AAA and ANCA Response to Statement by Andrew H. Tarsy and James L. Rudolph
October 6, 2007
In a recent statement, New England Regional ADL Director Andrew Tarsy and Chair James Rudolph accused “some” Armenian-Americans of spreading “misinformation” and “attacking” the No Place for Hate program. Not only do they fail to provide a single example of alleged misinformation, but their charges are simply incorrect.
While advocating communities sever ties with ADL, due to its refusal to acknowledge unambiguously the Armenian Genocide and its active opposition to a Congressional resolution affirming this genocide, Armenian-Americans have never “attacked” NPFH. In reality, Armenian-Americans, Jewish-Americans and others have consistently praised the invaluable anti-hate and diversity work performed by local committees.
What has been said, however, is that by engaging in genocide denial, the ADL does not have the moral authority to sponsor such important programs in our communities.
Contrary to the ADL’s assertion that it “confronted the moral issue and did the right thing” by using the word genocide, the ADL actually announced, “We have . . . always described the painful events of 1915-1918 perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire against the Armenians as massacres and atrocities. On reflection, we have come to share the view . . . that the consequences of those actions were indeed tantamount to genocide.” This is not an honest acknowledgment of the Armenian Genocide.
First, ADL does not say “genocide,” but “tantamount to genocide,” or merely its equivalent. More important, ADL describes the “consequences” of Turkish actions. The international legal definition of genocide, however, rests upon “intent.” The 1948 United Nations Genocide Convention states, “Genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group . . . ”
Certainly, an organization whose mission includes combating Holocaust denial understands the international legal definition of genocide. Their carefully worded, duplicitous statement ensures the Armenian Genocide does not fit the criteria. Clearly, ADL did not do “the right thing.”
The ADL also neglects to mention that after recently conferring in late September with Turkey’s prime minister, ADL’s national director said he hoped Armenians would “respond to calls from Turkey to set up a joint commission of academics to investigate what happened in the past.”
This is genocide denial in its most insidious form. According to ADL’s own web page: “On the surface, Holocaust deniers portray themselves as individuals and groups engaged in a legitimate, dispassionate quest for historical knowledge and ‘truth’ . . . Holocaust deniers seek to plant seeds of questioning and doubt about the Holocaust in their mass audiences.”
The authors next accuse Armenians of “an organized campaign” that is issuing “ultimatums” for “a political demand that ADL support a particular resolution before Congress.”
This is not, however, a political demand, but a moral imperative. ADL did not consider it “political” when it supported Congressional resolutions on the Holocaust, the genocide in Darfur, and recently, the UN General Assembly’s condemnation of Holocaust denial by Iran. Rather, it is ADL that has politicized this issue by lobbying against Armenian Genocide resolutions for over a decade.
Additionally, this is not an “organized campaign” by “some activists,” to harm NPFH, but a natural, grassroots reaction of outrage by all segments of the Armenian community, as well as the Jewish and human rights communities, against ADL’s continuing to abet Turkey’s campaign to deny the Armenian Genocide and silence Congressional discussion of it. It is not Armenians forcing NPFH to disassociate from ADL, but human rights activists and politicians voting their conscience.
Rather than “blaming the victim,” for what is happening to NPFH programs, the ADL should reverse its immoral positions if it is truly concerned with NPFH’s future.
Finally, the ADL states it is “unreasonable,” “wrong,” and “harmful for communities to turn their backs on a program that has made such a difference for residents.” Yet none of the programs in towns that have severed ties have ceased; in fact, they are stronger without the baggage of ADL divisiveness.
In August, the NE Regional ADL leadership took a courageous stand against the national ADL’s policy of genocide denial. We look to them to continue their principled stance against national ADL’s disingenuous statement on the Armenian Genocide and its lobbying for the Turkish government. We also ask that they meet with the New England Armenian community without delay so that any misunderstandings or misapprehensions may be resolved.
It is unfortunate the ADL has chosen to stand not with committed citizens and human rights activists in our communities, but in opposition to their efforts. If the ADL sincerely wishes to engage in “the hard work of fighting hate and promoting diversity,” it should begin by forthrightly acknowledging the Armenian Genocide and working to support, rather than oppose, Congressional affirmation.
Sharistan Melkonian Armenian National Committee of Massachusetts, Chair
Herman Purutyan Armenian Assembly Massachusetts State Chair