09/30 Belmont Citizen-Herald: The jurisdictional bushwhack

Arabian: The jurisdictional bushwhack
Sun Sep 30, 2007, 08:52 PM EDT

Belmont, Mass. - On Sept. 17, the Board of Selectmen were asked to adopt the Belmont Human Rights Commission’s (HRC) unanimous recommendation to sever ties with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and its No Place for Hate Program. The Belmont HRC also recommended that the selectmen call upon the ADL to formally recognize the Armenian Genocide by supporting a non-binding resolution not requiring the signature of the President of the United States. That resolution, now pending in Congress is House and Senate Resolution 106, now supported by more than 200 Representatives to Congress and 30 Senators.

The ADL, whose goals are to oppose the crimes of hate and discrimination, now enters the political arena as a Turkophile. The National ADL opposes passage of these resolutions while preaching tolerance and opposition to hate crimes. The ADL has hypocritically waffled and flip-flopped between actual recognition of the Armenian Genocide as a National Organization, supported denial of the Genocide the same as their Turkish masters have suggested, and openly opposes passage of the resolution.

A full and complete discussion and presentation of the facts by Armenians of Belmont and surrounding communities resulted in the unanimous passage of the Belmont HRC recommendation.

However, this was not the apparent intent of the selectmen. This is because the selectmen operate under a different practice. This practice prevents any further discussion, debate or explanation. It turns the audience into nothing more than muzzled spectators with few exceptions. This practice prevented open, frank and vivid explanations of these issues. The apparent lack of knowledge by most selectmen was limited to materials that they had “read” in less than two weeks. This added to the frustration. The only bright spot and exception to this was an eloquent, riveting and point-by-point delivery made by Selectman Paul Solomon, who proved to be the lone supporter of the HRC’s unanimous recommendation.

Newly elected Selectman Dan LeClerc spearheaded the opposition to the recommendation on two grounds: first, on the “jurisdictional” ground that the town of Belmont had no business conditioning its recommendation on the passage of a Congressional House Resolution. Secondly, he asked, Who are we to force the ADL into a corner, specifically telling them that their continued existence in Belmont depended upon their open support, nationally, for HR/SR106, now pending in Congress? Angelo Firenze, the chairman of the Board of Selectmen, joined him in this sentiment.

Faced with what would appear to be a negative vote against recommending the unanimous recommendation of the HRC, close to 200 Belmont Armenians in the town hall erupted in justified outrage. On the one hand, they were muzzled by the practice of the selectmen to prevent discussion; on the other hand, there was no way for anyone to explain the shortcomings of their assumptions. Being deeply concerned about this situation, attendees simply voiced their opposition and outrage. They were met by Firenze’s announcement that he would adjourn the proceeding or re-schedule the proceeding at some future unannounced date. This raised further concern until Dr. Joyce Barsam masterfully took the microphone, calmed the audience, and suggested that it might be possible to “split” the recommendation into two parts and vote upon each part separately. This apparently met with the approval of the selectmen as well as the outraged audience.

The result? The first motion to sever ties with the Anti-Defamation League and its No Place for Hate Program passed unanimously. The second motion to condition ADL’s acceptance to continue operations in Belmont upon its open and unambiguous support of the resolution, and to drop its opposition, politically, to its adoption by the Congress, was defeated.

The ultimate judgment by the body upon the town of Belmont must therefore be that the glass is full, but only half full. Belmont has severed ties with the ADL and its No Place for Hate Program. Presumably, if the ADL should wish to continue operations in Belmont at some future time, another hearing would have to be held at which its stance would again be examined.

On the other hand, those who consider the glass half empty would base their judgment upon the refusal of the selectmen to specify the conditions upon which the ADL would be allowed to return to its normal operations. This not only side steps the issue; it puts final judgment off to some time in the future “when the heat is off.”

One other important result of this meeting was a statement that bushwhacked the hearing. This statement, an unsigned fax from only the ADL New England Region, only one of 29 regions in the nation, and a region that had not previously done so, sent at the last minute prior to the hearing read without corroboration or authentication, and unaccompanied by anyone who could have appeared at the selectmen’s hearing, stated in writing that they, for the first time, at least recognize the Armenian Genocide as a genocide and will continue to do so.

It will be up to the Armenian people in every “jurisdiction” to hold their feet to the fire and to expose this statement to ADL nationally, which has not apparently taken the same approach.

Gregory H. Arabian lives on Homer Road.

Source: http://www.wickedlocal.com/belmont/news/lifestyle/columnists/x1429058392