10/02 Newton Tab: Andrew Tarsy: Critics are going too far

Critics are going too far
By Guest Commentary /Andrew H. Tarsy and James L. Rudolph
Tue Oct 02, 2007, 12:45 PM EDT

Newton - There has been a lot of misinformation surrounding the matter of ADL and the Armenian Genocide, a time in history that still haunts many in the Armenian-American community. The Anti-Defamation League has never denied the historical facts of these massacres and atrocities, and recently referred to this chapter in history as “genocide.” Yet some continue to attack our successful community programs. We think it is time to clarify the record and to reassert the value that ADL brings to the people of our region.

In August, Armenian-Americans and other local activists pressed ADL on why we referred to this dark chapter in history as atrocities and massacres, but not as genocide. It is well known that ADL’s New England office raised the issue with our national organization, and that we went through a very public discussion of the issue. In a matter of days, ADL released its “Statement on the Armenian Genocide” using the word genocide where ADL had not done so in the past. This change in our position was welcomed by ADL critics and partners alike.

In all of our anti-hate programs, we classify genocide as the ultimate crime against humanity, which underscores the significance we attach to our use of that word. It was then and remains now our belief that ADL confronted the moral issue and did the right thing.

We had hoped that our statements and actions would clear the way for the diverse communities of greater Boston to move forward, better understanding one another’s differences. In recent days, however, whether at public meetings or in encounters with friends and acquaintances, we are hearing a consistent refrain: “You did the right thing; why are some people still attacking ADL?”

People want to know why some activists are directing their efforts against ADL’s No Place for Hate, a program intended to help communities celebrate respect for differences. They are asking why with a long record of achievement in anti-bias work, ADL’s suitability as a community partner is being questioned and why we are getting ultimatums about supporting a particular resolution in the United States Congress.

From where we sit, it looks increasingly like an organized campaign to blur the line between the moral issue of acknowledging the genocide and the political issue of the Congressional resolution — with the many good people who have worked with us for years caught in the middle trying to do the right thing. The result has been the potential for the unnecessary loss of a valuable program and partnership for several area communities.

No Place for Hate provides a unique vehicle for communities to organize positive local efforts to improve safety and quality of life for residents. Prior to initiating the ADL program, nearly half of the more than 50 participating communities had no town- or citywide diversity or anti-bias program in place. Through No Place for Hate, municipal leaders, educators, police officers, parents and students have achieved meaningful results in full partnership with ADL experts. We work very hard at the local level and take great pride in what is accomplished in every city and town.

It is unreasonable, and ultimately harmful for communities, to turn their backs on a program that has made such a difference for residents. It would be wrong to do so because of a political demand that ADL support a particular resolution before Congress over which there have been legitimate and substantive differences of opinion during the many years it has been under consideration.

The Anti-Defamation League has a broad local agenda in the months ahead such as seeking stronger state action against hate crimes; advocating for immigration reform; and helping area schools confront student “cyberbullying,” the latest form of hate and harassment. This is also a time when dangerous forms of anti-Semitism have grown stronger around the world. We are looking forward to moving ahead with our entire mission, together with all of our friends and partners. It is time for the misinformation to stop and to return the focus to the hard work of fighting hate and promoting diversity.

Andrew Tarsy is the regional director and James Rudolph is the regional board chairman of the Anti-Defamation League, New England Region.

Source: http://www.wickedlocal.com/newton/news/lifestyle/columnists/x751581792