Massachusetts ANC and AA Letter to ADL Commissioners

October 28, 2007

Dear ADL Commissioners:

On the eve of your national convention, we are writing on behalf of the Massachusetts Armenian-American community to ask you to ensure that the Anti-Defamation League unambiguously acknowledges the Armenian Genocide and supports U.S. recognition of this crime against humanity.

This request is consistent with the New England ADL’s commendable and courageous position as reported in the Boston Globe on August 19, 2007: “The executive committee of the regional [ADL] board broke with the national office, calling on the national ADL to recognize the genocide and, according to a source, resolving to support the legislation in Congress.”

As you may know, reacting to the Anti-Defamation League’s unexplainable position on the Armenian Genocide, seven Massachusetts communities have withdrawn from the No Place for Hate program that the organization sponsors. In addition, several Massachusetts towns as well as the Massachusetts Municipal Association will re-evaluate their association with the ADL based on whether or not the ADL, at its national convention in November, decides to recognize unequivocally the Armenian Genocide and support Congressional affirmation thereof.

During the efforts aimed at bringing the ADL to the right side of this issue, Armenian-Americans, Jewish-Americans and human rights activists have consistently praised the invaluable anti-bias and diversity work performed by the No Place for Hate committees in our cities and towns.

We maintain, however, that a human rights organization that engages in a form of genocide denial and opposes recognition of genocide does not have the moral authority to sponsor such important programs in our communities.

Our deep concern with the ADL’s position on the Armenian Genocide is manifold.

The ADL’s leadership, evidently unbeknownst to its members, has denied the Armenian Genocide and actively opposed U.S. recognition of it for years. It was under pressure that National Director Abraham Foxman somewhat insincerely released a statement on the Armenian Genocide on August 21, 2007. Referring to the events of 1915-1918, the statement declared, “The consequences of those actions were indeed tantamount to genocide.”

Aside from the fact that the Armenian Genocide began in 1915 and continued through 1923, we do not consider the statement to be a full, unequivocal acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide.

First, the qualifier “tantamount” is inappropriate. The Armenian Genocide was not “tantamount to genocide,” it was genocide.

Much more critical, however, 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 aspect of the 1948 UN Genocide Convention definition.

In that same statement, and on numerous occasions since, Mr. Foxman reiterated the ADL’s opposition to U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide. This position is inconsistent with the ADL’s mission statement. A human rights organization working “to secure justice and fair treatment to all citizens alike” should not be working against recognition of any genocide. Human rights are universal and should never be subordinated to geopolitical interests.

Finally, in an August 23, 2007, press release, and on numerous occasions since, Mr. Foxman asked Armenians to “respond favorably to the several recent overtures of Turkey to convene a joint commission . . . to investigate what happened in the past.”

The Armenian Genocide is not open to debate. These proposed commissions to examine the Armenian Genocide are no different from last year’s Holocaust conference in Iran that the ADL rightly condemned. Why, then, does Mr. Foxman advocate Armenians participate in such a conference with state-appointed denialist historians on the payroll of the Turkish government?

We ask that the ADL remain true to its mission and fully and unequivocally acknowledge the Armenian Genocide, refrain from advocating for Turkish calls for a “historical commission,” and express support for U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

Armenian-Americans also rightfully expect an apology from Mr. Foxman for the damage and pain the ADL’s actions and statements have caused thus far.

Attached please find a “Questions and Answers” packet with supporting documents elaborating on our concerns.

Thank you for your consideration.


Sharistan Melkonian
Armenian National Committee of Massachusetts

Herman Purutyan
Chair Armenian Assembly, Massachusetts State Chair