09/19 Bedford Minuteman: Selectmen hear Armenian issue

Selectmen hear Armenian issue
Wed Sep 19, 2007, 02:22 PM EDT

By Patrick Ball
Staff Writer
Flanked by fellow Bedford residents of Armenian descent, Nancy Asbedian asked selectmen to help “lift the burden” borne by every Armenian-American in the room – a burden that will be passed on to their children.

Between 1915 and 1918, 1 1/2 million Armenians were systematically slaughtered by the Ottoman Turks, she said. Much of the world has come to recognize this tragedy as genocide, but some, including the Anti-Defamation League, have not. This is the burden she spoke of.

There is no statute of limitations on justice, and the democratic process starts with the people, she told selectmen Monday. “If the truth doesn’t start in Bedford, then where?” she asked.

The truth sought by the Armenian-American advocates is for the Anti-Defamation League to recognize unambiguously the Armenian Genocide and to support a congressional resolution on the issue. The ADL has said the massacre of 1 1/2 million Armenians by the Ottoman Turks during WWI was “tantamount to genocide,” but adamantly opposes Congressional Resolution on the issue.

No specific action was requested of the selectmen at the Monday meeting, but Asbedian, along with several other Armenian-Americans, implored selectmen to support a letter sent by the town’s Violence Prevention Coalition to the New England regional branch of the ADL.

Cathy Cordes, who is the selectmen’s liaison to the VPC, said part of the VPC mission is to build inter-group understanding. “You being here is doing that,” she told the Armenian-American advocates. “I hope that you keep telling your stories.”

The VPC letter, was penned after discussing the issue with the Armenian-American contingent at a Sept. 4 meeting, says the coalition will “watch very carefully what the ADL does [at a November meeting that will address the issue].” It was sent to the New England Regional Office last week, and Sue Baldauf, VPC chairwoman, said she was confident it would find its way to the national office.

Baldauf, who is also director of Bedford Youth and Family Services, said the letter was intended to be supportive of the New England regional branch of the ADL, which took a position contrary to the national stance.

“The VPC letter is a very strong [statement], the only thing I see missing is a deadline,” said Stephen Dulgarian.

The New England regional office of the ADL sent a letter to Bedford, which was received on Monday. The letter does not directly reference the VPC’s letter, but does say, “We know that the Violence Prevention Coalition and other members of the community have some questions and concerns about the ADL and the Armenian Genocide issue.”

The letter says regarding the “fundamental moral issue,” the ADL did acknowledge the genocide, but the “matter of the resolution before the United States Congress … is a political issue by nature.”

The ADL said it has been “proud to work with Bedford, and we certainly hope to continue this vital work together.” Furthermore, it hopes the town will not “rush to judgment” before the ADL National Commission addresses “this important issue further” at a November meeting.

Chairman Angelo Colao said the selectmen do not intend to make any decision until after the ADL’s November meeting.

Baldauf said she agrees with the selectmen about not making any decisions, and indicated the December VPC meeting is the likely the earliest any measures would begin.

Selectman Gordon Feltman said the board was “in the process of withholding judgment,” and they not only wanted to see the ADL’s November decision, but also any subsequent interactions between the local and national offices.

The Armenian Genocide resolution is not new, Michael Bahtiarian said. It has come up continuously throughout the 20-plus years he has been active in Armenian-American issues, and Bahtiarian does not anticipate changes will come of the ADL’s November meeting.

So swift and significant action from the selectmen will be expected, since they plan to wait for the ADL’s decision, Bahtiarian said.

The “cynical and unprincipled” stance is tantamount to the U.S. State Department’s backing of “every tin pan dictator in South America,” said Feltman, who was surprised by the ADL’s national stance.

However, with the New England branch “spear-heading the effort” and local groups embarking on a grassroots campaign, he is confident that the November meeting will lead to change.

“I think your moment in history is coming,” Feltman said.
On Tuesday, Sept. 11, The Massachusetts Municipal Association Board of Directors issued a statement “on the importance of recognizing the Armenian Genocide and supporting the congressional resolution.” The MMA, which was a founding co-sponsor of the No Place for Hate program, “applauds and supports the position of the New England Regional Director and New England Regional Executive Committee of the ADL for their leadership in calling for the unequivocal recognition of the Armenian Genocide and support for the Congressional Resolution before the U.S. House and Senate.”

The MMA statement also “respectfully calls on the national ADL to support the Congressional Resolution,” and says the MMA will “subsequently re-evaluate its official sponsorship of the No Place for Hate program” pending the national ADL’s decision.

In other business:
--Selectmen granted contracts for the re-roofing of the Town Center North Wing and portions of the Fire Station to WPI Construction, of Webster.

--Selectmen approved an agreement between the DPW and M.E. O’Brien and Sons, of Medfield, for their services and furnishings for a new tot lot, which will replace the two existing tot lots in the Town Center area.

Source: http://www.wickedlocal.com/bedford/homepage/x775327820