- Refuses to unambiguously acknowledge the Armenian Genocide
- Engages in genocide denial by echoing Turkish calls for a “historians commission”
- Lobbies against U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide
For many years, the ADL has refused to acknowledge that the massacres by the Turkish government of 1.5 million Armenians between 1915 and 1923 constitute genocide; the ADL has also actively participated in genocide denial by lobbying for Turkey to prevent passage of a United States Congressional resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide.
In advocating for the Turkish government, the ADL has abandoned its mission “to secure justice and fair treatment to all.” As recently as February 5, 2009, ADL National Director Abraham Foxman told The New York Times that the ADL will continue to oppose a Congressional resolution because “There’s too much at stake in the [Israeli-Turkish] relationship.”
The ADL has thus disqualified itself as a defender of universal human rights by prioritizing geopolitical interests over a clear moral imperative – that of condemning and combating genocide and Holocaust denial in all its forms.
On August 21, 2007, under pressure from the New England Armenian and Jewish communities, as well as area human rights and governmental bodies, the ADL issued a disingenuous press release that it claims is an acknowledgment of the Armenian Genocide. This statement, however, actually contravenes the international legal definition of genocide by avoiding any language that would imply the intent required by the 1948 United Nations Genocide Convention.
By writing that the “consequences” of actions by the Ottoman Empire were “tantamount to genocide,” the ADL is, in fact, upholding Turkey’s assertion that Armenians died simply as a result of World War I conditions and not from a deliberate, planned program of extermination.
Two days later – and on numerous occasions since – the ADL called upon Armenians to “respond favorably to the several recent overtures of Turkey to convene a joint commission . . . to investigate what happened in the past.”
Proposals for further study are intended to create doubt about historical facts and are a standard tactic of genocide and Holocaust deniers. Indeed, the ADL has denounced a similar conference to examine the Holocaust that was convened in Iran in December 2006.
In an April 23, 2008, statement to Congress, International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS) President Dr. Gregory Stanton, condemned Turkey’s proposition to establish a historical commission as the “latest version” of Turkish genocide denial. He explained:
“The problem with this proposal is that the Armenian genocide has been thoroughly documented and studied by genocide scholars, many of whom are not Armenian, and the historical record is unambiguous. In 1997, The International Association of Genocide Scholars declared unanimously that the Turkish massacres of over one million Armenians constituted a crime of genocide. A ‘commission of historians’ would only serve the interests of Turkish genocide deniers. There is no more ‘other side’ to the truth about the Armenian genocide than there is about the Holocaust.”
Likewise, in June 2008, the internationally respected anti-hate group Southern Poverty Law Center published an extensive intelligence report on Turkish genocide denial; addressing the proposed historians commission, it wrote, “A lie isn’t the other side of any story. It’s just a lie.”
It is exceptionally offensive for the ADL to ask Armenians to convene with denialist historians on the payroll of the Turkish government to “investigate” the Armenian Genocide. By the ADL’s own standards, casting doubt on the historical truth of genocide constitutes genocide denial. Considering the ADL’s unceasing – and just – efforts to combat Holocaust denial, its actions are remarkably hypocritical.
On November 2, 2007, the ADL held its national commissioners meeting during which the Armenian, Jewish, and human rights communities expected the ADL to take a clear and principled stand by unambiguously acknowledging the Armenian Genocide. In a one-sentence press release, however, the ADL announced that it had voted “to take no further action” on the issue. By this defining vote, the entire organization – not just its national leadership – became complicit in Turkey’s genocide denial campaign.
As a result of the ADL’s position on the Armenian Genocide, thirteen Massachusetts communities withdrew from the ADL’s No Place for Hate Program. Additionally, the Massachusetts Municipal Association terminated its sponsorship of the program, announcing in an April 2008 press release:
“The MMA Board of Directors . . . believes that unequivocal recognition of the Armenian Genocide is both a matter of basic justice to its victims as well as essential to efforts to prevent future genocides . . . The inconsistency between the National ADL’s position on the Armenian Genocide and the human rights principles underlying NPFH is a matter of great concern to MMA Board members and the municipalities they represent. The MMA feels strongly that it is imperative to speak with absolute clarity on genocide.”
According to genocide scholars, genocide denial is the highest form of hate speech and the final stage of genocide. Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel calls it a “double killing.” The IAGS says that denial “is actually a continuation of the genocide, because it is a continuing attempt to destroy the victim group psychologically and culturally, to deny its members even the memory of the murders of their relatives.” Philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy states succinctly, “Deniers are not merely expressing an opinion; they are perpetrating a crime.”
It is clear that the ADL does not possess the moral authority to sponsor anti-hate and diversity programs in our cities and towns. Its actions are an affront to the cause of human rights, tolerance, and genocide prevention – and with the very ideals that the No Place for Hate program aims to foster in our communities.
There is no question that the work of dedicated volunteers and human rights activists on local No Place for Hate committees is extremely valuable and should be supported. Yet this vital work is compromised by ADL sponsorship. The Belmont, Massachusetts Human Rights Commission concurred:
“ADL and the No Place for Hate program emphasize that the “tip of the pyramid of hatred” is genocide. How can we, in good faith, ask our community to work at the base of this same pyramid while the No Place for Hate sponsor is actively working against congressional, international recognition of the Armenian genocide?” (September 6, 2007)
Our communities abound with committed, civically engaged citizens who can continue to perform critical human rights work independently, without the baggage that comes with ADL sponsorship. The MMA has recommended an alternative program for its member cities and towns.
No Place for Hate municipalities across the country must support human rights for all people and join Arlington, Bedford, Belmont, Lexington, Medford, Needham, Newburyport, Newton, Northampton, Peabody, Somerville, Watertown, and Westwood, Massachusetts, as well as the Massachusetts Municipal Association, by immediately severing ties with the ADL.
To compensate for its unethical actions, the ADL must:
- Unambiguously recognize the Armenian Genocide
- Cease the denialist tactic of calling for further study of the Armenian Genocide
- Support U.S. affirmation of the Armenian Genocide
The ADL’s denial of the Armenian Genocide is not simply an Armenian issue; it is a moral concern for all humanity. As Martin Luther King, Jr. so eloquently declared, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Ultimately, denying any genocide, anywhere, endangers us all. “Studies by genocide scholars prove that the single best predictor of future genocide is denial of a past genocide coupled with impunity for its perpetrators,” according to the IAGS.
The failure to punish the Turkish perpetrators of the Armenian Genocide and to secure justice for its victims encouraged Adolph Hitler, setting the stage for the Holocaust. On the eve of the Final Solution, and one week prior to the invasion of Poland, Hitler told his commanders:
“Our strength consists in our speed and in our brutality . . . our war aim does not consist in reaching certain lines, but in the physical destruction of the enemy. Accordingly, I have placed my death-head formation in readiness — for the present only in the East — with orders to them to send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women, and children of Polish derivation and language. Only thus shall we gain the living space which we need. Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”