May 13, 2016

After a lengthy, unwavering grassroots campaign, No Place for Denial is pleased to announce that the Anti-Defamation League has at last unequivocally recognized the Armenian Genocide and declared its support for United States affirmation of this crime against humanity.

In a statement posted Friday, May 13, 2016, on the national ADL’s webpage, CEO and National Director Jonathan Greenblatt, wrote, “Too often, the response to genocide has been global silence.  So let me be crystal clear:  the first genocide of the 20th century is no different.  What happened in the Ottoman Empire to the Armenians beginning in 1915 was genocide.  The genocide began with the ruling government arresting and executing several hundred Armenian intellectuals.  After that, Armenian families were removed from their homes and sent on death marches.  The Armenian people were subjected to deportation, expropriation, abduction, torture, massacre and starvation.  What happened to the Armenian people was unequivocally genocide.”

Greenblatt, who replaced Abraham Foxman as national director, also stated, “That is why I am speaking out today and why we would support U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide.  Silence is not an option.”

Greenblatt pledged to fight denial by promising, “When individuals or groups deny the Armenian genocide, as recently took place with a billboard in Boston, ADL will speak out and denounce that denial.  In that spirit, I am optimistic about greater cooperation going forward to end all forms of hate and bigotry.”

This is the first time that the national ADL has issued an official, unambiguous written statement acknowledging that the 1915 massacres of Armenians constituted genocide.  It also represents a complete reversal of the organization’s decades-long opposition to United States recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

We hope that the ADL will now play an active role in combating Turkey’s denial of the Armenian Genocide and in achieving formal U.S. recognition through a Congressional resolution.

Armenians are grateful for the many allies in the Jewish and human rights communities who steadfastly worked with us over the past nine years to achieve this change in ADL policy.

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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.

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The ADL’s long-awaited recognition of the Armenian Genocide on May 13, 2016 has been widely reported both here and abroad.  Following are excerpts from a sampling of articles.

Speaking to the Armenian Weekly, Dikran Kaligian, a board member of the Armenian National Committee of America Eastern Region and Massachusetts chair, said, “Coming from the national director of the ADL, who succeeded Abe Foxman, the statement helps erase the stain on the reputation of the ADL caused by Foxman’s denialist statements and lobbying against genocide resolutions;” he added that the ADL should now advocate for justice for the Armenian Genocide, including the return of confiscated properties.

The support provided by members of the Jewish community who were disturbed by the ADL’s actions was acknowledged by No Place for Denial activist Laura Boghosian:  “Notably, the rabbis and members of Lexington’s Temple Isaiah and Boston’s Temple Israel joined with us to create the Coalition to Recognize the Armenian Genocide, whose goals were to reverse ADL policy, educate the Jewish community about the Armenian Genocide, and pursue U.S. affirmation of the genocide.”  Boghosian, who co-founded the coalition, added, “Nine years later, we are still working together and proving that grassroots activism does make a difference.”

Addressing the ADL’s May 13 statement, Armenian Assembly of America co-chair Anthony Barsamian told the Armenian Mirror-Spectator that, “We are pleased that they have come to fully and unequivocally recognize the genocide and support the recognition of the genocide.”  Barsamian praised ADL New England Regional Director Robert Trestan for his participation in local activities commemorating the Armenian Genocide such as the mass held in April at the Boston Holy Cross Cathedral that was organized by the Catholic Church’s archdiocese.  He also credited the Coalition to Recognize the Armenian Genocide which he said “worked for nine years.”   

New England ADL’s Trestan stated, “We have been working with the Boston Armenian community for many, many months.  This is the culmination of a lot of discussions and a lot of dialogue . . . There is also concession at the national level that this is the right thing to do.”  He concluded by saying, “I am hopeful for the future.  I am very proud of what has been accomplished here.  I am grateful for the support of the Armenian community and the willingness to work together.  Ideally we look forward to doing some joint programming and to work on some educational initiatives jointly.” 

Armenian National Committee of America Eastern Region board member and Massachusetts chair Dikran Kaligian also noted the efforts of Robert Trestan, as well as the Massachusetts Board of Rabbis which issued a powerful statement last year in support of Armenian Genocide recognition.  Kaligian said that the national ADL’s May 13 statement “was a long time coming.”  He said that it was what “activists had asked for, which was the unequivocal acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide and support for U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide,” adding that he was pleased that the ADL “statement goes on to say that they will oppose denial of the genocide.”  The Mirror-Spectator article reports that Kaligian hopes the ADL will “join the diverse coalition working together in Washington in support of two resolutions in Congress, one in support of the Armenian Genocide recognition (House Resolution 154), and the second return of church properties in Turkey (House Resolution 4347).”    

No Place for Denial activist and Coalition to Recognize the Armenian Genocide co-founder Laura Boghosian recounted, “When Boston-area Armenians united to protest the ADL’s genocide denial, human rights advocates and members of the Jewish community stood with us.  Through the Coalition to Recognize the Armenian Genocide, the rabbis and members of Lexington’s Temple Isaiah and Boston’s Temple Israel worked with Armenians to educate the Jewish community about the Armenian Genocide and to advocate for U.S. recognition, as well as press the ADL to reverse its denialist policies.  The ADL’s announcement this week of unequivocal recognition and support for U.S. affirmation demonstrates well the power of sustained activism.”        
The Boston Globe quoted Armenian Assembly of America co-chairman Anthony Barsamian as hoping the ADL would back a Congressional resolution that “calls on President Obama to work for ‘Armenian-Turkish relations based upon the Republic of Turkey’s full acknowledgement of the facts and ongoing consequences of the Armenian Genocide, and a fair, just, and comprehensive international resolution of this crime against humanity.”

Aram Hamparian, executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America said the ADL statement “is new in that it’s very explicit in breaking with [the Turkish government’s] denials.”

While current ADL New England regional director Robert Trestan told the Globe that the ADL statement was the “most unequivocal statement that we’ve ever issued,” former regional director Andrew Tarsy said that the ADL “ought to lead the conversation about reparations for these families.  The recovery of assets, land, money, items, family heirlooms.  Everything that Holocaust reparations . . . has represented should be on the table.”
A story distributed by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency and printed by papers such as Haaretz and the Jeruslaem Post called the ADL statement “the group’s strongest position on the subject,” and noted that ADL support for U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide is “a move the group resisted for many years,” due to “concerns for the Turkish Jewish community and relationship among Turkey, Israel and the U.S.”

JTA also reported that the ADL’s refusal to use the term “genocide” to describe the massacre of Armenians was reversed “after an internal debate went public and a grassroots campaign by Armenian American activists targeted the ADL in Boston and other cities and towns with large Armenian populations.”
Writing for +972, Dahlia Scheindlin states that the ADL’s recognition of the Armenian Genocide perhaps represents “seismic shifts in the relationship between diaspora Jewry and Israeli society” because “the move breaks with Israeli policy.”  The ADL under Abraham Foxman, she says, mirrored Israel’s resistance to the term “genocide” due to political and economic interests in Turkey and Azerbaijan.  New national director Jonathan Greenblatt, however, “set an example that Jewish leadership for him means choosing a clear and decisive path that is the reverse of Israel’s position.”
Thanking the ADL for recognizing that “the Armenian genocide was, in fact, a genocide,” Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin writes for Religion News Service that Jews should be talking about the Armenian Genocide “because it was a Polish Jewish lawyer and activist, Raphael Lemkin, who first used the term ‘genocide’ to describe the Armenian catastrophe,” and “because when we look at the Armenians, we are looking in the mirror.”  The rabbi also notes that the Armenian Genocide “was to become a model for the Nazis’ program.”
According to The Turkish Sun, the ADL’s statement recognizing the Armenian Genocide “makes a departure from the ADL’s normal compliance with the Israeli government—Noam Chomsky once accused them of ‘having lost entirely its focus on civil rights issues in order to become solely an advocate for Israeli policy.’   Israel have [sic] resisted formal acknowledgment of the term ‘genocide’ for the Armenian massacre due to political and economic interests in Turkey and Azerbaijan.” 
Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA) released a statement in which he said that he has long urged the ADL to recognize the Armenian Genocide and is “grateful to see the organization come out so strongly for recognition . . . advocating for recognition of the Armenian Genocide, and speaking out against those who would deny it, is in keeping with the ADL’s legacy.”  “The ADL,” he continued, “articulates a principle that I have found powerful in my years of working towards genocide recognition, which is that we cannot pick and choose which genocides we will acknowledge because of politics or convenience.  If we hope to live in a world free from the crime of genocide, if the words ‘never again’ are to have meaning, we must be prepared to speak the truth even when it’s difficult.  The ADL’s statement is an important step towards securing the unequivocal recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the United States.”
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