10/16 Lexington Minuteman: ADL involvement dropped

ADL involvement dropped

By Ian B. Murphy/Staff Writer

Tue Oct 16, 2007, 01:22 PM EDT

Lexington - The Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to end their participation in the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) No Place For Hate program Monday. In the next breath, they laid the groundwork for a similar committee with a more official, and recognizable, link to Lexington.

“Although we are asking the Anti-Defamation League to remove us from their list of No Place For Hate towns, we state emphatically that we will not retreat from the principles that allowed us to be named as such,” said Hank Manz, reading a prepared statement. “Lexington has always been a place where hate is unwelcome and we must all do whatever is needed to keep it so.”

The local Armenian-American community, who cited the national organization’s continuing reluctance to fully acknowledge the Armenian genocide of World War I by the Ottoman Turks, spearheaded the push for Lexington to disassociate with the ADL. They argued that no organization that denied genocide, which the ADL itself classifies as the highest form of hate-speech, has the moral authority to end hate locally.

Lexington’s No Place For Hate steering committee has unequivocally recognized the genocide. The national leader of the organization, Abraham Foxman, fired Andrew Tarsy, the head of the New England ADL, for acknowledging the genocide last summer. Tarsy was later rehired, and in a guest essay in this newspaper he said the New England ADL “has never denied the historical facts of these massacres and atrocities and recently referred to this chapter in history as ‘genocide.’”

Foxman has taken fire from Armenian-Americans and American Jews for lobbying on the behalf of Turkey, which still denies the genocide. Turkey seeks to stop a resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives that recognizes the genocide. Israel, Turkey and the United States are allies in the Middle East, and last week President Bush said he would not support the resolution.

Despite the ADL’s involvement in geopolitics, nearly everyone at Monday’s meeting also recognized the No Place For Hate program’s important local contributions, which selectman Norman Cohen reaffirmed before the vote.

“No matter what has been said, or what will be said tonight, nothing will erase [the Lexington No Place For Hate committee’s] success,” Cohen said.

Jill Smilow, the chairman of the No Place For Hate steering committee, and David Horton, a founding member, read aloud a letter to the community outlining the committee’s creation, charge, good works, and what they called a recommendation to the Board of Selectmen.

“The Lexington [No Place For Hate] steering committee is very proud of its mission and its many accomplishments since it was formed by the Board of Selectmen in 2000,” Smilow said. “Most town officials and citizens acknowledge that the steering committee has operated consistent with its mission over its seven years of existence. At this timely juncture, the steering committee respectfully defers to the wisdom of the Board of Selectmen concerning the formation, functionality and future of Lexington’s No Place For Hate Steering Committee.”

Manz, who was the selectman liaison to the committee, felt that the wise course was disassociation from the ADL, and that any national organization should not have a place in local mediation.

“National events tend to overtake local problems,” he said. “Nobody gets along forever with their national sponsor.”

Dozens crowded into Cary Hall to speak and listen to the issues surrounding Lexington and the ADL. Several members of the gathered crowd were given an opportunity to speak after Manz read his statement aloud and echoed his feelings.

“These issues [that a committee of this sort deals with] are really local issues and are different in each community, and cannot be covered by an national affiliation,” said Lexington resident Edward Avedisian. “Our problems are local; they need to be solved here, by people who live here.”

Rabbi David Lerner of Temple Emunah and Rabbi Howard Jaffe of Temple Isaiah advocated a more moderate approach in dealing with the ADL. Neither supported the actions and statements of Foxman or the national position, but asked for patience until the ADL could meet as a whole at its November meeting.

“It is clear that we need to make a strong statement about the Armenian genocide,” said Lerner. “That said, this is an opportunity to look at the issues that are going on. Tonight, this isn’t only about this community, but this is an issue that is on a wider stage … I think that we can instead of making a loud noise; we can make a more nuanced one [by supporting the regional ADL’s position.]”

After the unanimous vote to cut the town’s ties with the ADL, there was a brief recess where Lexington’s Armenian-Americans gathered to congratulate one another on their successful fight. Laura Boghosian, who spoke on behalf of the Lexington Armenian Community steering committee, was pleased with the Board of Selectmen’s decision.

“We feel proud and we feel grateful that Lexington did the right thing on this issue,” said Boghosian. “I think the Board of Selectmen showed great leadership tonight. I think what will come out of this process will be a much stronger body.”

Manz’s second motion, to form a committee to create a similar structure, charge, and membership, also stated that the new committee must return to the Board of Selectmen within a month.

Source: http://www.wickedlocal.com/lexington/homepage/x357260705