11/08 Jewish Advocate: Jewish leaders hope to leave genocide controversy behind

Jewish leaders hope to leave genocide controversy behind

By Rachel L. Axelbank - Thursday November 8 2007

'No further action' ruling disappoints Armenian community

Following last Friday’s much-anticipated annual meeting of the Anti-Defamation League’s National Commission, local leaders are looking to the future.

Those involved in the ongoing controversy regarding the ADL’s stance on the massacre of some 1.5 million Armenians in the early 1900s have been looking forward to the meeting as one that would definitively clarify National Director Abraham Foxman’s statement that the massacre was “tantamount to genocide.”

Following the meeting, the ADL National Commission issued a statement that it had “decided to take no further action on the issue of the Armenian genocide.”

New England Regional Board Chair James Rudolph said he is satisfied with the outcome of the meeting and the implications of the issued statement.

“It’s clear to us that there was always an intent to unequivocally recognize the Armenian genocide,” Rudolph said.

ADL New England Region Director Andrew Tarsy, who also attended the annual meeting, agreed with Rudolph.

“The commission thoroughly debated the issue, and I think it’s time to move on,” he said.
According to Khatchig Mouradian, editor of the Watertown-based Armenian Weekly, the local Armenian community had not expected ADL to reverse its position regarding a congressional resolution on the matter but had hoped that ADL New England delegates would at least make a clear statement in recognition of the genocide.

“It was an utter disappointment when the statement came out that even that minimal thing was not met, especially when it also turned out that the ADL commissioners from New England believed that the decision was fine,” he said.

House Resolution 106, which calls for the United States’ recognition of the Armenian genocide, was approved last month by the House Foreign Relations Committee and was, until recently, expected to reach the floor before Congress adjourned for the year.

However, a full house vote has been postponed indefinitely at the request of some of the bill’s sponsors, who Mouradian believes were motivated by fear that pressure from the Turkish government would cause the resolution to be voted down.

“Turkey resorted to blackmail, and actually it worked,” Mouradian said. “I’m not in favor of our government giving in to blackmail.”
While the ADL meeting produced no official verdict on HR 106 specifically, the Boston Globe reported that a New York ADL commissioner had asked other commissioners to sign a letter stating their strong disagreement with the resolution as well as the New England chapter’s position on the matter.

In recent months, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston has been a leader in encouraging ADL to recognize the genocide. And while JCRC has yet to take a position of its own regarding HR 106, Executive Director Nancy K. Kaufman speculated that it would emerge in support of the resolution.

“I think what we’re doing is taking our lead from the congressional delegation,” Kaufman said. “No one wants to spark an international conflict with Turkey right now, including the Armenian community.”

Kaufman also expressed regret over the controversy and its ramifications.

“I’ve been very sad that ‘No Place for Hate’ has been the target [of topical antagonism toward the ADL] because I think it’s a good program,” she said, referring to the ADL’s anti-prejudice program from which Massachusetts municipalities – among them Lexington, Newton and Watertown – have been withdrawing in the months since the controversy began.

Meanwhile, Foxman has been critical of Boston’s Jewish community leaders. In the published transcript of a September interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Foxman implicated Kaufman – as well as Combined Jewish Philanthropies President Barry Shrage – in his discussion of the rift created between the national ADL office and the Greater Boston area.

But the controversy has diverted attention from the important work that Jewish organizations do, including fighting hatred, promoting good interfaith and interethnic relations, and supporting Israel, according to Jonathan Sarna, Brandeis University professor of American Jewish History.

“This has been an enormous diversion, because I don’t think most people in the Jewish community have any doubt that terrible things were done to the Armenian community,” Sarna said. “My hope is that we can move away from that issue – which is not one to which so much community attention should be devoted – and focus on the issues that are important: Jewish continuity, Israel and community relations.”

But, according to Mouradian, the Armenian community is not prepared to consider the matter settled.

“The ADL is saying ‘We don’t care about your genocide,’” he said. “I believe it is a very insulting position, and I can’t see how the Armenian community is going to say ‘OK, let’s go home now.’”

Kaufman, though sympathetic to the Armenian community’s position, echoed Sarna’s call for the Jewish community to move forward.

“For the Armenian community obviously it’s not over,” she said. “I’d like to think in Boston it’s over because the ADL office here did a bold and unprecedented thing. I think we need to move on.”

Source: http://www.thejewishadvocate.com/this_weeks_issue/news/?content_id=3959