Evan R. Goldstein: The ADL's hypocrisy (Re: Armenian Genocide)

Roundup: Talking About History

[In this article Mr. Goldstein, a writer, chastises Abraham Foxman, leader of the Anti-Defamation League, for his comments about the Armenian massacre.]

... This historical episode has become a political flashpoint in Washington, D.C., where all kinds of influence peddlers have been engaged in a fierce struggle over whether Congress should officially codify the Armenian massacre as genocide. The Turkish government has spent millions of dollars and twisted countless arms in an effort to trounce this resolution. More troubling, it has been able to enlist the support of the ADL - along with other Jewish organizations - in its campaign of denial.

Let us be clear from the outset: This debate is not about the veracity of scholarship or the merits of comparative historical interpretations. Academic authorities agree on this matter, and the evidence that the campaign against the Armenians constituted the first genocide of the 20th century is overwhelming and incontrovertible. Instead, the debate is about politics, in particular the important multilateral relationship between Israel, the United States and Turkey - one of the world's few Muslim-majority countries that is also a democracy. As the ADL put it in a recent statement: "Turkey is a key strategic ally and friend of the United States and a staunch friend of Israel, and in the struggle between Islamic extremists and moderate Islam, Turkey is the most critical country in the world."

Foxman has particularly distinguished himself by indulging in spineless acts of rhetorical ambiguity, declaring that "this is not an issue where we take a position one way or the other. This is an issue that needs to be resolved by the parties, not by us. We are neither historians nor arbiters." This from a man who rightfully claims that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Holocaust denial amounts to an attempt to destroy Jewish identity! This from the leader of an organization that has rightfully called on the world not to avert its eyes from the genocide underway in Sudan's Darfur region! (One wonders what Foxman would do if Khartoum were on friendly terms with Jerusalem.)

This bizarre and shameless display of hypocrisy gradually came under fire from Armenian civil rights groups and a small cadre of outraged Jewish journalists, in particular those congregated around the engaging - if unfortunately named - online magazine Jewcy. All this protest came to a climax last week when Andrew Tarsy, the New England regional director of the ADL, publicly broke with the national position, which he characterized as "morally indefensible." (I hasten to add that Tarsy apparently only took this drastic step after his efforts to quietly work within the organization to change the national position were stymied.)

"I have been conflicted over this issue for several weeks," Tarsy told The Boston Globe. "I regret at this point any characterization of the genocide that I made publicly other than to call it genocide. I think that kind of candor about history is absolutely fundamental." Tarsy's heroic stand has earned the young activist a great deal of admiration in the Boston-area, where the ADL has a rich legacy of combating bigotry. Not surprisingly, it earned him nothing but scorn from Foxman, who promptly fired him.

But the outrage only grew, and Foxman ultimately decided out of "concern for the unity of the Jewish community at a time of increased threats against the Jewish people, to revisit the tragedy that befell the Armenians." And upon "reflection, we have come to share the view of Henry Morgenthau Sr. that the consequences of those actions were indeed tantamount to genocide." This statement, which the ADL released on Tuesday, is stunning on account of its total lack of integrity. ...

comments powered by Disqus