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
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
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
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,”
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