09/07 AN INTERFAITH VIEW: ADL’s genocide denial is reprehensible

AN INTERFAITH VIEW: ADL’s genocide denial is reprehensible

Genocide denial is never acceptable, but when it is done by a civil rights group, it is particularly reprehensible.

Sadly, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has long denied that the systematic murder of over 1.5 million Armenians in 1915 constituted genocide.

Leaders of other Jewish organizations — including B’nai B’rith and the American Jewish Committee — have taken the same unconscionable position, and are opposing a U.S. congressional bill recognizing the 1915 genocide.

This puts them at odds with virtually every other civil and human rights group in the world.

There may be situations in which premature charges of genocide can put people at risk, but recognition of past genocide is different.

Without recognition of past abuses, tyrants are emboldened, and future genocide becomes more likely.

"Who remembers the Armenians?" Adolph Hitler scoffed when planning the systematic extermination of Jews and Roma (Gypsies) in his death camps.

So why does the ADL engage in genocide denial?

Cynics say it might be partly because genocide against Armenians (or Muslims in Bosnia) detracts from the Nazi holocaust.

A second and more important reason is that the government of Israel does not recognize the Armenian genocide because it is fearful of offending elements within Turkey’s rigidly secular political and military elites.

American Jewish leaders are expected to docilely fall in line to promote the Israeli position.

But, in so doing, the ADL invalidates its own claim to be an independent American civil rights organization.

Genocide denial is rightly despised in the United States, and it isn’t good for Israel, either.

This is yet another instance in which the ADL works against American interests — not to mention the greater cause of civil and human rights — to promote the perceived interests of rightwing Israeli politicians.

But the ADL didn’t count on the courageous Armenian community in Massachusetts.

On Tuesday, Aug. 14, the Watertown Town Council voted to withdraw from an ADL program called ‘No Place for Hate.’

The town council voted 8-0 that there was no place in Watertown for genocide denial, either, severing their relationship with the ADL.

The following Monday, the Arlington, Mass., ‘No Place for Hate’ group also ended its relationship with the ADL; and on Tuesday, the Newton, Mass., Human Rights Commission similarly prepared to sever all ties to the Anti-Defamation League.

uIn response to this, Andrew Tarsy, the New England regional ADL director, publicly broke with national director Abraham Foxman on the Armenian genocide issue.

Foxman angrily fired Tarsy, only to hire him back a few days later.

But pressure on Foxman grew.

On Tuesday, Aug. 21, he announced that what happened to the Armenians in 1915 was "tantamount to genocide" — an equivocation that infuriated Armenians.

Furthermore, Foxman made it clear that he and other Jewish leaders would continue to actively lobby against a U.S. congressional resolution recognizing the 1915 genocide.

Underscoring the connection to Israel, on Aug. 24, the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reported that Turkey had been scolding Israel about ADL waffling on the Armenian issue.

But how did an American civil rights organization become a wholly-owned subsidiary of another country’s government, and a pro-apartheid government at that?

"Armenians are not the only victims of denial," writes Jewish Voice for Peace’s Cecilie Surasky. "The ADL is an active apologist for the government of Israel’s worst human rights abuses. Palestinians are victims of an insidious form of denial that is not just about memory and recognition, but flesh and blood and life itself."

She concludes: "The ADL should decide to either be an Israel advocacy organization, or a pro-tolerance and anti-bigotry organization, but it has proven time and time again that it is impossible for it to be both."

Lawrence Swaim is the Executive Director of the Interfaith Freedom Foundation. He taught for eight years at Pacific Union College, and his academic specialties are American Studies and American literature. His column addresses current affairs from an American Christian and Interfaith perspective.

Source: http://www.infocusnews.net/content/view/16423/379/