.S. foreign policy.

Graham said if the selectmen vote to withdraw from the program, the HRC and Belmont Against Racism are ready to create a new diversity and tolerance education program.

Selectmen Paul Solomon and Dan Leclerc attended Thursday’s meeting. Leclerc said he wasn’t ready to publicly state his views on the issue, saying he wanted to hear the HRC’s presentation without prejudice.

“You could say I’m in the process of processing it,” Leclerc said.

Solomon said he was in total support of the HRC’s position.

“This is in advance of the [selectmen’s discussion],” he said, “but I will support their stand.”

Graham has already informed the Office of the Board of Selectmen and the local branch of the ADL of the HRC’s recommendation, and will be drafting a letter explaining its position.

Town Administrator Tom Younger said the HRC will be on the agenda for the Sept. 17 selectmen’s meeting, unless the board decides otherwise.

The ADL has scheduled a meeting in November to discuss the No Place for Hate program and the withdrawal of towns across the country in support of Armenian-Americans and HR 106.

“We don’t know what will happen at that meeting,” Graham said, “but we didn’t want to wait that long to make our decision.”

Around 100 residents of Belmont and a few neighboring towns attended Thursday’s meeting, which was held at the Town Hall Auditorium. Several Belmont Armenian-Americans gave voice to their frustrations.

Pine Street resident Lenna Garibian spoke about her grandmother, who was 5-years-old when Turkish soldiers came to her house and told her to start walking. She did, with her mother and 3-year-old brother, across the Syrian Desert.

Garibian’s great-grandmother died on that long journey. Just before she did, she told her daughter to take care of her little brother. She tried, Garibian recounted, but somewhere along the way, her brother’s hand slipped from hers. The guilt haunted her until the end of her days.

In her remarks to the HRC, she said no Armenian “should sit with a revisionist Turkish historian… to discuss whether the genocide happened or not. The world knows. Turkey knows. [ADL director] Abe Foxman knows. This was a genocide.”

“As Armenians, we are aware of our past, taught about our past,” she said in an interview. “I think [the HRC’s decision] sets a good tone moving forward, that Belmont will not tolerate an equivocation of the truth, of justice.”

She said she was pleased by the decision and by the support the Armenian-Americans have received from the HRC and BAR.

“We’ll take the good things from No Place for Hate, and there are a lot of good things,” she said, “and move forward with our own plan to combat hatred.”

She added that she was “optimistic that the selectmen will do the right thing.”

Source: http://www.wickedlocal.com/belmont/homepage/x823001486