By any objective measure, the two-year-old campaign against the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) denial of the Armenian Genocide has been a spectacular success. The ADL, the Jewish American community, Israel, and Turkey were taken by surprise and shaken to their roots. As shockwaves from the campaign spread, Turkey’s ambassador to Israel cut short his vacation to return to Tel Aviv to complain to Israeli leaders.
Grassroots Armenians in Massachusetts have flexed, and continue to flex, their political muscles as never before, targeting the Massachusetts Municipal Association and the elected officials and human rights commissions of 14 cities: Arlington, Bedford, Belmont, Easton, Lexington, Medford, Needham, Newburyport, Newton, Northampton, Peabody, Somerville, Watertown, and Westwood.
As a result, they have all ceased sponsoring No Place for Hate (NPFH), the alleged anti-bias program created, trademarked, and funded by the ADL.
Among campaigns initiated by Armenian Americans, only the Congressional genocide resolution has generated more exposure and controversy.
The campaign has spawned thousands of news reports, editorials, commentaries, radio interviews, and letters in non-Armenian media in the U.S. and around the world.
The battle against the ADL and NPFH has underscored to non-Armenians that the genocide issue directly affects them, their cities, and their schools.
Armenian Americans now have a louder voice in their communities. And those who deny the genocide have been put further on the defensive.
Exposing the ADL’s holocaust hypocrisy reportedly helped to push the House Foreign Affairs Committee into approving the Armenian Genocide Resolution two years ago.
The campaign is the main reason why recent news reports on the strained relations between Turkey and Israel refer to the Jewish lobby’s collusion with Turkey in genocide denial.
Other denialists, such as the American Jewish Committee and B’nai B’rith, have also been exposed.
Armenian Leaders Fall Short
Sadly, outside Massachusetts, Armenians and lobbying organizations such as the Armenian National Committee of America and Armenian Assembly of America have done little to defend Armenians and others against the ADL’s denialism and programs. This is a major failure.
Even in Massachusetts, the Armenians who have been fighting the ADL are mostly grassroots activists and several ANCA leaders. With rare exceptions, our so-called Armenian leaders in politics, academia, business, journalism, law, medicine, and the Church have remained shamefully silent and uninvolved. The reasons? Laziness and, in my opinion, an unwarranted fear of criticizing a Jewish organization.
The fact is that the Massachusetts campaign has drawn enormous support from non-Armenians, many of them Jews: human rights commission members, city officials, journalists, academicians, and more.
Armenians must not permit genocide denial, whether by a Turkish, Jewish, or any other kind of group.
The ADL and America
As Americans, Armenians have a wider responsibility to expose the ADL and similar organizations that falsely claim to espouse “human rights.”
ADL programs besides NPFH, such as World of Difference (WOD), have infiltrated thousands of cities, workplaces, law enforcement agencies, and public schools, the latter often attended by Armenian American children.
When Glendale’s Hoover High issued an invitation to WOD, the Armenian community put a stop to it, but only—only—because it was aware of the campaign in Massachusetts. WOD even tried to penetrate St. Stephen’s Armenian Elementary School in Watertown.
Were it not so damaging to society, it would be laughable that an organization that conspires with Turkey to cover up mass murder is strong-arming countless American citizens—children, teachers, workers, law enforcement officers, and ordinary citizens—into its “anti-hate” and “tolerance” training programs.
Some ADL members who conduct these programs may be well intentioned. But the national ADL leadership is not. It is clear, particularly given its collusion with Turkey, that the ADL is a political, not a civil or human rights, group. Its “human rights” programs are a cover—a way to influence and buy unsuspecting Americans who will later support, or at least not criticize, the ADL’s foreign and domestic agenda.
Incredibly, ADL agents have also conducted illegal surveillance of African Americans, Latinos, labor unions, and others. The police chief of Arlington, Mass., has even admitted that the ADL provides police with investigative intelligence that they cannot legally obtain themselves.
One can surmise, therefore, that the ADL may operate covertly against Armenian Americans.
Continuing the Campaign
There are compelling moral and practical reasons why Armenians must continue this campaign.
Human rights experts say that the Armenian Genocide was—and denial of any genocide is—an offense against humankind as a whole. All people, therefore, Armenians included, have a responsibility to confront denialists.
Even Israelis acknowledge that Israeli-Turkish accords include an unwritten proviso that top Jewish lobbying groups such as the ADL work against Armenians on virtually every issue of concern to Armenian Americans, such as military aid to Azerbaijan and Turkey.
According to political analyst Harut Sassounian, for example, AJC and B’nai B’rith officials issued “a public pledge to help enact pro-Azeri and pro-Turkish legislation and counter Armenian and Greek initiatives in the U.S. Congress.”
Exposing the holocaust hypocrisy of the ADL and other organizations reduces their credibility and, therefore, their ability to damage Armenian American interests.
Even locally, ADL members have worked against Armenian interests. A top ADL officer and well-connected Boston figure, Peter Meade, has made himself the main opponent of the proposed Armenian Heritage Park—which includes a genocide plaque—on Boston’s Rose Kennedy Greenway.
Will Armenian Americans confront organizations that harm not just their interests, but also those of the wider American society? In Massachusetts, yes. Elsewhere, it remains to be seen.
The author is a freelance writer. Several of his articles are archived at www.Armenianpedia.org.