09/28 Watertown Tab: Former ‘No Place for Hate’ group urges ADL to change views on Armenian genocide

Former ‘No Place for Hate’ group urges ADL to change views on Armenian genocide
By Jillian Fennimore, staff writer
Thu Sep 27, 2007, 04:30 PM EDT

WATERTOWN, MA - Members of the town’s former “No Place for Hate” committee say that four months ago they were operating a successful anti-bias program without conflict under the Anti-Defamation League.

Now, those same members are taking a strong stance against the actions of the national ADL, urging the civil rights group to unequivocally recognize the Armenian Genocide.

In a letter to the ADL, Will Twombly, former co-chairperson of Watertown’s “No Place for Hate” committee and fellow co-chair Sgt. David Sampson of the Watertown Police Department made their message strong.

“It was impossible to continue our committee’s work, and to regain our credibility in the community, while affiliated with the ADL under these circumstances,” the letter reads. “We cannot fully believe the sincerity of the ADL’s stated goals – to work for the fair and equal treatment of all – until you have completely and wholeheartedly supported the Armenian people in their quest to have their history acknowledged by all nations of the world.”

The controversy, which continues to have international repercussions, began in Watertown. In July, Newton’s David Boyajian wrote a letterto the Watertown TAB & Press about the ADL’s stance, which some said amounted to denial that the World War I-era deaths of 1.5 million Armenians under the Ottoman Empire were “genocide.”

After much public debate and emotional outpouring from local Armenians and officials, ADL National Director Abraham Foxman changed the organization’s position in August by calling the consequences of the Ottoman Empire’s actions “tantamount to genocide.”

Foxman enraged many Armenians, however, by his organization’s continued opposition to a Congressional resolution making it the official U.S. view that the massacres of Armenians were genocide, that is to say a concerted government effort to annihilate an ethnic group.

“We want to see the ADL take what we feel would be critical step in endorsing the Congressional resolution [on the Armenian Genocide],” said Twombly.

Twombly said he hopes Foxman’s shifted outlook will begin a “badly needed healing process.”

“We would feel hollow if it were not followed by an endorsement of the Congressional legislation,” he told the TAB & Press.

Ruth Thomasian, a local Armenian and former member of the “No Place for Hate” committee, said the committee’s original thoughts were not to immediately leave the ADL, since their programs were running so smoothly in town.

“Originally we weren’t demanding to cut ties,” she said. “We wanted to stay part of system because it was a great program. But we can’t be hypocritical about diversity issues.”

Last month, Town Council members unanimously accepted a proclamation sponsored by At-Large Councilor Marilyn Devaney severing ties with the ADL.

Since then, Belmont and Newton have followed Watertown’s lead. Arlington, which had been seeking “No Place for Hate” certification, suspended its involvement in the program. Other cities and towns are also mulling whether to drop “No Place for Hate.”

Members of the dissolved “No Place for Hate” committee in Watertown are planning a public program about the Armenian genocide. Something will be scheduled in early November, according to Twombly.

The national ADL plans to revisit its policy toward recognition of the Armenian genocide in November.

When asked whether or not committee members would consider rejoining with the ADL if the Congressional legislation is passed, Thomasian said anything could be possible down the road.

“That legislation has been going on for over 20 years,” she said. “But, yes, that would have to be considered.”

Source: http://www.wickedlocal.com/watertown/homepage/x1681074238