OPEN UNIVERSITY AUGUST 19, 2007
Bostonians are watching with a certain morbid fascination a new controversy involving Abe Foxman and the Anti-Defamation League that has nothing to do with Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer or Tony Judt. It concerns the question of whether there ever took place an Armenian genocide.
The controversy began with the decision by Watertown, home of some 8000 Armenian-Americans, to withdraw from "No Place for Hate," an anti-discrimination program sponsored by the ADL, because the ADL has long refused to designate the Turkish masacre of the Armenians as genocide.
At first, Andrew Tarsy, ADL's regional director, supported the policy of his organization. But when he changed his mind, he was immediately fired. Two local board members quit over the firing, and more turmoil is expected. "They've taken a position," Foxman told the Boston Globe, "We've taken a position. I hope they will read our position and hopefully we'll have conversations."
To say that the ADL's position is incomprehensible to most Bostonians, including many of its most prominent Jews, is an understatement. Wild speculation exists about its reasons, ranging from Turkey's support for Israel to a desire not to allow the term genocide to become overused. Mostly, however, Foxman's unbending stance on the issue is one more example of how tone-deaf the ADL has become. Tarsy may have lost his job, but his courage and honesty have won him widespread support. Foxman still runs his organization, but it is rapidly losing its credibility.