GENOCIDE STANCE CLOUDS FUTURE OF ‘NO PLACE FOR HATE’ PROGRAM
By Jillian Fennimore, Staff Writer
GateHouse News Service
Watertown TAB & Press, MA
Aug 9 2007
Town Council may sever or suspend Watertown’s ties to the "No Place
for Hate" program amid questions about the stance toward the Armenian
Genocide of the program’s co-sponsor, the Anti-Defamation League.
According to Will Twombly, co-chairperson of Watertown’s "No Place
for Hate" committee, all options are on the table, including removing
its services from the town altogether.
Twombly said his committee would be meeting with members of the ADL
soon to ask some "very serious questions."
"We are certainly very disturbed with what we perceive to be the
ADL’s stance on the [Armenian] genocide," he said. "We do feel the
need to take some decisive action. The question is what."
Controversy began last month when the TAB & Press published a
letter that highlighted statements from ADL’s national director,
Abraham Foxman, that Congress should play no role in recognizing the
Armenian Genocide. Some have classified his words as "genocide denial"
regarding what most historians agree was a campaign waged against
ethnic Armenians by the Ottoman government during and after World
War I. As many as 1.5 million Armenians died from 1915 to 1923.
ADL representatives said the group has never denied the Armenian
"ADL has never denied what happened at the close of the First World
War," read a statement from ADL Regional Director Andrew Tarsy and
Regional Board Chairman James Rudolph. "There were massacres of
Armenians and great suffering at the hands of the Ottoman Empire. We
believe today’s Turkish government should do more than it has done
to come to grips with the past and reconcile with Armenians. We have
said that to Turkish officials and we have said it publicly. ADL
continues to believe this is the best way to proceed."
But there are many who are taking a stance against the ADL. A Web
site – – was created by an ad-hoc group of
"Armenian-American activists" around town. The site has a petition for
both "No Place for Hate" and Foxman to recognize the genocide publicly.
The subject ‘strikes the heart of every Armenian’ Sharistan
Melkonian, chairperson of the Armenian National Committee of Eastern
Massachusetts, said Foxman’s statements on the Armenian Genocide are
"disappointing and unconscionable."
"For the national director of the ADL, an organization with a
94-year history of dedication to eradicating anti-Semitism, bigotry
and extremism, to plead ignorance about the Armenian Genocide is
unfathomable," she wrote in an e-mail. "….if ADL is unwilling to
publicly and unequivocally renounce its agenda, the Watertown Town
Council should insist that NPFH sever its ties with ADL in order that
NPFH continue the good work that is mandated without the unworthy
baggage of Foxman’s unfortunate position."
State Rep. Rachel Kaprielian, D-Watertown, said she had a different
opinion on the matter before hearing Foxman’s public statements.
"I was deeply disturbed," she said in response to the recent
controversy. "I am now taking a position that we should divorce
ourselves from [ADL]. [The Armenian Genocide] is a major subject that
strikes the heart of every Armenian in the world. It’s my lifeline
and my heartstrings. This has affected my family."
A spokesman for the ADL, who did not wish to be named, said it is
"regrettable" that "No Place for Hate" has been caught up in the public
uproar. He said that the ADL has been urging the Turkish government
to do more to address its Ottoman past.
"’No Place for Hate’ was a good program a month ago; it’s still a
good program today," he said. "That has not changed. People have only
wanted to listen to part of what our position is."
Town Council poised to sever ties to ADL In 1999, the "No Place for
Hate" program was created by the ADL New England Region, in partnership
with the Massachusetts Municipal Association, to "provide communities
with a solid framework for promoting an inclusive environment while
fighting all forms of hate and bigotry," according to its Web site.
The town welcomed the program more than two years ago, and in 2005,
council members unanimously adopted a proclamation supporting the
committee and its programs for "zero tolerance" toward bigotry.
In May, Town Council renewed its vote display a sign marking
recertification as a "No Place for Hate" community. Fifty communities
in Massachusetts participate in the program.
But the ADL controversy has pushed councilors to second-guess their
At-Large Councilor Marilyn Devaney said she is personally affected
by the ADL’s position, or lack thereof, on the Armenian Genocide.
"I knew survivors, and it’s unbelievable to say that it never
happened," she said. "This is a public embarrassment. I think that
we could adopt ‘No Place for Hate’ on our own. There’s got to be a
Devaney plans to present a proclamation on Aug. 14 to rescind the
council’s vote to support a "No Place for Hate Committee" under the
ADL, but maintain the program’s policies in the community.
Fellow At-Large Councilor John Donohue said it would be best to pull
the committee aside for the time being.
"There needs to be a review of No Place for Hate in Watertown,"
he said. "I think we should suspend the recognition of it until it
can be properly defined. The idea [of the committee] makes a lot of
sense. The connections and affiliations don’t."
Council President Clyde Younger said he has been "baffled" by the
"We [Town Council] have gone on record as opposing any genocide denial,
and wanting the Turkish government to recognize it," he said.
"We have to just reinforce our previous position on that, as well as
supporting Watertown as being ‘No Place for Hate’."
District A Councilor Jonathan Hecht agreed.
"I think we should be very clear and strong in the community about
demanding that the Armenian Genocide should be recognized," he said.
"The inconsistency [with what the No Place for Hate committee is all
about] is so blatant. This is an opportunity for the community and
the committee to look at this more closely."
At-Large Councilor Steve Corbett said he would hate to have to drop
"It would be an awful shame to have to back out of this," he said.
"Our program has nothing to do with any position [on the Armenian
As a councilor who represents the East End of town, Angie Kounelis said
a majority of her constituents are of ethnic background, and said the
concept of a "No Place for Hate" committee is "wonderful" for the town.
The controversy has been worrisome, she said.
"I do not have time to get into national organizations and their
behind-the-scenes agendas," she said. "I’d like to see what the
[No Place for Hate] committee is going to do."
Twombly said the committee has one goal in mind.
"We want to be able to return to serving the people of Watertown free
and clear of any negative associations, any positions with Armenian
genocide," he said. "We want to be able to proceed knowing that the
people in Watertown has confidence in what we are doing."