ANC of Massachusetts Letter to Hampshire College

March 4, 2009

Ralph Hexter, President
Hampshire College
893 West Street
Amherst MA 01002

Dear Mr. Hexter,

We are appalled to note that Hampshire College has invited officials from the Anti-Defamation League “to visit the campus, in order to work together to ensure that all students feel welcome and safe on campus,” according to the “Statement from Anti-Defamation League” posted on your website.

The Anti-Defamation League is an organization that actively engages in genocide denial, which is the highest form of hate speech and the final stage of genocide. Hampshire College’s inclusion of the ADL in campus discussions on tolerance is an affront to all those fighting for genocide prevention and human rights.

The ADL does not possess the moral authority to lecture anyone on tolerance, having abandoned its mission “to secure justice and fair treatment to all” by lobbying for the Turkish government against recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

By choosing to prioritize narrow geopolitical interests – Israel’s military/strategic alliance with Turkey – over universal human rights, the ADL simply has no credibility in the area of human and civil rights.

On February 5, 2009, ADL National Director Abraham Foxman told The New York Times that the ADL will continue to oppose a Congressional resolution on the Armenian Genocide because “there’s too much at stake in the [Israeli-Turkish] relationship.”

And according to the February 4, 2009, issue of The Forward, “The strong Jewish opposition to Congressional recognition of the Armenian genocide has been waning, but some Jewish groups, led by the Anti-Defamation League, are actively opposing any move in Congress. ‘Right now we have no intention of changing our position from last year,’ said Jess Hordes, who heads the ADL’s Washington office.”

This ADL support for the denialist Turkish government is abhorrent, particularly for an organization that vigorously combats Holocaust denial. Israel Charny, executive director of the Institute on the Holocaust and Genocide in Jerusalem, explains the destructiveness of genocide denial: “Denials of known events of genocide must be treated as acts of bitter and malevolent psychological aggression, certainly against the victims, but really against all of human society, for such denials literally celebrate genocidal violence and in the process suggestively calls for renewed massacres—of the same people or of others. Such denials also madden, insult and humiliate the survivors, the relatives of the dead, and the entire people of the victims.”

It is highly hypocritical for the ADL to present itself as an organization that secures the rights of all people while it actively perpetrates the worst form of hatred against Armenians. The Anti-Defamation League is most assuredly not the group upon which Hampshire College should call to ensure an atmosphere of respect and safety for all members of its community.

Perhaps you are unaware that the ADL refuses to unequivocally acknowledge as genocide the massacres by the Turkish government of 1.5 million Armenians between 1915 and 1923 and that it actively engages in genocide denial by lobbying for Turkey to prevent passage of a United States Congressional resolution affirming the Armenian Genocide.

Additionally, the ADL has repeatedly endorsed Turkey’s call for an investigation of the genocide, a standard tactic employed by genocide deniers to raise doubts about settled history; the International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS) has condemned this proposal by writing that it “would only serve the interests of Turkish genocide deniers . . . there is no more ‘other side’ to the truth about the Armenian genocide than there is about the Holocaust.”

Due to the ADL’s unethical position on the Armenian Genocide, thirteen Massachusetts communities, including Northampton, withdrew from the ADL’s No Place for Hate program in 2007 and 2008.

In its September 28, 2007 letter to Abraham Foxman informing the ADL of its unanimous decision to withdraw from NPFH, the Northampton Human Rights Commission wrote, “We cannot in conscience continue a relationship with an organization that claims to stand for full accountability for genocide, yet stops short of endorsing a Congressional resolution acknowledging the Armenian Genocide. We cannot endorse selective recognition of hate by an organization that claims leadership in creating a world where there is no place for hate . . . Acknowledging the truth about the Armenian genocide not only has an impact on survivors and their families, it also has an impact on our ability to address other acts of hate.”

On April 8, 2008, the Massachusetts Municipal Association ended its sponsorship of NPFH, declaring, “The Board believes that unequivocal recognition of the Armenian Genocide is both a matter of basic justice to its victims as well as essential to efforts to prevent future genocides . . . The inconsistency between the National ADL’s position on the Armenian Genocide and the human rights principles underlying NPFH is a matter of great concern to MMA Board members and the municipalities they represent . . . it is imperative to speak with absolute clarity on genocide.”

Human rights advocates, both here and abroad, have condemned the ADL’s position on the Armenian Genocide; the media is replete with articles denouncing its stance (please see attachments). In January, Eric Alterman wrote in The Nation: “Foxman’s moral compass has gotten so twisted, he has the ADL working to undermine Congressional resolutions condemning genocide – specifically, that committed by Turks against the Armenians . . . In light of the desire of so many anti-Semites to treat the Holocaust in a similar fashion, Foxman’s position strikes this Jew at least as one too many ironies to be tolerated.”

Genocide denial is not merely reprehensible, it is dangerous. According to the IAGS, “The single best predictor of future genocide is denial of a past genocide coupled with impunity for its perpetrators.”

Over twenty-five Armenian political, cultural, religious, athletic, youth, media, and social welfare organizations in Massachusetts have united to combat the ADL’s denial of the Armenian Genocide. For additional information on this movement, please see

Hampshire College, widely known for its progressive values and mandate, must not sanction the ADL’s unethical actions by allowing it to define the terms of tolerance. By partnering with the ADL, Hampshire College will become indelibly associated with genocide denial.


Sharistan Melkonian

A History of Lobbying Against Recognition of the Armenian Genocide
Statements by Human Rights Organizations
Statements by Jewish Americans
Open Letter to the Massachusetts Municipal Association
Rattling the Cage: Jews of power, Jews of Truth
read more