09/19 Boston Globe: Newton to drop out of ADL program

Newton to drop out of ADL program
City cites genocide of the Armenians
By Megan Woolhouse, Globe Staff September 19, 2007

Mayor David B. Cohen of Newton said yesterday that the city would drop out of the No Place for Hate program sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League, drawing rebuke from two prominent Jewish groups.

In making the announcement, Cohen said he had fielded more than 100 phone calls and e-mails on both sides of the issue, but that ultimately the decision was personal.

"I think this was really an issue of conscience," Cohen said in an interview. "We certainly hope the national ADL will do the right thing."

Newton has joined Watertown and Belmont in leaving the program, in protest of the Anti-Defamation League's ambiguous position on the World War I-era killing of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Turks.

Last month, the ADL's national director, Abraham Foxman, called the killings "tantamount to genocide," but stopped short of endorsing a congressional resolution acknowledging a genocide. Critics such as the Newton Human Rights Commission said Foxman's acknowledgment was too hesitant and demanded that the national organization "fully and unequivocally recognize[s] the Armenian genocide."

Armenian leaders nationally have asked communities to cease offering the No Place for Hate program until the ADL explicitly acknowledges a genocide.

But area Jewish leaders, including one who has been critical of the national group's position, said yesterday they were disappointed by Cohen's decision.

Last month, Foxman fired Andrew H. Tarsy, the ADL's regional director for New England, for breaking ranks with the national ADL and condemning the Armenian killings. Tarsy was rehired when Foxman revised his views.

Tarsy said yesterday he was disappointed with Cohen's decision to drop the program, saying the organization has worked closely with city officials in Newton. The city has one of the state's largest Jewish populations.

"I had hoped the city of Newton would not rush to judgment on the issue," Tarsy said. "The program is a very valuable resource for all of the participating communities. We stand ready to work with all of them."

Nancy Kaufman, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston, also condemned Cohen's decision.

"I totally understand as an American Jew that nothing would be worse than someone saying the Holocaust didn't happen," Kaufman said. "But to continue to focus on No Place for Hate, which is a very important program, is not the right approach."

The ADL established the No Place of Hate program in 1999 as a vehicle for local municipalities to take a public stand against bias. To earn the designation, cities and towns had to show the ADL that they had taken certain steps, including hosting at least three antibias events. Communities then receive recertification, provided they hold at least two more annual events. More than 50 communities in Massachusetts still participate in the program.

The controversy erupted in August when officials in Watertown, which has a sizeable Armenian-American community, voted to end their affiliation with the program. Belmont followed suit.

After the Newton Human Rights Commission's vote earlier this month, Cohen, who is Jewish, said he expected to make a decision within days. He issued his first statement on the matter yesterday.

"The recognition of the Armenian genocide is an important step along the path of freedom and justice and crucial in combating other genocides now and in the future," he said in a press release. Cohen said he will ask the human rights panel to meet again in November, after the national ADL meeting, to review its position.

Aram Hamparian, executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America, said he is not surprised by Cohen's decision.

"This shows how opposition to the [congressional] legislation is just crumbling," he said. "Turkey is trying to enforce US silence and even complicity, and that effort is crumbling."

Jane Brown, a member of the Newton Human Rights Commission, applauded Cohen's decision. She said he told her of his decision Monday.

"He's very much with us," she said. "He told me how proud he was of the commission for our courageous stand."

Source: http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2007/09/19/newton_to_drop_out_of_adl_program?/