09/23 Boston Globe: Devaney presses peer on ADL

Devaney presses peer on ADL
Genocide stance is called too weak
By Christina Pazzanese, Globe Correspondent September 23, 2007

Watertown Councilor Marilyn Petitto Devaney, who has pressed neighboring towns to drop out of the Anti-Defamation League's No Place for Hate program, is turning up the heat on a fellow councilor she says has not been tough enough with the ADL for its stance on the Armenian genocide.

Devaney is calling out fellow town Councilor Jonathan Hecht for his role in the Mass. Municipal Association's decision to remain associated with No Place for Hate, rather than sever ties with the program, as Belmont, Newton, and Watertown have done.

"Coming from Watertown, it's a shame he didn't push to withdraw" from the No Place for Hate program, she said. "The whole goal of this is to get the communities to withdraw."

Hecht, who represents District B on the Town Council and sits on Watertown's No Place for Hate committee, also serves on the MMA's executive committee and 35-member board of directors, and is vice president of the Mass. Municipal Councillors' Association, a panel under the umbrella of the MMA that is a co-sponsor with the ADL of No Place for Hate.

Hecht is also a researcher and manager of an international law program on human rights in China at Yale Law School .

The MMA executive committee recently drafted a statement that was voted by the board on Sept. 11, calling for the ADL's national leadership to recognize the killing of 1.5 million Armenians between 1915 and 1923 as genocide, and to support a resolution before Congress that officially acknowledges the slaughter as genocide.

The board stopped short, however, from ending its involvement with No Place for Hate. Instead, the board said it would "review and monitor" and "reevaluate" its sponsorship of the program in light of the actions the league takes in the coming months.

"It sends a very strong message what the MMA is expecting of the ADL," said Hecht, who acknowledged that some communities have taken a more aggressive stance in recent weeks, a decision he attributes to a difference in strategy.

"We're on the same side and we're all pushing for the same thing," he said.

Hecht said if the ADL has not "unequivocally" recognized the genocide and supported the congressional resolution after its national board meeting on Nov. 1, he will ask the board to consider ending its partnership altogether. " 'Tantamount to genocide' is not going to cut the mustard," Hecht said, quoting a characterization of the genocide made last month by ADL national head Abraham Foxman. Critics have called Foxman's statement inadequate.

"It's weak, it says nothing, and if you talk to the Armenian organizations, they are outraged," said Devaney, who tried twice to get the MMA board to sever ties completely and who believes Hecht "spearheaded" the MMA's statement. "This recommendation is not consistent" with what Hecht's fellow councilors and what other towns have done, she said.

Hecht denied taking any lead role in crafting the MMA statement.

He was out of town on Aug. 15 when the Watertown council voted to sever ties with the No Place for Hate program, but said he fully supports the town's actions and would have voted with his colleagues. "Watertown did the right thing," he said.

Hecht said the controversy has brought more attention to the No Place for Hate program and its benefits, and he hopes the town will find a way to continue the activities, even if under a different banner. "This is an opportunity to do it even better than before," he said.

The program isn't just some "feel-good, everyone sitting around singing 'Kumbaya' " affair, said Hecht, but an important part of community policing. "For me, that's what No Place for Hate is. It's real function is to improve public safety, to prevent violence and property damage," and to build communication between groups, he said. "It's very practical and that's why the MMA has been supportive."

Hecht said he doesn't deserve any special recognition for his part in what is a complicated dispute, adding, "This is an issue everyone should be coming forward and working to settle."

Christina Pazzanese can be reached at cpazzanese@globe.com.

Source: http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2007/09/23/devaney_presses_peer_on_adl/