11/02 Boston Globe: Local members put pressure on ADL

Local members put pressure on ADL

Seek more direct genocide wording

By Keith O'Brien, Globe Staff November 2, 2007

Local members of the Anti-Defamation League will push the organization's national leadership today to unequivocally acknowledge the Armenian genocide after months of controversy that has tarnished the image of the human rights organization in Massachusetts.

Already, across the state, seven communities have pulled out of a popular ADL antibigotry program, citing the organization's failure to clearly acknowledge the World War I-era genocide of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire and support a Congressional resolution to do the same.

Under pressure, the national ADL and its leader, Abraham H. Foxman, reversed decades of policy in August and acknowledged for the first time that the massacre of Armenians in modern-day Turkey between 1915 and 1918 was "tantamount to genocide."

But that carefully worded statement did little to appease ADL critics. Massachusetts towns - led by Watertown, home to 8,000 Armenian-Americans - continued to pull out of the ADL's "No Place For Hate" program, and regional ADL leaders decided to ask the organization's national commission to approve a more direct genocide statement.

"Addressing the issue of Armenian Genocide should not necessarily hinge upon the erosion it has caused to the New England Region's No Place for Hate program," regional ADL leaders wrote recently in a letter obtained by the Globe and sent to roughly 300 members of the organization's national commission. "Nor, should it rest upon the potential unraveling of other long-standing ADL efforts. . . . What is at stake here, at its core, is principle and the mission of our agency."

Local leaders in the Jewish and Armenian-American communities agree that the regional ADL must succeed in persuading the national organization to take a clear stand on this issue when they meet today. "This is a very significant moral issue," said Nancy K. Kaufman, the executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston.

But not everyone attending today's national commission agrees that the ADL should approve a wording change, much less Congressional acknowledgement of Armenian genocide. Foxman, who did not return calls, has said for weeks that the ADL has gone far enough on this issue, and other people attending today's meeting share his point of view.

"I don't think revisiting the issue is necessary," said Dennis Kainen, chairman of the ADL's Florida regional board. "I believe the statement is clear and I think the ADL has gone a long way."

The item on today's ADL agenda asks members to vote whether or not to support House Resolution 106, a Congressional resolution that would acknowledge the mass killings of Armenians nearly a century ago as genocide.

The refusal by Turkey - an ally of Israel - to acknowledge the genocide makes the issue complicated for the United States, Israel, and the ADL. Last month, when the Armenian genocide resolution received the approval of a House committee, clearing the way for a vote of the full House, Turkey called home its ambassador in Washington and warned that the resolution would "jeopardize a strategic partnership" between Turkey and the United States.

The measure, which had enjoyed widespread approval, lost support. Last week, sponsors shelved the resolution indefinitely.

In their letter to the national commissioners, the regional ADL leaders in Boston say they are not urging people to consider the resolution, but to drop the phrase "tantamount to genocide" and acknowledge the genocide "in the clearest possible way."

Source: http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2007/11/02/local_members_put_pressure_on_adl/