A Matter of Moral Significance: The ADL and Berman’s Nomination to Judgeship

Laura Boghosian’s Letter to the Governor’s Council

On Feb. 26, at a public hearing held at the Massachusetts State House, the Governor’s Council questioned Joseph S. Berman, Governor Deval Patrick’s nominee for the position of associate justice of the Superior Court. The councilors also heard from witnesses testifying both in support of and against the nominee. Berman’s leadership role with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL)—a point that stirred up controversy during the Nov. 13 hearing, because of the organization’s history of opposing Armenian Genocide resolutions in Congress—was again discussed. The following is a letter submitted to the councilors by Laura Boghosian, a co-founder of the Coalition to Recognize the Armenian Genocide, to help shed light on the matter.


My name is Laura Boghosian and I am a co-founder of the Coalition to Recognize the Armenian Genocide. The coalition is comprised of members of the Boston-area Armenian and Jewish

The Governor’s Council during the Feb. 26 hearing (Photo by Nanore Barsoumian)
The Governor’s Council during the Feb. 26 hearing (Photo by Nanore Barsoumian)

communities who came together in 2007 in direct response to the Anti-Defamation League’s refusal to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide and to its long history of lobbying for the Turkish government against Congressional affirmation of this genocide.

I am here today because I would like to set the record straight regarding the ADL’s official position on the Armenian Genocide, as evidenced by its published statements. The ADL’s stance has not only been raised in these hearings, but has been featured in most media accounts of Mr. Berman’s nomination. It is thus imperative to have a clear understanding of this issue and its history.

In an op-ed published in the Boston Herald in early December, local ADL officials wrote, “In 2008, we publicly stated that the massacres perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire against the Armenians constituted genocide.”

Regrettably, that is simply not true. The fall 2008 statement to which they are alluding is not an acknowledgement at all; rather it asserts only that “the ADL has never denied the tragic and painful events perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire against the Armenians, and we have referred to those massacres and atrocities as genocide.” Please note the word “referred,” which is in the past tense.

Yet the sole previous statement on the Armenian Genocide made by the ADL was its controversial 2007 declaration that, by its very wording, failed to meet the legal definition of genocide. The 2008 statement, therefore, merely refers back to the 2007 statement. It is not a new announcement declaring recognition, and it is troubling that ADL leadership would suggest otherwise.

That 2007 release stated only that the “consequences” of the Turkish massacres of Armenians were “tantamount” to genocide. The 1948 United Nations Genocide Convention, however, requires “intent” by the perpetrator. To one not versed in the legalities of genocide, this may seem like a technicality, but the fact is that the wording of the ADL statement does not satisfy international legal standards for genocide.

The ADL is an organization that places genocide at the pinnacle of its “Pyramid of Hate,” and has done extensive and valuable work related to Holocaust education and commemoration. It is thus inconceivable that when it crafted its 2007 statement, the ADL would not have been familiar with the judicial requirements necessary for a determination of genocide.

Although much of the general public was misled by this statement into believing the ADL had acknowledged the genocide, the majority of the 14 Massachusetts communities that left the ADL’s “No Place for Hate” program understood the organization had not. Most severed ties after the ADL’s 2007 release. The Massachusetts Municipal Association likewise ended its sponsorship afterward, declaring in April 2008 that “it is imperative to speak with absolute clarity on genocide.”

And yet today, the ADL argues disingenuously that with this 2008 statement it has recognized the Armenian Genocide. Assert something often enough, it seems, and people will believe it is true.

Unfortunately, this approach works judging by pieces in the local press. The Boston Globe and the Boston Herald, for example, have covered Mr. Berman’s nomination by reporting as fact the claim by the ADL that it has recognized the Armenian Genocide. We have seen this pronouncement printed both in news articles and in editorials. Yet nowhere have these two newspapers published this alleged statement of recognition. They cannot, since it does not exist. If either paper had bothered to consult with leaders of the Armenian community, the absence of formal recognition would have been made clear.

Returning to the 2008 statement that the ADL upholds as proof of recognition, it is puzzling that they would do so because that statement was, at the time it was issued, rejected as an acknowledgement in a Sept. 23, 2008 open letter signed by 25 Armenian political, cultural, educational, and religious organizations.

Now, a word about Mr. Berman: It has been said that he disagreed with the ADL’s policy and tried to change it internally, while retaining his membership and serving in a leadership position. This may well be so, but with an issue of such great moral significance, it is also critical to take a public stand. Many did, speaking out, resigning from the ADL, mobilizing the Jewish community, and in one infamous incident getting fired for defending historical truth. Had Mr. Berman publicly stood for justice then, his fitness to dispense justice today would perhaps not be in question by some.

In any case, Mr. Berman’s reported working behind the scenes was ultimately not successful, as we still await an unambiguous formal statement by the ADL acknowledging the Armenian Genocide.

Finally, recognition of the Armenian Genocide is not solely an Armenian issue. It is a human rights issue that should concern everyone. The rabbis, the many members of the Jewish community, and the human rights activists with whom I have been working since 2007 understand that. Genocide is the ultimate crime against humanity and genocide denial the highest form of hate speech. It is therefore essential that the ADL acknowledge unequivocally the historical truth of the Armenian Genocide and cease its egregious lobbying against its affirmation.

We thus call upon the Anti-Defamation League to fulfill its stated mission of securing justice for all by publicly and unequivocally recognizing the Armenian Genocide.


Laura Boghosian

Laura Boghosian

Laura Boghosian is a writer and activist. She received her master's degree in journalism from the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, where she studied under Ben Bagdikian. She is a former editor of The Armenian Weekly, and a co-founder of the Coalition to Recognize the Armenian Genocide.


  1. If Mr.Berman is in busIness with the Turks or has some privat interest from the Turkish government,he cannot deny the truth(the Armenian genocide) I THINK Mr BERMAN IS AN UNFAIRE PERSON, AND HAS TO BE OUT OF ANY ORGANISATIONS.

  2. My Grand parents were taken away one morning from their home, leaving behind 4 children under 12 years old–The story in the tqwn was —Armenians were forced digging TRECHES, lined at the borders, BAYOETED AND PUSHED IN–SOME STILL ALIVE, COVERED WITH DIRT. mR BERMAN SHOULD SEE/FEEL SIMILARITY TO AUCHWITZ !In COURT we need HUMANITY, CONSCIOUS…

  3. I admit that my contact with Armenian people has been limited. However, many of the Armenian people that I have met over the years have been antisemetic. Is that perhaps a factor for the ADL?

    • The ADL has proved that it is an extremist, tantamount Neo-Nazi organization, expertly disguised as a hub for “human rights”. And besides, Armenians can’t really be antisemitic, because we get along just fine with Arabs. And it is a more serious issue as to why these fundamentalist extremist organizations such as the ADL and others in the same league are anti-Armenian hatemongers, shamelessly meddling in US government affairs to stop recognition of the Armenian Holocaust.

  4. Dear Michael:
    Rather than look for anti-Semitism among Armenians, I think you should look for anti-Christian, anti-Armenian biases and actions among the top ranks of the ADL, since it is the latter organization that started this fight.
    The ADL decided all on its own to single out the Christian Armenian genocide as a genocide to deny. The ADL decided all on its own to work against recognition of that genocide by directly collaborating with Turkey.
    Michael, please don’t try this anti-Semitic canard on us Armenians because I can assure you that you and the ADL will be justifiably accused of anti-Christianism ten times over. Look to yourself and the ADL first for your own biases and uncalled for attacks on another ethnic group that has never done you harm.

  5. {“ However, many of the Armenian people that I have met over the years have been antisemetic. Is that perhaps a factor for the ADL”}
    ( Michael // March 11, 2014 at 10:21 pm //)


    You admit your contact with Armenians has been limited, yet you extrapolate from your limited experience and give ADL a pass based on that ?
    Does ADL itself claim any anti-Semitism, even a smidgen, amongst Armenian-Americans at large ?
    Don’t you think they would publicize it, if there was any, given the pickle they are in vis-à-vis Armenian Americans ?

    As to anti-Semitism in general.
    Are there Armenian anti-Semites ? Undoubtedly.
    There are irrational, confused, ignorant people in every ethnos, country, and community.
    Show me an ethnos that does not have disturbed individuals in their midst*.
    (btw: spitting on Armenian clergymen is not just Anti-Armenian and Anti-Christian, but in US would be considered Assault and Battery; a Felony)
    {“…..The spittle did not fall at his feet but on his person….”}

    Back to ADL.
    Don’t you see the clear illogic in your cause-and-effect preposition re ADL ?
    So, if ‘many’ Armenians you have met have been (allegedly) anti-Semitic, that would give ADL the moral right to actively participate in the Denial of the Armenian Genocide on behalf of the denialist State of Turkey and denialist Turks ?
    There is a long list of Jewish-American scholars** who – on record – are AG Denialists: by your reasoning, should that give some ArmenianAmerican organizations the moral right to join the nuts who run around supposedly ‘scientifically disproving’ the Jewish Holocaust, or write books about the supposed ‘myth’ of JH ?
    See how absurd the premise of your argument defending ADL is on its face ?

    Jewish friends:
    Stop defending the indefensible.
    Stop defending AG Denial by _some_ Jews.
    Stop defending the denialists within ADL.
    Venerate Jews like Dr. Israel Charny; Recognize honorable Jews like former ADL member Andrew H. Tarsy, who told Foxman that he found the ADL’s stance “morally indefensible”, and was fired for it; Condemn and shout down the likes of Abraham Foxman – people like him bring dishonor to the honorable Jewish people.


    *[Ultra-Orthodox spitting attacks on Old City clergymen becoming daily
    Clergymen in the Armenian Church in Jerusalem say they are victims of harassment, from senior cardinals to priesthood students; when they do complain, the police don’t usually find the perpetrators.]

    * *e.g. Late Professor Stanford J. Shaw of UCLA (interred in Ankara); Tal Buenos, an Israeli PhD candidate studying genocide (denial) issues at Utah University; Guenter Lewy, and so on.

  6. As Joseph Sobran observed “… an anti-Semite used to mean a man who hated Jews. Now it means a man who is hated by Jews.”

  7. And let me also say, the phrase anti-Semitism which is being defined as “hatred of Jews” excludes everyone else, so isn’t that a bit racist? Because when someone is called an anti-Semite, especially by a Jew against an Arab, it becomes a very sad state of affairs, and it is like dehumanizing Arabs, who are also Semitic, not to mention others. I admit I have not heard Arabs or Assyrians talk about this issue, but I imagine that if I was in their place, and was called that, I would feel swindled or something.

    I remember when the notable reporter Helen Thomas who is of Arab descent passed away last year they had asked her earlier if she was an “anti-Semite” for being critical of Israel, and she asked how could she be an anti-Semite when she is a Semite herself. Well according to them when someone “hates Arabs” they are not anti-Semitic, but is someone “hates Jews” they are. The whole thing is a confused mess because one group of people feel that certain words are their property exclusively. (Reminds me also of the word Holocaust, for example, everyone else has genocide, but in the case of the Jews it was a Holocaust, even though the word had been used to describe what was happening to Armenians before).

    Citing the extremist genocide denier Bernard Lewis, On wikipedia for example it says: “”Antisemitism” refers specifically to prejudice against Jews alone and in general”. Excuse me?? Imagine if we went around claiming that “anti-Christianism” meant hatred of Armenians “alone and in general”. Or “anti-Slavism” meant hatred of Ukrainians “alone and in general”.

    Besides this, the extremists such as the ADL have hijacked the term and abused the life out of it anyway, and as a result it no longer has anything significant or shocking about it, or deserving of investigation, and in fact, a person using it to silence someone in an argument, typically exposes his own bigotry to the world. This is not fair for all people who are of Semitic descent, but probably little can be done about it now.

  8. Hagop D wrote: The ADL has proved that it is an extremist, tantamount Neo-Nazi organization, expertly disguised as a hub for “human rights”. And besides, Armenians can’t really be antisemitic, because we get along just fine with Arabs.

    => I think that’s a little extreme. It might be more truthful to say that the ADL has degenerated into a politically partisan organization that lobbies for Israel, even when that contradicts its original human rights agenda.

    => Secondly, words are conventions and do not always mean what their origins would indicate. The word “anti-Semitism” has a well-established meaning that indicates a hatred specifically towards Jews. I’m not accusing Armenian-Americans of that. Their beef with Israel is a legitimate one. But I do want to clarify the meaning of the word. (By comparison, you can note that “herbal tea” is not a type of tea.)

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