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Armenian Genocide Debate Exposes Rifts at ADL

Armenian Genocide Debate Exposes Rifts at ADL

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For weeks, Foxman, 67, faced mounting criticism for refusing to back Armenian Americans in their quest to pass a congressional resolution recognizing as genocide the World War I-era massacre of Armenians at the hands of their Ottoman rulers. But after insisting that the ADL and the United States should not risk inciting Turkey, Israel’s most important Middle Eastern ally, by labeling the episode as genocide, he made a hasty — if less than contrite — retreat this week in the face of a potential mutiny from fellow Jews.

“I didn’t make a mistake,” Foxman said Tuesday in an interview with the Forward. He added: “No Armenian lives are under threat today or in danger. Israel is under threat and in danger, and a relationship between Israel and Turkey is vital and critical, so yeah, I have to weigh [that].”

Read more: http://www.forward.com/articles/11470/#ixzz1e8Amw5Rf
For weeks, Foxman, 67, faced mounting criticism for refusing to back Armenian Americans in their quest to pass a congressional resolution recognizing as genocide the World War I-era massacre of Armenians at the hands of their Ottoman rulers. But after insisting that the ADL and the United States should not risk inciting Turkey, Israel’s most important Middle Eastern ally, by labeling the episode as genocide, he made a hasty — if less than contrite — retreat this week in the face of a potential mutiny from fellow Jews.

“I didn’t make a mistake,” Foxman said Tuesday in an interview with the Forward. He added: “No Armenian lives are under threat today or in danger. Israel is under threat and in danger, and a relationship between Israel and Turkey is vital and critical, so yeah, I have to weigh [that].”

Read more: http://www.forward.com/articles/11470/#ixzz1e8Amw5Rf

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Armenian Genocide Debate Exposes Rifts atADL
Published August 22, 2007, issue of  August 24, 2007.  It has been a long, hot, difficult summer for Abraham Foxman. Faced with the fight of hisprofessional life, the indefatigable director of the Anti-Defamation League was forced into a rareand reluctant retreat by the unlikeliest of adversaries: an ethnic minority charging one of the
world’s most famous Holocaust survivors with suppressing recognition of a genocide.
 For weeks, Foxman, 67, faced mounting criticism for refusing to back Armenian Americans intheir quest to pass a congressional resolution recognizing as genocide the World War I-eramassacre of Armenians at the hands of their Ottoman rulers. But after insisting that the ADL and
the United States should not risk inciting Turkey, Israel’s most important Middle Eastern ally, by
labelling the episode as genocide, he made a hasty
 — 
if less than contrite
 — 
retreat this week inthe face of a potential mutiny from fellow Jews.
“I didn’t make a mistake,” Foxman said Tuesday in an interview with the Forward. He added:“No Armenian lives are under threa
t today or in danger. Israel is under threat and in danger, and
a relationship between Israel and Turkey is vital and critical, so yeah, I have to weigh [that].”
 The ADL worked to head off a full-blown public relations crisis with a carefully wordedstatement, released August 21, that did not endorse the congressional resolution but confirmed
that the “consequences” of the actions of the Ottoman Empire against the Armenians were“tantamount to genocide.” But several observers within the organization’s leade
rship told theForward that even if the effort proves successful, the saga would likely leave behind lingering
questions about Foxman’s maverick leadership style as well doubts about the group’s
fundamental mission.
“Are we an organization of principle? Are we an organization that will stand up for what’s rightand wrong? Or are our principles put through some kind of filter that involves Israel’s self 
-
interest?”, said a member of ADL’s national executive committee who requested anonymity.There is “that subtext here.”
 Some saw the brouhaha as a matter of chickens coming home to roost for Foxman, who has
served as the ADL’s director since 1987. Over the years, Foxman has charged an array of foes
with misrepresenting Jewish history and fomenting anti-Semitism, including Mel Gibson, Jimmy
Carter, Louis Farrakhan and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran. “There’s a hugeirony here,” said Jonathan Sarna, a professor of Jewish history at Brandeis University. “The
Armenian community is using all the strategie
s we invented to deal with Holocaust denial.”
 
 
Although a dispute over the Armenian genocide has simmered within some Jewish circles for
years, ADL’s recent controversy commenced last April, when Foxman told the Los Angeles
Times that he opposed a resolution, proposed by Congressman Adam Schiff and co-sponsored by29 out 43 Jewish members of Congress, to officially recognize the Armenian massacres of 1915-1923 as a genocide.
“The Turks and Armenians need to revisit their past,” Foxman told the newspaper. “Th
e Jewish
community shouldn’t be the arbiter of that history. And I don’t think the U.S. Congress should be the arbiter, either.”
 
Although officially the ADL did not take a position on the bill, along with B’nai B’rith
International, the American Jewish Committee and the Jewish Institute of National SecurityAffairs, all four groups have said publicly that historians, not lawmakers, should settle the debateover the 1.5 million Armenian deaths. Earlier this year, the groups passed along to congressionalleaders a letter from Turkish Jews opposing the resolution.But ultimately, Foxman and the ADL, which was founded to combat anti-Semitism in 1913,confronted the bulk of public opposition. The issue erupted last week when the town council of Watertown, Mass.
 — 
 
home to one of the country’s oldest and largest Armenian communities — 
 voted to withdraw from an ADL-run anti-discrimination program. With other area towns poised
to follow suit, ADL’s New England regional board, one of the organization’s most influentialand moneyed, issued a statement backing the congressional resolution, and the board’s professional head, regional director Andrew Tarsy, publicly disavowed Foxman’s position.
 Tarsy was summarily fired last Friday, resulting in the cascade of events
 — 
including theresignations of two regional board members, condemnation of the ADL by such prominent Jewsas Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz and a public rift with the Jewish CommunityRelations Council of Greater Boston, which organized a petition campaig
n among the area’s
Jewish groups
 — 
 
that forced Foxman and the ADL’s national leadership to change course.
 As of press time, the ADL had not announced whether Tarsy would be reinstated. In speaking tothe Forward, Foxman
 — 
 
who is slated to release a book, “
The Most Dangerous Lies: The Israel
Lobby and the Myth of Jewish Control,” next month — 
remained almost defiantly unapologetic.
“We’ve never denied that there was a massacre, we [just] didn’t engage in the g
-
word,” Foxmansaid. “Now, they’ve insisted on th
e g-
word. Fine.” He added: “If my going public and saying this
was a genocide can bring unity to the community, and can make the Armenian community feel
that they’re being heard, then I did it.”
 The national director said he personally had believed that the Armenian tragedy constitutedgenocide before saying so publicly, but that his reversal was motivated by a concern for Jewish
welfare. “I’m saying it sincerely. I still don’t think it’s our issue, but so many people believe it isour issue… I said okay,”
Foxman said.
He added: “I saw what this was doing to the unity of the Jewish community at a time we need
unity. Israel is under threat. European Jewry, Latin American Jewry are under attack. In

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