A current dispute that grew out of an anti-bias civic program in eastern Massachusetts threatens to upset the already tense relationship between parts of the Jewish and Armenian communities in the United States.
Leaders of the Armenian community in Watertown have urged the town to suspend its participation in “No Place for Hate,” an 8-year-old diversity program sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League, and they have criticized ADL National Director Abraham Foxman for recent statements he made about the Armenian Genocide of 1915-23.
The ADL and other prominent Jewish organizations have declined to endorse a congressional bill, submitted annually, that acknowledges the murder of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire’s wartime Ittihad government, and Foxman was quoted in April by the Los Angeles Times as saying that “The Jewish community shouldn’t be the arbiter of that history.”
Foxman’s statement angered Watertown’s Armenian community who viewed it as a denial of the Genocide’s historical authenticity. Turkish governments since 1920 have claimed that no orchestrated murders took place, and the country’s leaders in recent decades, in lobbying against the congressional bill with American Jewry, have reportedly threatened Turkey’s 20,000-member Jewish community and its close political ties with Israel.
“We’re not denying that there were massacres and atrocities” committed by the Ottoman government, Foxman told The Jewish Week, adding that the resolution is not “a Jewish issue.” “We believe that the Turkish government must do more than it has to confront its history and to seek reconciliation with the Armenian people,” a statement issued by the ADL reads. Bryan Ardouny, executive director of the Armenian Assembly in Washington, said the Watertown controversy has a “national scope” for Armenian-Americans. “I’m getting calls from people across the country.
“You see frustration in the community” over the ADL and other Jewish organizations who are perceived as being opposed to recognition of the Armenian Genocide, Ardouny said. “We would like to see not only the ADL but other like-minded humanitarian groups affirm the indisputable fact of the Armenian Genocide, and not get into semantics.”