Anti-Defamation League

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The Anti-Defamation League (or ADL) is an advocacy group founded by B'nai B'rith in the United States whose stated aim is "to stop, by appeals to reason and conscience and, if necessary, by appeals to law, the defamation of the Jewish people. Its ultimate purpose is to secure justice and fair treatment to all citizens alike and to put an end forever to unjust and unfair discrimination against and ridicule of any sect or body of citizens."

Major Jewish group recognizes Armenian genocide

By Teresa Watanabe, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer August 23, 2007

Reversing long-standing policy, a major American Jewish organization has officially recognized the early 20th century massacre of Armenians by Ottoman Turks as genocide -- but set off a new furor Wednesday by declining to support a congressional resolution that would do the same.

Anti-Defamation League national director Abraham Foxman called the massacre "tantamount to genocide" in a statement this week, rebuffing Turkish claims that the bloodshed was not ethnic cleansing but casualties suffered by both sides in a civil war.

He added, however, that a congressional resolution to recognize the genocide would be a "counterproductive diversion" that could jeopardize Turkish Jews and relations among Turkey, Israel and the U.S.

Foxman's statements set off a firestorm of reactions, including anger and disappointment among Southern California's Turkish and Armenian American communities.

They also prompted a telephone powwow Wednesday among major American Jewish organizations to discuss whether to forge a united position on the issue.

" 'Furious' is an understatement" to describe Turkish American reactions, said Ergun Kirlikovali, West Coast regional director for the Assembly of Turkish American Associations. "We're disappointed the ADL has caved in to Armenian pressure and that history in America is being written by lobbyists, not facts."

But Armenian American organizations were not satisfied either.

"We welcome any organization that recognizes the genocide, but opposing the resolution is disappointing and illogical," said Andrew Kzirian of the Armenian National Committee Western Region.

Father Vazken Movsesian, an Armenian American priest in Glendale who is active on the genocide issue, was blunter. Foxman's dual stand "makes it very clear that his organization is not pursuing justice, but playing the usual political games," he said. "You would think that a group who has known the horrors of a Holocaust would be the first one to unequivocally stand up for the rights of others who have suffered the same."

The issue exploded this week after Foxman fired the executive director of the group's Boston office for criticizing the ADL chief's failure to recognize the Armenian genocide and support the congressional resolution.

On Tuesday, Foxman issued a statement recognizing the genocide, saying he had decided to revisit the issue "out of concern for the unity of the Jewish community at a time of increased threats against the Jewish people."

In an interview Wednesday, Foxman reiterated his view on the congressional resolution but said he had agreed to requests to reexamine support for it at the ADL's national board meeting in November.

The issue has divided the American Jewish community, with many voicing a moral imperative to recognize the Armenian genocide and others expressing concern that doing so would jeopardize Turkish Jews or Israel's relations with its strongest Muslim ally.

The congressional resolution, written by Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank), would declare that the Ottoman Empire killed 1.5 million Armenians between 1915 and 1923 -- eliminating them from their historic homeland -- and would call on the president to properly call the massacre a genocide.

Schiff said several American Jewish organizations had conveyed concerns to him about the resolution's effect on Turkish Jews and Israel. But he said, "This has nothing to do with Israel, and it's a mistake for any pro-Israel organization to make a connection where none exists."

He said U.S. work against mass killings in Darfur would be undermined without recognition of the Armenian genocide.

"To speak out on genocide when it is committed by a politically weak state like Sudan and not recognize it when committed by the predecessor of a powerful state undermines our leadership and credibility," Schiff said.

He added that the ADL had "sullied its reputation" as a leading civil rights group by not supporting the resolution.

Foxman said, "He's entitled to his opinion, but it's wrong."

See also