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Armenian group opposes ADL stance

Bedford, Mass.
By Patrick Ball
Staff Writer

A group of Bedford residents of Armenian descent plan to ask selectmen to reconsider the town’s participation in the No Place for Hate program.

This call to action is in response to the Anti-Defamation League’s national stance on the Armenian Genocide, which is a position the group believes conflicts with the mission of the No Place for Hate program.

“It isn’t an Armenian issue. It is an issue of what the program is all about,” Val Asbedian said. “It’s a matter of sending a message to the ADL and the way we do that is to tell them their position is inconsistent.

“Though we support the program, we don’t support that they’ve taken a position inconsistent with the objectives of the program,” he said.

Asbedian is among a group of Armenians, who have gotten onto the selectmen’s Sept. 17, 2007 agenda and are currently putting together a package of material about the nature of their request.

Asbedian and the group of a half-dozen Bedford residents are of the belief that the ADL saying the massacre of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Turkish during WWI was “tantamount to genocide,” but adamantly opposing to a Congressional Resolution on the issue is contrary to the No Place for Hate program’s mission.

He said they are currently reviewing letter to the selectmen on the subject, drafted by the Violence Prevention Coalition, which also acts as an advisory council for the No Place for Hate program. And they plan to ask the selectmen to “take a very strong position.”

Town Manager Rick Reed said that the selectmen being asked to take stance on this issue is “not the type of thing that would warrant a public hearing.”

Sue Baldauf , VPC Chairwoman, said she will distribute the selectmen’s agenda to VPC members once the agenda is finalized and will invite all members who are available to attend.

One selectman, who Baldauf met with last week, expressed concern because it is a good program, in terms of what it does for the town.

“I think that there’s a little question of why we’re even discussing this because this is an international issue and the selectmen deal with local issues. I think that’s something they’re struggling to figure out,” she said.

“That’s a concern I share. There is enough to deal with locally,” said Baldauf, the director of Bedford Youth and Family Services. “It’s hard to respond to other things when I’m trying to deal with this as well.”

Many of the Armenians planning to attend Monday’s meeting also appeared before the VPC on Tuesday, Sept. 4. There, they suggested Bedford should withdraw from the No Place for Hate program sooner rather than later, and that the ADL waiting until November to discuss the issue is a stall tactic.

After the meeting, the VPC held a vote, and decided to draft a letter to the New England regional ADL board. The coalition has not yet decided whether to send the letter before or after the selectmen make a decision.

Baldauf had already been trying to sort through the issue by talking with the Massachusetts Municipal Association, the ADL and other No Place for Hate coordinators throughout the state, and said she abstained from the vote because she felt it should be a committee statement, and did not want to influence the issue.

The letter summarizes the VPC mission and the No Place for Hate program’s mission. It and says the VPC believes the ADL’s stance relative to the Armenian Genocide to be contrary to the mission of the VPC and NPFH and that the VPC expects the ADL to unambiguously acknowledge the Armenian Genocide and to endorse the congressional resolution. Unless the ADL does so, the letter states, the VPC recommends the town suspend participation in the NPFH program.

The ADL plans to review the issue of the Armenian Genocide at a national meeting in November. There is no time frame mentioned in the letter’s draft.