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
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.