2007.08.10 -- Watertown Tab: Letters to the Editor and Editorial Published on August 10, 2007

August 10, 2007

Letter: ADL supporter cites ‘disgust’ with genocide stance
To: Andrew H. Tarsy, Regional Director, Anti-Defamation League
Dear Mr. Tarsy:
As a long-time ADL supporter, it is with great disappointment that I write you today to express my disgust with your organization’s refusal to publicly acknowledge the Armenian genocide, and in particular, your July 26 response to the recent controversy in Watertown, in which you refused to acknowledge the genocide, and instead, stated that the question of whether a genocide occurred: “was one to be resolved between the two countries — Armenia and Turkey.”
Can you imagine if an organization gave a similar response to a question about whether a Holocaust occurred, killing 6 million Jews? Can you imagine what we would say if an organization refused to acknowledge that the Holocaust occurred, instead stating that this is an issue that needs to be resolved between Israel and Germany?
And can you imagine if an organization gave a response similar to that given by ADL President Abraham Foxman’s answer to a question about why the ADL did not support Congressional action to recognize the Armenian genocide: “The Turks and Armenians need to revisit their past. The Jewish community shouldn’t be the arbiter of that history, nor should the U.S. Congress.”Can you imagine if an Armenian organization refused to recognize our Holocaust and tried to block government recognition of the Holocaust, evading the question by stating: “The Jews and Germans need to revisit their past. The Armenian community shouldn’t be the arbiter of that history, nor should the U.S. Congress.”
I’m afraid that for groups which deny the Holocaust, more than just historical indifference or ignorance is at the heart of that denial. What you and I both know is at the heart of Holocaust denial is anti-Semitism and hatred. Unfortunately, the Anti-Defamation League’s refusal to acknowledge the Armenian genocide smacks of the same, or at least it leaves that impression. Is this truly how the ADL wants to portray itself? Not only is the group alienating its non-Jewish allies, but many Jewish supporters, like myself, cannot act too quickly to distance ourselves from the organization in light of these hateful and hurtful comments.
Genocide denial is precisely the opposite of what the ADL is supposed to stand for. Ironically, by refusing to acknowledge the Armenian genocide, and by having the gall to do so in front of a community made up of a large number of Armenians, the ADL is demonstrating or introducing hatred, rather then keeping hate out of Watertown.
Because the ADL’s statements, actions and position are so starkly in contrast with the mission of Watertown’s “No Place for Hate” organization, I have no choice but to call for the organization to sever its ties with the ADL, and to re-organize under another name but without the ADL affiliation.
I would certainly hope that you will reconsider your position and publicly acknowledge the Armenian genocide and apologize to the Armenian community in Watertown so that such an embarrassment is not necessary.
Just as there is no place for Holocaust denial and the underlying hatred associated with it, there is no place for denial of the Armenian genocide. If anyone understands the implications of genocide denial, shouldn’t it be the ADL? Shouldn’t it be us Jews?
Michael Siegel, MD, MPH
Associate Chair of Academics
Social and Behavioral Sciences Department
Boston University School of Public Health

Letter: DiMascio nailed ADL hypocrisy
I want to applaud the editorial by John DiMascio in last week’s TAB & Press (“‘No Place for Lies,’ either”). He correctly points out the hypocrisy of the Anti-Defamation League in trying to advocate tolerance in our communities. We should fight all forms of discrimination and intolerance and those organizations advocating them must reconcile their stand and speak out against all injustices, persecutions and genocides against all groups and not just the ones of their choosing.
Missak Ourfalian

Letter: ADL uses program to cloak its agenda
Congratulations to Watertown TAB & Press for recording the “debate” on the Anti-Defamation League and the Armenian Genocide. Unfortunately, ADL follows Israel’s lead in denying the Armenian Genocide in deference to Israel’s ally Turkey, which has assiduously worked to block recognition of it in North America. The ADL also has a long history in promoting negative images of Arabs and Muslims and in illegally monitoring their organizations. Such deliberate defamatory portrayals are designed to elicit sympathy for Israel’s aggressions against Arab/Muslim peoples (e.g., Lebanese and Palestinians) and their nations as legitimate “defensive” actions.ADL uses programs such as “No Place for Hate” to give it legitimacy and to obscure its political agenda. Unfortunately, municipal authorities seeking to demonstrate their commitment to hate-free communities accept ADL’s NPFH program because it brings resources with it, and it has an “easy” pre-planned formula for “success.”Two observations: If ADL wants to advocate for Israel, then it should remove itself from programs such as NPFH because of conflict of interests. Second, the issue is not a NPFH program but rather the ADL sponsorship. ADL is not qualified to sponsor such programs because its political advocacy negates the goals of NPFH. It’s time for local authorities to stop being “bribed” by ADL and work to pool resources for community-generated NPFH programs.
Dr. Elaine C. Hagopian

Letter: ‘Neutrality helps the oppressor’
“To stop the defamation of the Jewish people … to secure justice and fair treatment to all” is the preamble of the ADL, an organization that has borne witness to the inhumanity of man against man since 1913.Yet, its leader, Mr. Abraham Foxman, claims that he is not going to be the arbiter of someone else’s history (July 20 editorial: “Watertown should keep no place for hate”), and when pressed whether what happened to Armenians under the Ottoman Empire was genocide, he coolly responds, “I don’t know.”Mr. Foxman counters that ADL only takes position on current events, not on something that happened in the past. ADL has been around since before the Armenian Genocide (1915), a contemporary event for a then young organization aiming to secure justice and fair treatment to all.
Had Mr. Foxman looked at the records of the time in his own organization, the U.S State Department archives, the N.Y. Times, The Near East Relief Fund, and numerous other resources, he would have been made aware of the darkness that fell upon the Armenian people in their homeland (I have a hunch that he is familiar with these records).
To question the veracity of an act as shameful as the murder of a nation, when everyone else except for the Turkish government and the tools and “historians” on its retainer have acknowledged, is a stain that ADL should work very hard to remove from its garb. Perhaps, Mr. Foxman could be enlightened by the words of Mr. Wiesel, “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
Ara Nazarian

Letter: Watertown is welcoming without ‘No Place for Hate’
I’m an Italian-American, my wife is an Armenian-American, are families are from Watertown and we have three children in the Watertown Public Schools. The Watertown we know has never been a place to hate anyone. That is why we find Mr. Twombly and Sgt. Sampson’s statement (in his recent letter) patronizing and almost insulting.After admitting that Watertown has always been welcoming, they added “‘No Place for Hate’ is one of the ways in which we may continue this tradition, making sure that we remain open and welcoming for our hard-working new neighbors.”
Watertown has a 375-year history. We’ve always welcomed hard-working people because they are productive and contribute to our community. We’ve also always welcomed those who can’t work hard, because Watertown is a charitable town. We are not perfect, but we certainly don’t need a special committee, a sign, or tutoring to keep on doing what comes naturally to us.
Basic human decency is virtue taught in our homes and churches. The Town Council should have realized that before voting for this program. In the future, they should stick to doing the job we elected them to do. That doesn’t include expending town resources promulgating an initiative that on the surface is unnecessary, and below the surface has proven to be driven by an alternative agenda.
Louis L. Fabrizio
Suzanne Tolajian Fabrizio
Emerson Road

Editorial: So far, so good in debate over ‘No Place for Hate’Three weeks ago, this space called for Watertown to keep the “No Place for Hate” tolerance-building program and, at the same time, put pressure on the program’s co-sponsor to change its wrong-headed position on the Armenian Genocide.
That co-sponsor, the Anti-Defamation League, has come under increasing fire for failing to categorically say that the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians during and after World War I deserve the name “genocide.” The ADL maintains that a pending Congressional resolution terming the events of 1915-1923 “genocide” should be shelved in favor of Turkey and Armenia working out the problem themselves.
There’s vigorous debate over whether this stance on the part of the ADL means Watertown should divorce itself from the “No Place For Hate” program.But it is worth noting that so far, the tone of the debate has been largely positive. The focus seems to be on forging a solution that preserves the good work of Watertown’s “No Place for Hate” committee.
That’s impressive, given that the genocide and its repercussions reach down into the core of so many Watertown residents. The emotional stakes could hardly be higher, but nearly everyone involved has handled themselves with dignity. No matter how the issue is resolved, we can all be proud of that.