Abe Foxman’s Genocide Denial Road Show

August 22, 2007

Bombing in Boston

Abe Foxman’s Genocide Denial Road Show


It seemed innocuous enough at first. Watertown, a suburb of Boston,
sported a sign on the Town Hall, proclaiming the town a participant in
an anti-bigotry program "No Place for Hate." But one of the good
citizens of Watertown with libertarian inclinations objected that the
sign seemed like some kind of PC thought control. His objections set
in motion investigations by the town mothers and fathers into the
program. Lo and behold, it was sponsored by Abe Foman’s Jewish
Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

In itself this sponsorship might not be a problem, unless you are a
Muslim, an Arab or a Palestinian and know full well the ADL’s
positions on bigotry. But there are over 8000 Armenian-Americans in
Watertown, and the ADL has long denied that the Turkish massacre of
1.5 million Armenians from 1915 to 1923 amounted to genocide. Turkey
is of course an ally and arms purchaser of Israel’s, but the denial
antedates this alliance. A good friend of mine, an Israeli expatriate,
tells me that when he went to school in Israel, mention of the
Armenian genocide was verboten so as not to detract from the
"uniqueness" of the Jewish genocide under the Nazis and to maintain a
"monopoly on suffering," as he puts it. Shoah business does not like
the competition.

The whole matter in Watertown was given added urgency by a resolution
now pending in Congress calling on Turkey to recognize the Armenian
genocide. This resolution is supported by the Armenian community and
opposed by the national ADL.

Anger began to mount in Watertown and the citizens called on the city
mothers and fathers to withdraw from the ADL-sponsored program. (ADL
Dollars and awards flow to participating towns.) The Watertown Town
Council called a meeting which was packed with a lot of angry
Armenians. Regional ADL director Andrew Tarsey came to the meeting to
defend the ADL genocide denial, (as had the ADL’s national director,
Abe Foxman, in an interview with the Boston Globe,) and to call on the
town to stick with the "No Place for Hate" program. Tarsey was booed
out of the hall with hisses and catcalls. At that the town mothers and
fathers voted unanimously to quit the program, and at the cost of
overtime for two city workers the sign was gone before dawn.

Tarsey was unable to prevail with his genocide denial and couldn’t
move Foxman and the national ADL to reverse course. Tarsey then
reversed his position and agreed that Armenians had indeed endured a
genocide.They then cut through the Gordian Knot by firing Tarsey. Two
local ADL board members duly resigned in protest. The rest stood by
their man, Foxman. Tarsey is now hailed repeatedly as a "hero" by
local Jewish leaders. If armies were composed of such heroes, every
battle would culminate in mutual mass retreat. Notably and unusually,
the city of Watertown and its council were not labeled anti-semitic by
the ADL and its assorted acolytes. Even Alan Dershowitz did not raise
a peep. This seems to be a kind of sea change, and it may have
something to do with the Lobby’s weaker position now that it is more
widely seen. post Mearsheimer and Walt, as a principal instigator of
the disastrous war on Iraq.

At this point the Boston Jewish community was divided. Foxman was
under pressure, and Armenian-Americans from across the country were
getting involved. How to respond? With a big expensive newspaper ad of
course. And how did Foxman’s ad make his case? By blaming it on the
Jews! Specificially the Jews of Turkey whom Foxman and company claim
would be endangered by a change in the ADL position. But there have
been many reports of the tolerance shown to Jews in Turkey, as one
letter writer to the Boston Globe noted. The Foxman ad also let the
Israeli cat out of the bag, saying, "We are also aware that Turkey is
a key strategic ally and friend of the United States and a staunch
friend of Israel." (Some staunch friend if it were true that Turkey
was persecuting Turkish Jews. What a tangled web has been woven by
ADL.) But of course the ADL was only stating its long-time position
that Israel comes first ? way before any consideration of human

Two days ago, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston
(JCRC) known for its pro-Iraq war stance, its Iran bashing and its
opposition to Palestinian rights joined the fray. It sent out a letter
repudiating Foxmam’s genocide denial ? and claiming it recognized the
Armenian genocide long long ago ? in fact in 2005, although this
received scant notice until now. Let’s see; the genocide happened in
1915 and the JCRC recognized it in 2005 ? after the passage of 90
years. By that logic Holocaust denial should be OK for another 13

Today Foxman and his national ADL, hastily joining the local ADL in
full retreat, have pronounced the Armenian slaughter is a genocide
after all. Upon reflection and with the help of that great
humanitarian, Elie Wiesel, who seems to be acting as a kind of Jewish
Billy Graham and who has never acknowledged the injustice done the
Palestinians, Foxman thinks that it was a genocide after all. (Of
course according to their newspaper ad of several days back this means
that the national ADL is now abandoning Turkish Jewry to a horrible
fate.) ADL was in fact founded in 1913 just before the onset of the
Armenian genocide, so ADL’s acknowledgement is not overly
hasty. Perhaps the ADL’s new slogan could be "Building on 100 years of
Genocide Denial."

But Foxman and company have not given up yet. National ADL still
refuses to support the Congressional resolution put forward by
Rep. Adam Schiff of California to recognize the Armenian
genocide. (ADL in fact has lobbied against the resolution.) But the
Armenian community is not buying it. Schiff wants ADL to support the
resolution. And Watertown Councilor Marilyn Pettito Devaney said that
she and others will accept nothing less than full ADL support for the
resolution. Meanwhile she said that she and others will lobby other
towns to pull out of the ADL’s bigoted, "anti-bigotry" No Place for
Hate" program. (You may want to look at that site to see whether you
can find any statement about the slow genocide being wrought on the
Palestinians.) This program is found in cities and towns all over the
United States. Do you have one in your town?

John V. Walsh can be reached at [email protected]. This story
continues to develop with Foxman making a personal visit to Beantown
today. CounterPunch will keep an eye on the situation as it unwinds.