Facing History Responds

Dear Editor,

We are writing in response to “An Open Letter to Facing History and Ourselves” (Armenian Weekly Online, Oct. 25, 2011) by David Boyajian.

We appreciate the importance of this conversation. Facing History is unambiguous in its recognition of the Armenian Genocide and continues to educate all of our audiences, including teachers, students, and the general public, about this important history.According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) website, the organization does recognize what happened to the Armenians as genocide. In fact, Facing History knows—and teaches—that Raphael Lemkin, the man who coined the term genocide, did so partially in response to the atrocities committed against the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.

Facing History knows that there is always more work to be done to make sure this history is taught. We are proud that in our work thus far every child in several city-wide school districts, including Boston, Louisville, and Memphis, learns about the Armenian Genocide as part of their Facing History and Ourselves program.


Margot Stern Strom
Executive Director, Facing History and Ourselves

Martin Sleeper
Associate Executive Director, Facing History and Ourselves

Tracy Palandjian
Chair Designate, Board of Directors, Facing History and Ourselves

Guest Contributor

Guest Contributor

Guest contributions to the Armenian Weekly are informative articles written and submitted by members of the community, which make up our community bulletin board.


  1. I’m sorry to say but this response looks like a first cousin of the statement from ADL on Armenian Genocde it’s referencing. Same methodology of fluffy rhetoric and no substance – is it meant for people who don’t know any better? This statement above is basically all about PR, managing the image of FHAO or ADL and has nothing to do with FHAO’s mission of “facing the history and ourselves”. You know what the key piece of information in that ADL statement is (pasted from their site below http://www.adl.org/PresRele/Mise_00/5114_00.htm) – it’s the last paragraph effectively implying that Armenians can climb up the wall and yell and scream for justice and call it any word they want – it doesn’t matter anyway because the omnipotent ADL with their Turkish friends and “friends* of Turkey” said so … that’s a hell of a message to the young generation as well as to buliy Turkey and its buddy bully ADL, not to mention other genocide perpetrators and perpetrator-wannabes. Very sad reality we live in, but what goes around comes around, sooner or later.   

    * The amount of money Turkey spends every year  to kill the truth could feed all the world’s hungry, give shelter to all homeless and do a whooole lot of good – but no, it just breeds more evil paying off politicians and lobbyists. I bet you could bail US out of current economic crisis with all the money Turkey has spent on not letting the Congress vote for the resolution and the global denial campaign going on for decades – I hope that’s something FHAO covers in the Armenian genocide curriculum… and if so, I wonder what the students think of ADL’s position or are they not encouraged to ask these kinds of questions?! 

    p.s. if anyone reading this is genuinely interested in the topic and what is ADL anyway, I hope you start with “Defamation” documentary and learn more. The documentary is available on Netflix / Youtube and a preview is available on youtube here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c5jsiLWXGYQ
    ADL Statement on the Armenian Genocide 
    New York, NY, August 21, 2007 … Abraham H. Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today issued the following statement:
    In light of the heated controversy that has surrounded the Turkish-Armenian issue in recent weeks, and because of our concern for the unity of the Jewish community at a time of increased threats against the Jewish people, ADL has decided to revisit the tragedy that befell the Armenians.
    We have never negated but have always described the painful events of 1915-1918 perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire against the Armenians as massacres and atrocities.  On reflection, we have come to share the view of Henry Morgenthau, Sr. that the consequences of those actions were indeed tantamount to genocide.  If the word genocide had existed then, they would have called it genocide.
    I have consulted with my friend and mentor Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel and other respected historians who acknowledge this consensus.  I hope that Turkey will understand that it is Turkey’s friends who urge that nation to confront its past and work to reconcile with Armenians over this dark chapter in history.
    Having said that, we continue to firmly believe that a Congressional resolution on such matters is a counterproductive diversion and will not foster reconciliation between Turks and Armenians and may put at risk the Turkish Jewish community and the important multilateral relationship between Turkey, Israel and the United States.
    The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world’s leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.

  2. One more thing FYI: Extermination campaign of the Armenians was going on throughout 1800s – what happened in 1915-1918 was the culmination of it. I hope that’s a part of your educational curriculum as well …

  3. Facing History and Ourselves has done great work on the Armenian Genocide.  On the other hand, the ADL has fought against the Armenian Genocide resolutions in Congress and Senate for years.   Their stance on the Armenian Genocide has been hypocritical, at best.  And Abraham Foxman has been a denier, which is very hurtful to our community considering his leadership position at the ADL, an organization that is supposed to fight denial.  
    The above letter from the FHAO is not accurate.  The ADL has never clearly and unambiguously acknowledged the Armenian Genocide and continues to oppose Armenian Genocide resolutions. 
    Below is the letter that I sent to FHAO regarding their choosing of Foxman as a panelist to their event.
    “I was alerted to FHAO’s event with the ADL and of Mr. Foxman being a panelist by Mr. David Boyajian’s open letter to FHAO.

    I am very familiar with FHAO’s programs as I have assisted Peter Balakian with some of his work on the Armenian Genocide, have donated to the FHAO and have participated in past events.

    You should know that Mr. Foxman’s positions and statements on the Armenian Genocide have been very painful and hurtful to all of us in the Armenian community, specially considering his position as a leader in the ADL which is supposed to fight denial.  In our view, he has abetted denial.  In fact, I would say that to us his statements and positions have been as hurtful and painful as Iran’s President Ahmadinejad’s  statements on Holocaust denial have been to Jews and all people of conscience.

    Perhaps it would be a good idea for you to let him know of this, help him write a letter of apology to the Armenian community and teach him that his statements and positions on the Armenian Genocide are akin to denial.

    Please understand our sensitivity on this issue and take it into consideration.  Good luck on all the good work that you do.  

    Robert Setrakian”

  4. Ha, I looked on the ADL website.  There is no genocide acknowledgment there.  The ADL had never recognized the genocide in a straightforward way.  The ADL is still a genocide denier. 

    FHAO should be ashamed to defend the ADL. And what does FHAO say about the fact that Foxman is still bad-mouthing the Armenian genocide resolution?  Nothing.

    Why is the ADL still attacking us Armenians and taking the Turkish side and why does not FHAO say something about that?

    FHAO may be worse than the ADL I think.  This is going to be a bad thing for FHAO’s reputation.  No one will believe it is sincere.

  5. The notion that ADL has fully acknowledged the Armenian Genocide is simply not true.

    In 2007 when ADL was publicly embarrassed due to their history of genocide denial (followed by many local MA towns and cities denouncing their partnership with ADL due to that), Mr. Foxman was forced to make a statement to calm the scandal, which he did on ADL’s website at http://www.adl.org/PresRele/Mise_00/5114_00.htm.

    The formulas used in that statement are far from full acknowledgment or condemnation. Furthermore, in that same statement Mr. Foxman confirms his agenda of not letting a resolution acknowledging and condemning a genocide pass through the Congress.

    I am afraid your explanation is not satisfactory (since it is based on false premesis that ADL has fully acknowledged and condemned the Armenian Genocide on the website, meanwhile he confirms his agenda of fighting against it in Congress). I remain puzzled and extremely disappointed with FHOA – an organization that I keep on a very high regard for everything that they do. FHOA is putting their great reputation on the line partnering with unethical and hypocritical entities and it is sad to see that. Yet, I remain hopeful that FHOA will remain uncorrupted and will do the right thing.

    Nerses Zurabyan

  6. So if Facing History and Ourselves unambiguously acknowledges the Armenian Genocide why does it invite a participant who either does not acknowledge the Armenian Genocide or at best obfuscates it? With the huge number of reputable genocide scholars and activists in New England, the need to rely on this guy Foxman to fill a slot at their event!!!!! Shame on them.

  7. Merci, Robert Setrakian, for your thoughtful letter to Facing History. NAASR has worked closely with Facing History.  Professors Hovannisian and Balakian are on the Facing History Board of Scholars. What do NAASR and these professors think of Facing History’s cosponsorship with the ADL and Facing History’s non-response to the concerns of the Armenian community?

  8. Foxman says quite clearly, “… the consequences of those actions were indeed tantamount to genocide.  If the word genocide had existed then, they would have called it genocide.”

    We can criticise the ADL for fighting the passing of bills in Congress, but not for refusing to acknowledge the massacres as genocide.  

    Anyone who wants to read up on the issue can visit http://search.adl.org/search?q=armenian+genocide&x=11&y=17&ie=&site=adl&output=xml_no_dtd&client=adl&lr=&proxystylesheet=adl&oe=.

    Just make sure to look at the DATES of the texts your reading.  By their own admittance, they did not bother the call it genocide until late 2007.  But when put under pressure by the Armenian community, they definitely did (and continue to do so). 

  9. Dear Daniel,
    I’m afraid for people who are familiar with modern day methods of sugar-coded genocide denial, the pretentious tone of Mr. Foxman’s statement is more of an insult, than a clear acknowledgment. 
    Phrases like “tantamount to genocide” instead of simply calling it a genocide, combined with a superficial conditions like “if the word existed” are not quite the same as simply saying “yes, it was a genocide”.
    If he wanted to acknowledging it in a clear way, it would not take him a such a long sentence with bloated superficial phrases to do that, simple – “Yes, that was a genocide” would suffice. 
    Furthermore, during that same statement he confirms he agenda of blocking genocide resolution in the Congress.
    Finally, let’s not forget that this statement came in the midst of an embarrassing scandal, when ADL was kicked out of partnering with a lot of Massachusetts towns due to his anti-humanitarian views, so he said that out of necessity and still found a way not to fully acknowledge it.

  10. Facing History is losing credibility that it can never regain if it keeps supporting the likes of Foxman and his war against Armenians.

  11. He said he agrees with everything Morgenthau said — ergo, he agrees with the historical facts.
    He agrees that it was genocidal (“tantamount to genocide”).
    He agrees that the term is applicable: “would have called it genocide.”

    I think we’re finding stupid reasons to criticise  the ADL. 

    Should we be critical of those who play word games? Definitely. But I just don’t see that this is one of those situations.

  12. Daniel, 

    We’re not “looking for reasons” to criticize ADL and no one is lost in semantics – it’s ADL’s hypocritical position on Armenian Genocide poorly masqueraded across their statements and actions that’s the problem. Your commentary appears to be a poor attempt “to be fair” to Mr Foxman – he doesn’t need your “fairness” I assure you. Advocate for someone worthy, will you?!

  13. My Dear Daniel:
    The simple fact is that many cities and the Massachusetts Municipal Association cut their ties with the ADL’s No Place for Hate program even after Foxman’s absurd statement of August 21, 2007.   Do you know what the word “after” means?
    So please stop this game of yours where you pretend that only Armenians feel this way about Foxman’s statement.   Even righteous Jews supported severing ties with the ADL’s No Place for Hate, and they knew full well that word games from Foxman were unacceptable,   Some even resigned from the ADL.
    Moreover, the ADL continues to publicly oppose the Armenian genocide resolution. That is immoral, hypocritical, and is a continuation of the harm that the ADL has inflicted on a people that does not deserve it.  
    The above facts are on the official website, http://www.NoPlaceForDenial.com, of the activists who fought and continue to fight against the terrible behavior of the ADL. 
    It appears that you don’t know the facts, or perhaps you know the facts but are enjoying playing with and misleading readers.

    Please, Daniel, visit the vast and informative http://www.NoPlacefordenial.com website and get an education

  14. Dave, there is no need for sarcasm.  I didn’t know the city cut its ties after the Aug 2007 statement, but was well aware that the ADL had taken much criticism over its stance, as indicated in my initial post.

    Karina hit the nail right on the head. I’m worried that we get tied up in semantics sometimes, and see underhandedness where there is none.

    It’s not out of concern for Foxman that I’ve been posted, but out of concern for our communities and the state of mind we occupy sometimes.  

    In any case, the note about Mass. withdrawing support after Foxman’s statement is intriguing.

    I do want to put out a thank you here to those involved in the No Place For Hate campaign.  I watch this video some months ago, and found it very moving: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gFh7Wfaty0A.


  15. Denial of the Armenian Genocide is considered a crime in Switzerland, and it is punishable by imprisonment and fines.  Back in March of 2007, a prominent Turkish politician, Dogu Perincek, was convicted of breaching such crime and was ordered to pay fine amounting over $2000 Dollars., by saying that 20th century killings of the Armenians by Turks could not be described as genocide.

    Here, in the, United States, so far there are Forty-four states that have recognized the Armenian Genocide.  Implementing such law in above mentioned states, would have Foxman and ADL think twice making statements such as,”…we [ADL] continue firmly believe that a congressional approval on such matters is counterproductive…”

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