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.