Friday, 31 August 2007

Bombing in Boston


Bombing in
Abe Foxman's Genocide Denial Road Show

It seemed innocuous enough at first. Watertown, a suburb of Boston,
sported a sign on the Town Hall, proclaiming the town a participant in
an anti-bigotry program "No Place for Hate." But one of the good
citizens of Watertown with libertarian inclinations objected that the
sign seemed like some kind of PC thought control. His objections set in
motion investigations by the town mothers and fathers into the
program. Lo and behold, it was sponsored by Abe Foman's Jewish
Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

In itself this sponsorship might not be a problem, unless you are a
Muslim, an Arab or a Palestinian and know full well the ADL's
positions on bigotry. But there are over 8000 Armenian-Americans in
Watertown, and the ADL has long denied that the Turkish massacre of 1.5
million Armenians from 1915 to 1923 amounted to genocide. Turkey is of
course an ally and arms purchaser of Israel's, but the denial antedates
this alliance. A good friend of mine, an Israeli expatriate, tells me
that when he went to school in Israel, mention of the Armenian
genocide was verboten so as not to detract from the "uniqueness" of the
Jewish genocide under the Nazis and to maintain a "monopoly on
suffering," as he puts it. Shoah business does not like the competition.

The whole matter in Watertown was given added urgency by a resolution
now pending in Congress calling on Turkey to recognize the Armenian
genocide. This resolution is supported by the Armenian community and
opposed by the national ADL.

Anger began to mount in Watertown and the citizens called on the city
mothers and fathers to withdraw from the ADL-sponsored program. (ADL
Dollars and awards flow to participating towns.) The Watertown Town
Council called a meeting which was packed with a lot of angry
Armenians. Regional ADL director Andrew Tarsey came to the meeting to defend
the ADL genocide denial, (as had the ADL's national director, Abe
Foxman, in an interview with the Boston Globe,) and to call on the town
to stick with the "No Place for Hate" program. Tarsey was booed out
of the hall with hisses and catcalls. At that the town mothers and
fathers voted unanimously to quit the program, and at the cost of
overtime for two city workers the sign was gone before dawn.

Tarsey was unable to prevail with his genocide denial and couldn't
move Foxman and the national ADL to reverse course. Tarsey then
reversed his position and agreed that Armenians had indeed endured a
genocide.They then cut through the Gordian Knot by firing Tarsey. Two local
ADL board members duly resigned in protest. The rest stood by their
man, Foxman. Tarsey is now hailed repeatedly as a "hero" by local
Jewish leaders. If armies were composed of such heroes, every battle
would culminate in mutual mass retreat. Notably and unusually, the city
of Watertown and its council were not labeled anti-semitic by the ADL
and its assorted acolytes. Even Alan Dershowitz did not raise a peep.
This seems to be a kind of sea change, and it may have something to
do with the Lobby's weaker position now that it is more widely seen.
post Mearsheimer and Walt, as a principal instigator of the
disastrous war on Iraq.

At this point the Boston Jewish community was divided. Foxman was
under pressure, and Armenian-Americans from across the country were
getting involved. How to respond? With a big expensive newspaper ad of
course. And how did Foxman's ad make his case? By blaming it on the
Jews! Specificially the Jews of Turkey whom Foxman and company claim
would be endangered by a change in the ADL position. But there have been
many reports of the tolerance shown to Jews in Turkey, as one letter
writer to the Boston Globe noted. The Foxman ad also let the Israeli
cat out of the bag, saying, "We are also aware that Turkey is a key
strategic ally and friend of the United States and a staunch friend
of Israel." (Some staunch friend if it were true that Turkey was
persecuting Turkish Jews. What a tangled web has been woven by ADL.) But
of course the ADL was only stating its long-time position that Israel
comes first ­ way before any consideration of human rights.

Two days ago, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater
Boston (JCRC) known for its pro-Iraq war stance, its Iran bashing and its
opposition to Palestinian rights joined the fray. It sent out a
letter repudiating Foxmam's genocide denial ­ and claiming it recognized
the Armenian genocide long long ago ­ in fact in 2005, although this
received scant notice until now. Let's see; the genocide happened in
1915 and the JCRC recognized it in 2005 ­ after the passage of 90
years. By that logic Holocaust denial should be OK for another 13

Today Foxman and his national ADL, hastily joining the local ADL in
full retreat, have pronounced the Armenian slaughter is a genocide
after all. Upon reflection and with the help of that great humanitarian,
Elie Wiesel, who seems to be acting as a kind of Jewish Billy Graham
and who has never acknowledged the injustice done the Palestinians,
Foxman thinks that it was a genocide after all. (Of course according
to their newspaper ad of several days back this means that the
national ADL is now abandoning Turkish Jewry to a horrible fate.) ADL was
in fact founded in 1913 just before the onset of the Armenian
genocide, so ADL's acknowledgement is not overly hasty. Perhaps the ADL's new
slogan could be "Building on 100 years of Genocide Denial."

But Foxman and company have not given up yet. National ADL still
refuses to support the Congressional resolution put forward by Rep. Adam
Schiff of California to recognize the Armenian genocide. (ADL in fact
has lobbied against the resolution.) But the Armenian community is
not buying it. Schiff wants ADL to support the resolution. And
Watertown Councilor Marilyn Pettito Devaney said that she and others will
accept nothing less than full ADL support for the resolution. Meanwhile
she said that she and others will lobby other towns to pull out of
the ADL's bigoted, "anti-bigotry" No Place for Hate" program. (You may
want to look at that site to see whether you can find any statement
about the slow genocide being wrought on the Palestinians.) This
program is found in cities and towns all over the United States. Do you
have one in your town?

John V. Walsh can be reached at This story
continues to develop with Foxman making a personal visit to Beantown
today. CounterPunch will keep an eye on the situation as it unwinds.

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