Sunday, August 19, 2007

Anti-Defamation League in Hot Water over Armenian Genocide

A Jewcy Banner in a petition that calls on the ADL to recognize the Armenian Genocide

The municipal council of Watertown, Massachusetts, which together with Glendale, California is one of the major Armenian centers in the U.S., last Tuesday voted unanimously to pull out of the "No Place for Hate" tolerance-education program. The reason? The program is funded by the Anti-Defamation League, whose national board, the council alleges, has not been forthright in recognizing the Armenian Genocide.

Among other developments, the controversy has led to the firing of the New England Regional Director of the ADL, Andrew Tarsy, after he defied the national leadership of the organization and called on it to refer to the killing of 1.5 million Ottoman Armenians in 1915 as genocide. Now, some people are hoping that the scandal will lead to the "implosion" of the Anti-Defamation League and the sacking of its controversial leader, Abe Foxman.

One of the people who has been leading the campaign against the ADL is Joey Kurtzman over at Jewcy, who in a July post, Fire Foxman, "broke the news" of a February 2007 meeting between Turkish foreign minister Abdullah Gul and American-Jewish organizations, at which the latter allegedly agreed to oppose a House bill that would recognize the Armenian Genocide. For some thoughts on this meeting, see my post, "Recognizing the Armenian Genocide: Another Round."

I have very little sympathy for some of Kurtzman's other aims, which apparently include "the end of the Jewish people." Unlike Kurtzman, I hardly think the ADL is redundant. And while I can imagine how gratifying it is for a spunky, young Heeb to bash someone like Abe Foxman, I wish Kurtzman could have spared us the self-righteous universalist moralizing. Furthermore, Kurtzman's polemics against the ADL's anti-Mel Gibson campaign are a scandal, as is his pooh-pooing of antisemitism.

Nevertheless, I say mabrouk to the man for his spirited coverage of the Watertown-ADL controversy. To me, the whole episode illustrates something that I have repeated like a broken record on this blog: the American Jewish grassroots overwhelmingly support U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide. It's too bad that an excellent program, the ADL's "No Place for Hate," ended up being cut to send a message.

It is clear that there is a split between the grassroots and local leaders on one hand and the diplomatic activity of the larger organizations on the other. The directors are thinking geopolitics. When the Turkish foreign minister invites them to make a pitch for action against an Armenian Genocide resolution by Congress, they are not going to tell him "no" to his face, especially when he joins his plea to the status of the Jewish community in Turkey and to Turkish-Israeli as well as Turkish-American relations. The foreign policy departments of the premier American Jewish diplomatic organizations, such as the American Jewish Committee, are focused on the Middle East today; they are doing everything they can to keep Turkey on America's side, and at least somewhat close to Israel. The question is whether historical truth, moral integrity, and diaspora Armenians should all suffer for the pursuit of these interests.

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