Municipalities that believe in universal human rights must sever ties with the Anti-Defamation League’s No Place for Hate program because the ADL

  • Refuses to acknowledge unambiguously the Armenian Genocide
  • Engages in genocide denial by echoing Turkish calls for a “historians commission”
  • Lobbies against U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has for years engaged in genocide denial by refusing to acknowledge that the massacres of 1.5 million Armenians by the Turkish government beginning in 1915 constitute genocide. Rather, the ADL has steadfastly allied itself with the denialist government of Turkey by calling for a historians’ commission to study the issue and by actively lobbying to prevent passage of a United States Congressional resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide.

In 1915, the Turkish government embarked on a murderous campaign to eliminate the Armenian people from their 3,000-year-old homeland.  One-and-a-half million Armenians perished in the Armenian Genocide, and survivors were driven into exile, dispersed around the world. 

The Turkish government systematically confiscated their lands, homes, businesses, bank accounts, properties, and cultural assets such as schools and churches.  The Republic of Turkey legally consolidated these measures and banned survivors from returning to reclaim their plundered assets.  The modern Turkish state was thus established upon the occupied lands and stolen wealth of the Armenian nation.

Unlike Germany, which acknowledged and paid reparations for the Holocaust, Turkey today aggressively denies that it committed genocide and threatens any nation that seeks to recognize the Armenian Genocide. 

Shockingly, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has a lengthy history of abetting Turkey in this massive and continuing violation of fundamental human rights.

For years, the ADL has refused outright to acknowledge that the massacres by the Turkish government of Armenians constituted genocide.  Worse, the ADL has actively lobbied for Turkey to prevent passage of a United States Congressional resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide, and to this day speaks out against affirmation due to a long-standing strategic alliance between Turkey and Israel.

On February 4, 2009, for example, ADL National Director Abraham Foxman told The New York Times that the ADL opposed a Congressional resolution because “there’s too much at stake in the [Israeli-Turkish] relationship.”

Although the partnership between Turkey and Israel has since experienced strains, the ADL continues to denounce American recognition of the Armenian Genocide as a “counter-productive diversion.” 

On July 22, 2012, for example, New England Regional Director Derrek Shulman reiterated the ADL’s opposition to a resolution, stating, “We are opposed to the resolution as are others . . .”

By taking such a position, the ADL mocks its purported mission “to secure justice and fair treatment to all.”  Human rights cannot be upheld for some but not for others.

By prioritizing geopolitical interests over a clear moral imperative – that of condemning and combating genocide denial – the ADL has disqualified itself as a defender of universal human rights and should not be instructing our youth on this critical topic.

Numerous Boston-area communities agree, and in the summer of 2007 began disassociating from the ADL’s No Place for Hate (NPFH) program, deeming the ADL an inappropriate group to conduct anti-hate programs.

On August 21, 2007, under increasing pressure from the New England Armenian and Jewish communities, as well as from area human rights and governmental bodies, the ADL issued a disingenuous press release that it claimed was an acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide.

This statement, however, actually contravened the international legal definition of genocide by avoiding any language that would imply the intent required by the 1948 United Nations Genocide Convention.

By stating that the “consequences” of the Ottoman Empire’s actions were “tantamount to genocide,” the ADL was, in fact, endorsing Turkey’s claim that Armenians died simply as a result of World War I conditions and not from a deliberate, planned program of extermination.

This cynical declaration was a transparent effort to have it both ways: to relieve the pressure on the organization for its unethical efforts in working against Armenian Genocide recognition, while still being able to report to Turkey that the ADL never really labeled these killings genocide.  People of good conscience must not be misled.

Two days later – and on numerous occasions since – the ADL called upon Armenians to “respond favorably to the several recent overtures of Turkey to convene a joint commission . . . to investigate what happened in the past.”

Turkish proposals for further study are intended to create doubt about established historical facts and are a standard tactic of genocide and Holocaust deniers.  Indeed, the ADL denounced such a conference that was convened in Iran in December 2006 to examine the Holocaust.  It is shameful that the ADL would serve as Turkey’s mouthpiece in this denialist ploy.

In an April 23, 2008, statement to Congress, the president of the International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS), Dr. Gregory Stanton, condemned Turkey’s proposition to establish a historical commission as the “latest version” of Turkish genocide denial.  He explained:

“The problem with this proposal is that the Armenian genocide has been thoroughly documented and studied by genocide scholars, many of whom are not Armenian, and the historical record is unambiguous.  In 1997, The International Association of Genocide Scholars declared unanimously that the Turkish massacres of over one million Armenians constituted a crime of genocide.  A ‘commission of historians’ 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.”

It is exceptionally offensive for the ADL to advise Armenians to convene with denialist historians supported by the Turkish government to “investigate” the Armenian Genocide.  By the ADL’s own standards, casting doubt on the historical truth of genocide constitutes genocide denial.  Considering the ADL’s tireless – and just – efforts to combat Holocaust denial, its actions are remarkably hypocritical.

On November 2, 2007, the ADL held its national commissioners meeting during which the Armenian, Jewish, and human rights communities called upon the ADL to take a clear, honorable stand by unambiguously acknowledging the Armenian Genocide.  In a one-sentence press release, however, the ADL announced that it had voted “to take no further action” on the issue.  By this defining decision, the entire organization – and not just its national leadership – became complicit in Turkey’s genocide denial campaign.

As a result, fourteen Massachusetts communities withdrew from the ADL’s No Place for Hate program.  In April 2008, the Massachusetts Municipal Association, a statewide body serving the cities and towns of Massachusetts, joined them by terminating its co-sponsorship of the program, announcing:

“The MMA Board of Directors . . . 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.  The MMA feels strongly that it is imperative to speak with absolute clarity on genocide.”

Likewise, numerous members of the Boston-area Jewish community were so appalled by the ADL’s actions that they joined with their Armenian friends and neighbors to form the Coalition to Recognize the Armenian Genocide.  Among other projects, this group created an online petition that has to date gathered nearly 20,000 signatures calling upon the president and Congress to recognize the Armenian Genocide.

According to genocide scholars, genocide denial is the highest form of hate speech and the final stage of genocide.  Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel calls it a “double killing.”  The IAGS says that denial “is actually a continuation of the genocide, because it is a continuing attempt to destroy the victim group psychologically and culturally, to deny its members even the memory of the murders of their relatives.”  French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy succinctly states, “Deniers are not merely expressing an opinion; they are perpetrating a crime.”

It is clear that the ADL does not possess the moral authority to sponsor anti-hate and diversity programs in our cities and towns.  Its actions are an affront to the cause of human rights, tolerance, and genocide prevention, the very ideals that the NPFH program is intended to foster.

The work of dedicated local human rights activists is critical and should be supported.  Yet this vital mission is compromised when it is sponsored by the ADL.  The Belmont, Massachusetts Human Rights Commission expressed this well:

“ADL and the No Place for Hate program emphasize that the ‘tip of the pyramid of hatred’ is genocide.  How can we, in good faith, ask our community to work at the base of this same pyramid while the No Place for Hate sponsor is actively working against congressional, international recognition of the Armenian genocide?”  (9/6/07)

Our communities abound with committed, engaged citizens who can continue to perform critical human rights work independently, without the stigma that comes with ADL sponsorship.

No Place for Hate municipalities across the state and the country must support human rights for all people and join the principled Massachusetts communities of Arlington, Bedford, Belmont, Easton, Lexington, Medford, Needham, Newburyport, Newton, Northampton, Peabody, Somerville, Watertown, and Westwood, as well as the Massachusetts Municipal Association, by immediately severing ties with the ADL.

The ADL’s denial of the Armenian Genocide is not simply an Armenian issue – it is a moral concern for all humanity.  As Martin Luther King, Jr. so eloquently declared, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Ultimately, denying any genocide, anywhere, endangers us all.  According to the IAGS, “studies by genocide scholars prove that the single best predictor of future genocide is denial of a past genocide coupled with impunity for its perpetrators.”

The Armenian Genocide served as the template for the 20th century genocides that followed.  The failure to hold to account its Turkish perpetrators and to secure justice for its victims encouraged Adolph Hitler to launch the Holocaust.  On the eve of the Final Solution and one week prior to the invasion of Poland, Hitler rallied his commanders by citing the unpunished slaughter of the Armenian people:

“Our strength consists in our speed and in our brutality . . . our war aim does not consist in reaching certain lines, but in the physical destruction of the enemy.  Accordingly, I have place my death-head formation in readiness – for the present only in the East – with orders to them to send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women, and children of Polish derivation and language.  Only thus shall we gain the living space which we need.  Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”   
          Adolph Hitler, 22 August 1939

Genocide and its denial is a scourge that must be eliminated.  We call upon current No Place for Hate communities to disassociate from the Anti-Defamation League until the ADL atones for its egregious actions by fulfilling the following conditions.

The ADL must:
  • Recognize the Armenian Genocide unequivocally
  • Cease the denialist tactic of calling for further study of the Armenian Genocide
  • Cease its active opposition to U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide
  • Support U.S. affirmation of the Armenian Genocide, as it does with the Holocaust
To learn more about the Armenian Genocide and to sign the petition calling upon the United States government to recognize this crime against humanity, please visit: http://www.recognizearmeniangenocide.org