09/20 Lexington Minuteman: Commentary: No place for genocide denial

Commentary: No place for genocide denial
By Laura Boghosian
Thu Sep 20, 2007, 05:40 AM EDT

Lexington - Can a program that combats hate crimes be sponsored by an organization engaged in genocide denial?

Not according to Boston-area No Place for Hate communities that have cut ties with the program sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League, due to that organization’s refusal to recognize unambiguously the Armenian Genocide.

Last month, Watertown’s Town Council voted unanimously to withdraw from the NPFH program. Arlington’s NPFH steering committee also voted to suspend its involvement.

Belmont’s Human Rights Commission next voted unanimously to recommend their Board of Selectmen sever ties. Likewise, Newton’s Human Rights Commission voted unanimously “to immediately cease participation” until the ADL “unequivocally recognizes the Armenian Genocide and actively supports” a congressional resolution affirming the genocide.

Several other communities are debating withdrawing.
Concerned town residents are asking Lexington also sever its association with the No Place for Hate program.

During “the first genocide of the 20th century,” 1.5 million Armenians were massacred beginning in 1915 by the Ottoman Turkish government; survivors were exiled from their ancient, ancestral homeland. Many of the genocide’s perpetrators later held high government positions in the new Republic of Turkey. Turkey denies it committed genocide against the Armenians.

Yet the word “genocide” was coined by Rafael Lemkin, a Polish-Jewish lawyer, who said he “became interested in genocide because it happened to the Armenians” and the Turkish “criminals were guilty of genocide and were not punished.” This travesty emboldened Hitler: he justified his invasion of Poland by asking his generals, “Who today, after all, speaks of the annihilation of the Armenians?”

In 1997, the world’s foremost organization of genocide experts, The International Association of Genocide Scholars, unanimously passed a formal resolution that affirmed the Armenian Genocide. Responding to a 2005 call by the Turkish prime minister for “impartial study by historians,” the IAGS branded this not scholarship, but propaganda, in order “to absolve the perpetrator, blame the victims, and erase the ethical meaning of this history.”

Numerous countries, including Canada, France, Russia, Sweden, Italy, Argentina, Lebanon, and Germany have formally recognized the Armenian Genocide; in Switzerland, it is a crime to deny it.

Currently, there are resolutions before Congress to recognize the Armenian Genocide. Similar resolutions have been blocked for years by Turkey and American Jewish organizations, including the ADL.

Numerous reports in the Jewish press detail the ADL’s lobbying against recognition, including efforts earlier this year after meeting with Turkey’s foreign minister.

As the ADL’s position on the Armenian Genocide became widely known, the local Jewish community and others engaged in human rights work strongly supported Armenians. Pressure from the ADL’s New England region and its director forced the ADL to reevaluate its stance on the genocide.

Thus, on Aug. 21, the ADL announced, “We have never negated but have always described the painful events of 1915-1918 perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire against the Armenians as massacres and atrocities ... the consequences of those actions were indeed tantamount to genocide.”

This cleverly worded statement, however, is not an acknowledgment of the Armenian Genocide. First, there is the qualifier “tantamount.” More critical, however, is the word “consequences.” The international legal definition of genocide rests upon “intent.” Turkey acknowledges many Armenians died as a consequence of World War I conditions. It denies, however, there was an intentional policy of genocide. With its duplicitous phrasing, the ADL abets Turkey’s genocide denial.

Further, the ADL reiterated its refusal to support the congressional resolution recognizing the genocide, calling it “a counterproductive diversion.”

On Aug. 23, echoing Turkey’s call for “impartial study,” the ADL suggested “further dispassionate scholarly examination” of the genocide. Would the ADL advocate this with Holocaust deniers?

Clearly, the ADL has not changed its egregious behavior.
In fact, the Turkish press reports the ADL wrote to Prime Minister Erdogan, expressing its sorrow for the discomfort the so-called acknowledgement caused Turkey’s leadership and people. Erdogan announced, “The wrong step that has been taken is corrected … They said they shared our sensitivity and expressed the mistake they made [and] will continue to give us all the support they have given so far.”

Which brings us back to Lexington and its No Place for Hate program. There can be no doubt that Lexington’s group of dedicated volunteers has done extremely valuable work in our community.

Yet this crucial work is compromised by its ADL association. Genocide denial is the final stage of genocide. An organization that engages in genocide denial does not have the moral authority to sponsor a human rights organization. After all, rights must be for all, not just for some.

Lexington is a caring community that abounds with intelligent, active citizens. There is no reason we cannot independently, through a town-sponsored committee, continue human rights work without the baggage that comes with ADL sponsorship. Lexington should do the right thing and join our neighbors in severing ties with the ADL.

Laura Boghosian is a resident of Russell Road.

Source: http://www.wickedlocal.com/lexington/opinions/x428362967