ADL’s Ax Sharpened Genocide Dispute

By Bronislaus B. Kush TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF, [email protected]

Worcester Telegram, MA
Aug 21 2007

Armenians laud effort of ex-director

WORCESTER- Local Armenian-Americans are rallying around the former New
England director of the Anti-Defamation League, who was fired last
week after he said the prominent human rights organization should
acknowledge the slaughter by Ottoman Turks of up to 1.5 million
Armenians between 1915 and 1923 as a "genocide."

Andrew H. Tarsy, who served over the past two years as the ADL’s
regional chief, was axed after he told national director Abraham H.

Foxman that the organization should rethink its position on the

Armenians, academics and many countries have recognized the systematic
massacre as genocide.

The Turkish government, however, refuses to do so, and the ADL’s
national leadership has also avoided labeling the purge as such,
fearing reprisals against Turkish Jews and not wanting to upset
relations between Israel and Turkey, one of the few Muslim nations
with warm diplomatic ties to the Jewish state.

"He (Tarsy) deserves our full support," said George Aghjayan, chairman
of the Armenian National Committee of Central Massachusetts.

The issue began simmering a few weeks ago when elected officials in
Watertown decided to pull out of an antibigotry program after they
learned that it was sponsored by the ADL.

Watertown is home to about 8,000 Armenian-Americans.

The ADL’s stance has upset Armenians for years and tensions ratcheted
up when the organization’s leadership decided not to support pending
congressional legislation that would acknowledge the deaths as

Mr. Tarsy reportedly had been struggling with the ADL’s position for
weeks and told Mr. Foxman last Thursday that the organization’s view
was "morally indefensible."

U.S. Rep. James P. McGovern, D-Worcester, said the legislation, House
Resolution 106, has been proposed every congressional session since
he was elected.

However, he said some lawmakers and the Bush administration are
blocking the resolution out of fear of upsetting Turkey, a key
strategic ally of the United States.

"I find it shameful that the U.S. won’t take a position on this issue,"
said Mr. McGovern, one of 226 co-sponsors of the legislation.

"Everybody who cares about human rights should sign on. Truth is
truth and it has to be acknowledged, no matter how painful."

Todd Gutnick, a spokesman for the national ADL, said advertisements
outlining the organization’s position will appear this week in the
Boston Globe, the Boston Jewish Advocate, and smaller daily and
weekly newspapers in Waltham, Newton, Somerville and other eastern
Massachusetts communities.

An "Open Letter to the New England Community" has also been posted
on the ADL Web site ( ).

Critics of the ADL warned the organization stands to lose thousands
of dollars in donations if it does not change its mind on the issue.

They noted that several prominent Jewish leaders in the Boston area
have come out against the ADL because of its stance.

In the message posted on the Internet, the ADL said it has acknowledged
and never denied the "massacre" and added that it has urged the
Turkish government to "confront its history."

But it said that it views legislative efforts outside of Turkey to
be counterproductive to having that nation come to grips with its past

"The Jewish community in Turkey has clearly expressed to us and other
major Jewish American organizations its concerns about the impact of
congressional action on them and we cannot ignore those concerns,"
the posting said. "We are also keenly aware that Turkey is a key
strategic ally and friend of the United States and a staunch friend
of Israel and that, in the struggle between Islamic extremists and
moderate Islam, Turkey is the most critical country in the world."

Mr. Aghjayan, however, said it’s important that the massacre be labeled
as a genocide so that similar atrocities won’t occur in the future.

Mr. Tarsy could not be reached yesterday for comment.

About 5,000 Armenian-Americans live in Central Massachusetts. Many
who survived the Ottoman assault settled in Worcester.