ADL’s Official Recognition of Armenian Genocide Ends Years-Long Controversy

ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt’s Op-Ed Welcomed by Armenian Community, Activists

NEW YORK, N.Y. (A.W.)—The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the U.S. non-governmental organization self-described as “the nation’s premier civil rights/human relations agency,” has finally officially referred to what happened to the Armenian people of the Ottoman Empire in the beginning of the 20th century as “unequivocally genocide” and condemned its denial, putting an end to a nearly decade-long controversy that had marred the organization.

'What hap­pened in the Ottoman Empire to the Arme­ni­ans beginning in 1915 was geno­cide,' wrote ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt (Photo: ADL)
‘What hap­pened in the Ottoman Empire to the Arme­ni­ans beginning in 1915 was geno­cide,’ wrote ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt (Photo: ADL)

“What hap­pened in the Ottoman Empire to the Arme­ni­ans begin­ning in 1915 was geno­cide. The geno­cide began with the rul­ing gov­ern­ment arrest­ing and exe­cut­ing sev­eral hun­dred Armen­ian intel­lec­tu­als. After that, Armen­ian fam­i­lies were removed from their homes and sent on death marches. The Armen­ian peo­ple were sub­jected to depor­ta­tion, expro­pri­a­tion, abduc­tion, tor­ture, mas­sacre and starvation,” wrote ADL CEO and National Director Jonathan Greenblatt, in an op-ed entitled, “ADL on the Armenian Genocide,” published on May 13 on the agency’s website. The statement stood in stark contrast to the ADL’s 2007 statement, which caused uproar not only among Armenian communities in the United States and around the world, but also within the organization itself.

Former ADL national director Abraham H. Foxman (Photo: ADL)
Former ADL national director Abraham H. Foxman (Photo: ADL)

Greenblatt also said that his organization would support U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide. “Silence is not an option,” he wrote, noting the significance of educating each generation about the “tragedies of the past.”

Dikran Kaligian, a member of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Eastern Region board called Greenblatt’s op-ed and the ADL’s official affirmation of the genocide an important statement, which “clearly responds to the long-standing demand of the ANCA that the ADL unequivocally affirm the historical fact of the Armenian Genocide and support formal U.S. recognition.”

“Coming from the National Director of the ADL, who succeeded Abe Foxman, the statement helps erase the stain on the reputation of the ADL caused by Foxman’s denialist statements and lobbying against genocide resolutions,” added Kaligian, who also urged the ADL to join the growing coalition of organizations advocating for congressional resolutions for justice for the Armenian Genocide and the return of confiscated Armenian properties.

In a statement penned by then-ADL national director Abraham H. Foxman in August 2007, the organization said that it believed that “the consequences of those actions [of the Ottoman Empire] were indeed tantamount to genocide,” a stance that many felt fell short of full recognition. Moreover, it was revealed that the ADL—which, in 1913, was established to “stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all”—notoriously lobbied against passage of a Congressional resolution affirming the Armenian Genocide.

The ADL was established in 1913 to 'stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all.' (Photo: B'nai B'rith)
The ADL was established in 1913 to ‘stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all.’ (Photo: B’nai B’rith)

At the time, it was clear that the ADL shared the Turkish government’s opposition to U.S. Congress discussing and voting on a non-binding resolution affirming the Armenian Genocide.

Andrew H. Tarsy, the regional director of the Anti-Defamation League New England office at the time, announced his resignation in December 2007, after months of dispute with the national organization’s stance on the Armenian Genocide.

In light of Greenblatt’s statement, Tarsy told the Boston Globe that recognition was not enough. “I think they ought to lead the conversation about reparations for these families,” he was quoted as saying. “The recovery of assets, land, money, items, family heirlooms. Everything that Holocaust reparations… has represented should be on the table.”

At the time of the ADL’s 2007 statement, the ANCA asked the organization to remain true to its mission and fully acknowledge the genocide, refrain from advocating for Turkish calls for a “historical commission,” and express support for U.S. recognition of the crime. The ANCA also demanded an apology from Foxman for the damage and pain the ADL’s actions and statements caused.

Since the release of the 2007 statement and similar statements in the coming years, human rights activists have continuously pressed the ADL for a full acknowledgement of the genocide. Speaking to the Armenian Weekly, No Place for Denial activist and co-founder of the Coalition to Recognize the Armenian Genocide Laura Boghosian said that when Boston-area Armenians united in the No Place for Denial campaign to fight the ADL’s genocide denial in 2007, they were supported by members of the Jewish community who were disturbed by the ADL’s actions.

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan receives the ADL's 'Courage to Care' award from ADL National Director Abraham Foxman in New York. June 10, 2005. (Photo:
Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan receives the ADL’s ‘Courage to Care’ award from ADL National Director Abraham Foxman in New York. June 10, 2005. (Photo:

“Notably, the rabbis and members of Lexington’s Temple Isaiah and Boston’s Temple Israel joined with us to create the Coalition to Recognize the Armenian Genocide, whose goals were to reverse ADL policy, educate the Jewish community about the Armenian Genocide, and pursue U.S. affirmation of the genocide,” she said. “Nine years later, we are still working together and proving that grassroots activism does make a difference.”

The Coalition to Recognize the Armenian Genocide was established in 2008 to foster communication between the Armenian and Jewish communities and to raise awareness of the Armenian Genocide within the Jewish community. The organization advocates for official recognition of the genocide by the United States government. Coalition members include representatives from the ANCA and the Armenian Assembly of America (AAA).

During the initial controversy in 2007, the coalition helped facilitate contacts between Armenian activists and ADL members and created an online petition calling on the U.S. Congress to recognize the Armenian Genocide.

Nearly seven years after his initial statement, Foxman publicly recognized that the Ottoman atrocities of the Armenian people constituted genocide, during his remarks delivered at Suffolk University Law School’s commencement in 2014, though a statement was never published by the ADL confirming that this was the organization’s stance.

Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian  (Photo: Tom Vartabedian)
Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian (Photo: Tom Vartabedian)

Aram Hamparian, the executive director of the ANCA told the Boston Globe that Greenblatt’s statement was the first time the ADL was very “explicit” in its breaking with Turkish government’s denial of the genocide. Commenting on what he called an “historic statement”, Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian said that he was proud to be a part of a “lengthy, open dialogue” with the ADL, along with the ANCA and the AAA over the years. In his statement, Koutoujian also thanked all parties who took part in the discussions with the ADL, including ADL New England regional director Robert Trestan, who he called “a true friend and partner to all Armenians.”

Congressman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) released a statement in response to Greenblatt’s statement, calling for U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide. Schiff welcomed Greenblatt’s statement, noting, “I have long urged ADL to take this step, and I’m very grateful to see the organization come out so strongly for recognition. As an organization with a mission of fighting for human rights, justice, and tolerance, advocating for recognition of the Armenian Genocide, and speaking out against those who would deny it, is in keeping with the ADL’s legacy and the proudest traditions of the Jewish faith.” Schiff added, “If we hope to live in a world free from the crime of genocide, if the words ‘never again’ are to have meaning, we must be prepared to speak the truth even when it’s difficult. The ADL’s statement is an important step towards securing the unequivocal recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the United States.”

Rupen Janbazian

Rupen Janbazian

Rupen Janbazian is the editor of Torontohye Monthly. He is the former editor of The Armenian Weekly and the former director of public relations of the Tufenkian Foundation. Born and raised in Toronto, he is currently based in Yerevan.
Rupen Janbazian

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  1. It seems to me that since Andrew Tarsy said in the Boston Globe that he was not satisfied with the ADL statement, neither should Armenians be satisfied.
    We should believe that the ADL will support the genocide resolution after all these years just because it says it will?
    How, with a simple statement that is not backed up by action?

  2. This is wonderful news even though it took so long…but slow and steady wins the race. Is there any explanation as to why Mr. Foxman and the ADL “…notoriously lobbied against passage of a Congressional resolution affirming the Armenian Genocide.”? What possible reason could they have for supporting the Turkish point of view???

    • {“What possible reason could they have for supporting the Turkish point of view???”}

      Ms. Fletcher, are you serious?

    • The government of Israel has long depended on the support of Turkey in its regional policy. For Foxman and his ilk, towing the Israeli government line is more important than truth and justice.

  3. A step in the right direction.
    But alas, too late and the damage has been done.
    It is not clear yet whether this is merely the opinion of the ADL CEO, or a fundamental change in the policy and stance of the ADL itself.
    Time and future action of the ADL will tell.
    Vart Adjemian

  4. This is BS.
    No Armenian-Americans should thank ADL, nor react positively to this disgusting display of hypocrisy and double dealing by this treacherous organization.

    The damage that ADL and repellent anti-Armenian Abe Foxman have done to our AG Recognition Cause is permanent: there is no way to recover those lost years, nor repair the damage of decades of ADL proactively denying the AG on behalf of Turks.
    Again: they not only did not recognize the AG – which is their right – but actively participated in the worldwide AG denial campaign. We can never forget nor forgive that. Their pro-Genocide* actions have contributed to the endangerment of existence of Armenians in RoA and NKR.

    Now that Jewish-American diaspora and Israel are at odds with neo-Nazi IslamoFascist Erdogan Sultanate, the ADL has decided to use Armenian-Americans for some ulterior purposes. Nothing doing.
    Let ADL keep their “recognition”: that train left the station long ago. We don’t need it.

    * Denial of the Armenian Genocide is the continuation of it.
    Actively working for the Genocidal Turkish government in AG denial is in fact promoting another Genocide of Armenians.

    • I am torn, Avery.

      On the one hand, you are right: This is clearly hypocritical, based purely out of self-interest, and long overdue.

      On the other hand, a cold hard fact of activism is that if you make someone feel good for saying the right thing, the person will be more likely to continue saying the right thing in the future. If we say, “Thanks but no thanks” to the ADL, what incentive will it have to do anything good for Armenians in the future? After all, if it doesn’t recognize the genocide, it will have bad relations with us. Yet if it does recognize the genocide, it still will have bad relations with us because we will say, “Thanks but no thanks.” We will be giving them no reason to recognize the genocide.

      Your response may be that we shouldn’t talk in terms of incentives, ADL should be motivated to do the right thing purely based on morality. Indeed it should. But the fact of the matter is that it is not. We can take the world as it should be, or take it as it is.

  5. Its a start. But the Israelis, ADL and the country are tied together. Until the Country of Israel, with the ADL, recognizes the Armenian Genocide they along with the US are complicit in it as they facilitate the denial. They know the truth, there is no just excuse.

  6. Good post Avery, all the Armenians here with the wool over their eyes need to get to reality, and stop this shameful, docile attitude towards those who cause permanent damage to Armenians, and all for some perceived notion of such and such having such and such “power”.

    The ADL is not a “Jewish” organization any more. It is simply a Zionist-Israeli organization, which considers everything else disposable against one iota of benefit for Israel. And these people target and harass everybody that criticizes Israel, even Jews.

    If the ADL and Zionist community want to be taken seriously, the first order of business is to beg for forgiveness for the decades of heinous behavior and the permanent damage they caused towards Armenians and their quest for mere recognition of truth. And next, recognition by Israel would have happened YESTERDAY as I write this. Instead, not only has nothing changed, but while some of us are “impressed” with the ADL, Israel just became even more extremist with the appointment of a warmonger defense minister and is still involved in supplying arms to Azerbaijan to cause even more harm to Armenians. And to top this off, joining hands with the Baku Khanate, they have constantly been pumping out anti-Armenian propaganda full of lies with their multitude of news outlets and media.

    These people consciously and deliberately CHOSE their position and thus have a permanent stain on themselves they will need to deal with to eternity. Consequently, these organizations pointing out Holocaust deniers becomes downright laughable. The case of the glass-house residents hurling rocks at people.

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