Why We Must Immediately Sever Ties with the ADL

Certain members of he ADL and its associated No Place for Hate committees have asked area communities to delay withdrawing from the NPFH program until the ADL debates the Armenian Genocide issue at the organization’s national meeting in November 2007.

We strongly believe that our communities must reject this delaying tactic and sever ties immediately.

The ADL has refused to call the extermination and expulsion of Armenians from their ancestral lands by its proper name – genocide – for years. Worse, they have actively lobbied for Turkey to defeat formal recognition of this genocide by the United States government.

It is clear that the ADL is playing for time, hoping that the passion currently surrounding this issue fades over the next couple of months. Armenians, however, have been seeking justice for 92 years. We will wait no longer.

The national ADL, under pressure from its New England region, purportedly revised its position on recognizing the Armenian Genocide, yet steadfastly refused to support passage of the Congressional resolution affirming this genocide, calling it “a counterproductive diversion.”

Yet by asking for a delay until November, the ADL appears to be saying that the leadership alone could change the organization’s stance on the genocide, but that the decision to alter the ADL’s position on the Congressional resolution requires the approval of the larger group.

This raises the question of who, exactly, formulated the ADL’s original position of refusing to recognize the genocide and working to defeat passage of the Congressional resolution. Was it a decision solely of the leadership, or was the entire organization involved in setting this policy?

Another reason not to wait until November is that the ADL has demonstrated remarkably bad faith since announcing its “new” attitude on the Armenian Genocide.

First, the ADL’s statement of August 21, 2007 employed language actually designed to contravene the legal definition of genocide as encoded in Article II of the United Nations Genocide Convention of 1948. This international agreement defines genocide as acting “with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”

Intent is the key defining term in determining whether genocide has been committed. In its August 21 statement, the ADL announced, “We have never negated but have always described the painful events of 1915-1918 perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire against the Armenians as massacres and atrocities...the consequences of those actions were indeed tantamount to genocide.”

Aside from the reprehensible qualifier “tantamount,” the statement speaks of consequences, not intent. Even Turkey acknowledges that many Armenians died as a consequence of conditions during World War I. Turkey denies, however, a deliberate, intentional policy of genocide. By employing such underhanded language, the ADL is, in reality, continuing to advance Turkish genocide denial because with that wording, the atrocities committed against the Armenians could not be defined as genocide.

Further, there have been numerous reports in the Turkish press that the ADL expressed “sorrow” for the discomfort their statement caused the people of Turkey, and quickly moved to reaffirm their close ties. The Turkish Prime Minister subsequently announced, “the wrong step that has been taken is corrected,” and that the ADL “shared our sensitivity and expressed the mistake they made [and] will continue to give us all the support they have given so far.”

Consequently, Armenian-Americans and others involved in human rights work do not believe that the ADL is sincere in its re-evaluation of the Armenian Genocide. Rather than truly change, they have engaged in verbal semantics and hired a high-priced public relations firm to perform damage control.

Further, waiting two more months to address the Armenian Genocide issue will give the ADL that much more time to work to defeat passage of the Congressional resolution.

The Jewish-American community of New England has been almost uniformly supportive of their Armenian neighbors. Indeed, the New England Regional ADL was largely responsible for the so-called modification of the national ADL’s position. Yet, New England is only one of over 25 ADL regions, and to our knowledge, the only one to take such an ethical stance.

In a worrying development, however, ADL National Director Abraham Foxman has since made comments that he and New England Regional Director Andrew Tarsy now “see eye to eye” on the resolution. Indeed, an August 29 article in the Jewish Daily Forward reported, “this effectively meant Tarsy agreed with the ADL’s opposition to the passage of a congressional resolution.”

There remain, however, voices in the local ADL and No Place for Hate communities who sincerely wish to reform the ADL from within and counsel against severing ties. While that is a laudable goal and we wholeheartedly back their efforts and appreciate their principled support, we do not agree that this is the correct strategy.

First, it is clear that the ADL modified its position only in response to pressure from local communities who withdrew from the No Place for Hate program. If communities do not end their association with the ADL, the ADL will have no motivation to change.

Further, while we applaud those who wish to work within the ADL to transform it, it is an internal matter for the organization. Local municipalities should not be involved in such discussions.

As it now stands, the Anti-Defamation League is actively engaged in genocide denial and in working to prevent Armenian-Americans from seeking justice through a Congressional resolution affirming the Armenian Genocide.

No city or town should be associated with such unethical behavior. Anyone who is committed to working for human rights, equality, and justice must support severing ties with the ADL and its auxiliary, No Place for Hate, immediately.