Anyone who read my recent story about the explosive Washington politics of the Armenian genocide will be interested in this dramatic flare-up in Massachusetts: The Anti Defamation League has fired its New England regional direction for insisting that the group recognize as genocide the circa-1915 slaughter of perhaps a million Armenians by the Ottoman Turks. (Two regional board members, including a Boston City Councilor and the former chairman of Polaroid, have subsequently resigned.)
A resolution pending in Congress would make it official U.S. policy to recognize that the Armenians were genocide victims. But the ADL, along with other leading Jewish-American groups, apparently considers friendly relations between Israel and Turkey--whose government takes genocide claims as a massive provocation--more important than the underlying historical question. As the ADL is explaining via an open letter in Boston newspapers:
We believe that legislative efforts outside of Turkey are counterproductive to the goal of having Turkey itself come to grips with its past. We take no position on what action Congress should take on House Resolution 106. The Jewish community in Turkey has clearly expressed to us and other major American Jewish organizations its concerns about the impact of Congressional action on them, and we cannot ignore those concerns. 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.
Meanwhile, the House resolution mentioned above now has 226 co-sponsors (see the list here)--eight more than a majority. The only question now is whether House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who had ardently supported the Armenian cause in the past, wants to press ahead with a vote--one that the Bush administration opposes and which is sure to infuriate the Turks, possibly even with consequences for the war in Iraq.
Update: I'd missed Alan Wolfe's posting over at our Open University blog yesterday calling the ADL "tone deaf." Check it out here.