Statement to the Lexington No Place for Hate Committee by Laura Boghosian

The following statement was read at the Lexington NPFH Committee meeting on Friday September 21. It was also read at the Lexington Selectmen’s meeting on September 24.

Before I begin, I would like to thank you not only for taking the time to meet with us today, but for all the invaluable work you’ve done for our town.

We are coming to you today to ask your support – preferably your unanimous support – for our request to the Selectmen that Lexington sever its ties to the Anti-Defamation League.

As you know, many of our neighboring communities have already withdrawn from the No Place for Hate program due to the ADL’s refusal to recognize the Armenian Genocide and their working, on behalf of Turkey’s denialist government, against passage of a Congressional resolution affirming this genocide.

An organization that engages in genocide denial simply does not have the moral authority to sponsor human rights, anti-hate, and anti-bias efforts. For according to genocide scholars, not only is genocide denial the highest form of hate speech, it is the final stage of genocide. Elie Weisel calls it a “double killing.”

While courageous Turkish scholars and writers such as Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk, Taner Ackam, and Elif Shafak have faced trial, death threats and exile for raising the issue of the Armenian Genocide in Turkey, the ADL shamelessly partners with the Turkish government in their multi-million dollar campaign of genocide denial.

Your association with the ADL therefore taints any work that you do.

The human rights commissions of Belmont and Newton both voted unanimously to cut ties to the ADL, and their communities subsequently withdrew from the program. Newton Mayor David Cohen called it “an issue of conscience.”

You are Lexington’s equivalent of a human rights commission and that is why we believe your support is crucial. Thus we look to you to take a principled stand on this issue and end your partnership with the ADL. Being sponsored by the ADL is inconsistent with your mission to combat bias and hate.

This is not just an issue for or about Armenians. It is a moral issue for all people. Denying any genocide, anywhere, sets the stage for future genocides.

We recognize and appreciate that New England’s Regional ADL board has opposed the policies of its national leadership and called for an unambiguous recognition of the Armenian Genocide and for the ADL to support the Congressional resolution. But No Place for Hate is a national program, and as such, represents the policies of the national ADL, not the regional.

We have heard arguments that No Place for Hate should not sever ties with the ADL, but work with regional ADL members to reform the organization. While we applaud the efforts of those within the ADL working to overturn a despicable policy, we believe it is an internal matter for that body. Our town should not be involved in the internal politics of outside groups. Although you are sponsored by the ADL, surely you are here to work for the citizens of Lexington, not for the ADL.

Further, we are offended by calls from New England ADL members to be patient, to wait for them to reform the ADL from within. Were it a matter of Holocaust denial, would they counsel patience? Would they have advised blacks in the 1960s to wait until Southern states reformed themselves? Or perhaps we should suggest to our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered neighbors that they go back into the closet until society progresses.

It is not at all clear that the ADL will alter its policies in November or at some later date. Everything they have done from the time this controversy erupted has exhibited remarkably bad faith. Why should we trust that they will change?

Further, we firmly believe that the most effective way to get the ADL to change is to take a strong stand and cut ties. Neighboring communities are doing this, one after another, and momentum is building. Only through that kind of sustained pressure will the ADL be motivated to re-examine their policies. Half-measures such as waiting, writing letters of disapproval to the national board, or even suspension of ties simply are not enough. Now is the time to send them a powerful message that Lexington, Massachusetts does not wish to be associated with genocide denial.

We fully support the work you do in Lexington. But again, by your association with the ADL, you are being divisive. You are not representing the interests of all Lexington’s residents. Speaking personally, in my twenty years in Lexington I have volunteered in a number of capacities, both in the schools and for nine years as a town meeting member. I have also been involved in human rights efforts for most of my life, through Amnesty International and other groups. When I saw your excellent work two years ago when the Westboro Baptist Church hate group came to town, I was moved to join your efforts – until I realized that you were an ADL-sponsored body. I was not about to become involved with a group that denies a genocide in which I lost family members and which works assiduously to obscure their murders. So, I stayed away. Who knows how many others you have alienated by your ADL sponsorship?

We would like you to continue everything you do here in Lexington. Thus, we urge you to sever your ties with the ADL and then reconstitute yourselves as a town-sponsored committee. I would be proud to join you then.

You have a decision to make. Either you can stand with the victims of genocide or you can remain with those who actively engage in the final stage of genocide – denial.

We have always been a progressive, caring community and a leader in justice and human rights. Please affirm this tradition that dates to 1775 and vote now to recommend unanimously to the Board of Selectman that Lexington immediately sever its ties with the ADL.

Thank you.

Laura Boghosian
Lexington, MA