11/03 Armenian Reporter Editorial: A Broken Moral Compass

In an April 21 article, the Los Angeles Times quoted the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abe Foxman, speaking out against the Armenian Genocide resolutions in Congress. Mr. Foxman's open acknowledgement of his opposition to the resolutions started a firestorm of controversy in the Jewish-American community and beyond. Many prominent figures and newspapers criticized Mr. Foxman's position. The leadership of the ADL's New England Region took a firm position that the ADL should support the resolutions. Mr. Foxman promptly fired the ADL's New England regional director. Responding to the pressure, Mr. Foxman and the ADL's national chair, Glen S. Lewy, in an August 21 letter acknowledged that the destruction of the Armenian people in 1915 was "tantamount to genocide." But they persisted in opposing the congressional resolutions. The New England Region placed the matter on the agenda of the ADL's national policy-making body, which convened on November 1. The results of the body's deliberations were not available at press time.

Taking sides

What was available, however, was news of a disgraceful interview Mr. Foxman had given to the Jewish Telegraph Agency. In it, he attacked leaders of Boston's Jewish-American community – and the community itself – for allegedly siding with local Armenians over Israel in this matter. In doing so, Mr. Foxman once again showed that his moral compass is broken. The relations of Jewish-Americans and Armenian-Americans in New England and beyond are important and should not be discounted. But a person in Mr. Foxman's position should understand very well that much more is at stake. Jewish public intellectuals deserve the lion's share of the credit for making the world understand that the denial of evil – and particularly of genocide – is morally unforgivable and in practice leads to more evil. So how can Jewish-Americans become complicit in genocide denial? They cannot. Combined Jewish Philanthropies President Barry Shrage and Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston Executive Director Nancy K. Kaufman, who were singled out for attack name by Mr. Foxman, understand this moral imperative. Mr. Foxman does not. The tactics and motives of those that deny the Holocaust are much the same for those that deny the Armenian Genocide. If Turkey can successfully impose its will on the U.S. and Israel via threats and intimidation, then that tactic can and will be used against both countries again and again. We cannot allow ourselves to be intimidated. Over the last few weeks, Americans have been told, "You can stand either with the Genocide resolution or with American soldiers; take your choice." Now, Mr. Foxman says stand with the resolution or with Israel. It is a discouraging feature of our time that this kind of argument requires a firm and ready response. But as Armenians, we must be willing to make such responses. We must be prepared to speak out and write that if Turkey is unwilling to stand by the United States or Israel, the blame lies not with supporters of Genocide recognition, but with Turkey itself. Likewise, if American Jews feel a moral obligation, and have the moral backbone, to denounce the ADL's denial of the Genocide, the problem certainly has nothing to do with their "loyalty" to Israel. The problem lies with the ADL, and its unwillingness to grapple with the truth in this matter. One thing Armenians and Jews have shared historically is the attempt by others to impute "disloyalty" of one form or another to their efforts to achieve recognition and justice. That the imputation this time comes from the ADL's leadership is surprising, to be sure, but it is also instructive, both to Armenians and to our countless friends and supporters in the Jewish community. Mr. Foxman acknowledges that he is "shocked, upset, frightened" that his flawed policy on the Armenian Genocide has been subject to strong criticism. He feels he "got made fun of for it." So, inexplicably citing intermarriage rates, he claims that Jewish-Americans in Boston simply don't care about Israel. A responsible leader does not respond to challenges by flailing out at his critics. What Mr. Foxman's critics understand and he does not is that caring about Israel cannot mean abandoning one's core beliefs and values.