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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."

Armenian Genocide Recognition

Timeline of ADL Genocide Recognition

Chain of events leading to the ADLs recognition of the Armenian Genocide

  • ADL starts "No Place for Hate" Program
  • Watertown, Massachusetts joins NPFH
  • ADL maintains position against Armenian Genocide Resolution
  • David Boyajian tells Watertown City Council about ADL position and asks that Watertown withdraw
  • Watertown Town Council voted unanimously to pull out of the program
  • Andrew Tarsy (ADL Regional Director) defends ADL position
  • August 16 - Tarsy said the ADL national leadership they should acknowledge the Armenian genocide that began in 1915. Tarsy, 38, said he had been struggling with the national position for weeks and finally told Foxman in a phone conversation Thursday that he found the ADL's stance "morally indefensible."
  • August 17 - Tarsy is fired by national director, Abraham Foxman.
  • The regional board's executive committee backed Tarsy and, according to a source familiar with the discussion, even went a step further, resolving to support legislation now pending before Congress to acknowledge the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians during the World War I era as genocide.
  • The national office's three-page response -- which it provided yesterday to the Globe -- did not mention the local office's intent to support the legislation. But it made clear just how far apart the two sides were on an issue with local, national, and international implications.
  • 2 regional board members quit
  • August 21 - Foxman and the ADL release a statement about the events of 1915 that falls short of recognizing the Armenian Genocide as such by the definition set by the United Nations Genocide Convention. The ADL also states continued opposition to US recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
  • Turkey sends it's ambassador back to Israel 2 weeks early to protest the ADL's statement about the events of 1915.
  • Israel states it has not changed its policy on the Armenian Genocide.
  • Foxman apologizes to the Erdogan in Turkey for the ADL statement: "I am writing to you at this very difficult time to express deep regret for any pain we have caused to you and the Turkish people in these past few days," Foxman said in the letter provided by the ADL to the Turkish Daily News. "It was certainly not our intent to hurt or embarrass the Turkish people and their leaders."
  • August 30 - unrelated to the ADL, Jewish and Armenian community leaders joined survivors of both the Jewish and Armenian genocides in a display of solidarity at the State House. Organizers said they want to send a message that the slaughter of Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turks in 1915 is acknowledged by many Jews as genocide, despite decades of refusal to do so by the ADL.

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."

Has the Anti-Defamation League Really Acknowledged the Armenian Genocide?

By Journalists and Activists Belonging to the Ad-Hoc Committee, NoPlaceForDenial

Has the ADL really acknowledged the Armenian Genocide?

No, not really.

After pressure from the New England Region ADL and other Jewish-Americans, ADL National Director Abraham Foxman issued a highly disingenuous press release on August 21, 2007 that some claimed was an acknowledgment of the Armenian genocide. It read, in part: “We have never negated but have always described the painful events of 1915-1918 perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire against the Armenians as massacres and atrocities . . . the consequences of those actions were indeed tantamount to genocide.”

This carefully worded statement is not an acknowledgement of the Armenian genocide.

First, aside from the fact that the Armenian Genocide began in 1915 and lasted until 1923 (not 1918), the statement uses the qualifier “tantamount.” The Armenian Genocide was not “tantamount to genocide.” It was genocide.

Second, and most critical, is that by employing the word “consequences,” the statement circumvents the international legal definition of genocide by avoiding any language that would imply intent, a crucial part of the 1948 UN Genocide treaty.

Article II of the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide states:

“In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such . . .”

Legal scholars have long regarded the word “intent” in that definition to be key. That is, to be termed genocide, the deaths cannot simply be an accident or the “consequence” of conditions beyond the responsible party’s control. The actions must have been planned and deliberate.

Henry Morgenthau, the U.S. Ambassador to the Turkish Ottoman Empire in 1915, wrote in his book, Ambassador Morgenthau’s Story:

“When the Turkish authorities gave the orders for these deportations, they were merely giving the death warrant to a whole race; they understood this well, and, in their conversations with me, they made no particular attempt to conceal the fact . . . I am confident that the whole history of the human race contains no such horrible episode as this…and with them the one motive was cold-blooded, calculating state policy.”

Notice that Morgenthau speaks of Turkish “motive” and “calculating” policy, which are the equivalent of intent. In contrast, the ADL speaks of “consequences,” as if the mass murders were not intentional or calculated.

Even Turkey admits that many Armenians died during this period. Turkey claims, however, that these deaths were not intentional, but simply the “consequence” of wartime conditions.

The ADL’s August 21, 2007, press release was dishonest and a demonstration of bad faith. In effect, with this statement, the positions of the ADL and Turkey are still identical: denial of the Armenian Genocide.

As a leading human rights organization that has done such commendable work to combat Holocaust denial, the ADL is expected to speak with absolute moral clarity about the Armenian genocide.

Turkey's response

The Turkish government condemned the Anti-Defamation League's decision to call the massacre of Armenians by Ottoman Turks a genocide, reports The Boston Globe:

"We consider the statement of the ADL as an injustice to the unique character of the Holocaust, as well as to the memories of its victims," the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement. "We expect it to be rectified."

Burak Akcapar, first counselor of the Turkish Embassy in Washington, D.C., said Turkey has registered its concerns with Israel, the United States, and "friends everywhere."

Turkey pulled out all the stops in pressuring its "friends everywhere."

Haaretz, quotes Foreign Ministry sources as describing a meeting between Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul and Israel's ambassador to Ankara, Pinhas Avivi, as "shrill," and that "Gul told the Israeli ambassador that 'Turkey knows Israel was not responsible for the Anti-Defamation League's announcement, but is disappointed because Israel could have done something to prevent it.'"

Prime minister of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdoðan also called Israel's president Shimon Peres and asked him to lean on Foxman and other Jewish organizations to ensure they keep toeing the genocide-denial line, reports Turkish paper Today's Zaman:

Erdoðan stressed the "futility" of the ADL decision to call the events genocide in the conversation and Peres responded by saying that Israel's well-known position on the issue of genocide claims has not changed. The Israeli prime minister also said Israel attached great importance to relations with Turkey and promised to "advocate Turkey's position on the issue in the US."

Israel's response

Israel wanted to put out the diplomatic fire as quickly as possible, reports Haaretz:

Israel is concerned that the matter may lead to a genuine diplomatic crisis between the two countries, and it has sent quiet signals to American Jewish organizations in an effort to lower the tone. The Foreign Ministry is concerned that the strategic relationship between the two countries could be harmed and that the Jewish community in Turkey could be affected.

Peres - himself an Armenian Genocide denier - wasted no time calling Foxman over the imbroglio. After speaking with Peres, Foxman dashed off a reassuring letter to Erdoðan that "expressed regret over debates centered on its recent decision to recognize Armenian claims of genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Empire," according to Today's Zaman. The letter also reportedly stated that the ADL "has never desired to put the Turkish people and their leaders into a difficult situation" and expressed "deep regret over what the Turkish people had to go through in the past few days" since the organization agreed to reverse a long-standing policy and recognize the genocide.

The Turkish Daily News adds that the letter suggested the ADL would not back away from its opposition to H Res 106: "The force and passion of the debate today leaves us more convinced than ever that this issue does not belong in a forum such as the United States Congress."

Which guarantees that Armenians and Jews who have been at odds with Foxman over the Armenian Genocide are not likely to be placated by his tepid - and wavering - concession that the Ottoman Turks had committed genocide, and will continue to press him to abandon his untenable opposition to H Res 106.

Meanwhile Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni called Abdullah Gul on Monday to reiterate Israel's support, the Turkish Daily News learned. Lvini said Israel will continue to do its utmost so that the American Jewish organizations' stance remained unchanged despite the statement of the ADL, according to diplomatic sources.

2016 Reaffirmation of Recognition

May 13, 2016 Off ADL on the Armenian Genocide

By Jonathan Green­blatt CEO of the Anti-Defamation League

As the still fairly new CEO of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), I’ve been on the job less than one year. I’m fre­quently asked about our cur­rent posi­tion on his­tor­i­cal League deci­sions. One of those cru­cial ques­tions is where ADL stands with regards to recog­ni­tion of the Armen­ian Genocide.

My fam­ily was directly impacted by the Holo­caust. Given that pro­foundly per­sonal expe­ri­ence, I appre­ci­ate the pain of those who suf­fered losses even gen­er­a­tions ago and the need to remem­ber. I am reminded daily that we must edu­cate and take action against hate in our own time, as we vow “never again.”

There­fore, only a few weeks after the 101st com­mem­o­ra­tion of the tragedy, and on the occa­sion of Yom HaShoah, the remem­brance of the Holo­caust, I am using this oppor­tu­nity to make our posi­tion clear.

ADL is a 103-year-old orga­ni­za­tion and very proud of both its his­tory and its mis­sion to not only lead the charge com­bat­ting anti-Semitism, but to also fight against all forms of big­otry. We rec­og­nize and uphold a con­nec­tion between our lead­er­ship role to stand up for the Jew­ish com­mu­nity and stand up for other minor­ity and mar­gin­al­ized com­mu­ni­ties at the same time.

Our mis­sion reflects the words of the Jew­ish Sage Hil­lel from 2,000 years ago: “If I am not for myself, who will be? And, if I am only for myself what am I?”

That con­nec­tion is both moral and prac­ti­cal: It is the right thing to do.

When we teach about the Holo­caust, we speak about the 2,000-year his­tory of anti-Semitism that made the Shoah possible.

We have a sim­i­lar respon­si­bil­ity to talk more broadly and recall that in our own life­time the world did not stand up against the hor­rors hap­pen­ing in Cam­bo­dia, Bosnia and Rwanda. 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.

We believe that remem­ber­ing and edu­cat­ing about any geno­cide – Armen­ian, the Holo­caust, Bosnia, Rwanda, and oth­ers is a nec­es­sary tool to pre­vent future tragedies.

Our expe­ri­ence regard­ing the Holo­caust is rel­e­vant. When the first pic­tures of Auschwitz appeared at the end of World War II, there was wide­spread shame in the West­ern world at the real­iza­tion that anti-Semitism was deeply embed­ded across cul­tures and coun­tries and could pro­duce such hor­ror. That col­lec­tive shame helped to inhibit man­i­fes­ta­tions of anti-Semitism for decades. Now, as time moves on, as that sense of shame evis­cer­ates, it is no acci­dent that anti-Semitism has reemerged with full force. In other words, we must edu­cate each gen­er­a­tion about the tragedies of the past.

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.

In many ways, we have made great strides in this coun­try fight­ing big­otry. Con­sider the great gains of the civil rights move­ment; the diminu­tion of anti-Semitism that lim­ited Jew­ish life in Amer­ica; the ascen­dance of the Latino com­mu­nity; the rev­o­lu­tion in atti­tudes and laws impact­ing the LGBT com­mu­nity. There have been set­backs and there is still tremen­dous work to be done, as exem­pli­fied by the stereo­types regard­ing Lati­nos and immi­grants as well as anti-Muslim rhetoric that has char­ac­ter­ized this unusual pres­i­den­tial campaign.

Col­lec­tively, this back­ground makes it imper­a­tive for groups who, sadly, share a his­tory of oppres­sion to stand together. 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.


See also