Last week CounterPunch was the only national outlet, to the best of our knowledge, to report the disturbances caused in the Boston suburb of Watertown over denial of the Armenian genocide by the national Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and its director, Abe Foxman. The brouhaha was set off by an investigation into Watertown’s participation in "No Place for Hate," an "anti-bigotry" program of uncertain origin. Mirabile dictu, the program turned out to be sponsored by the national ADL which denies that the massacre of 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of the Turks from 1915 to 1923 amounted to a genocide. This was quite disconcerting to the town mothers and fathers since Watertown boasts an Armenian-American population in excess of 8000. The town council met to consider the program and the local director of ADL, one Andrew Tarsey, showed up to implore them not to withdraw from the program. Met with boos and hisses by the duly assembled Watertown citizenry, Tarsey beat a hasty retreat from the Council chambers. The Watertown mothers and fathers then unanimously voted to drop the ADL program.
The next day Tarsey, now in full rout, reversed his position, labeling the killing of 1.5 million Armenians a genocide after all. Problem is that this local ADL position contradicts the position of national ADL headed by Abe Foxman, which persists in denying the Armenian genocide. Foxman’s solution fire local ADL leader Tarsey. And for good measure, he labeled the Watertown position as "bigoted," thus playing the "race card." Obviously the Watertownians must be anti-Semites, a charge Foxman cannot resist, if they will not sponsor an ADL program. However, in a challenge to Foxman, the local ADL and Jewish establishment, seeing their credibility slip sliding away here in the Athens of America, decided to affirm the Armenian genocide.
But the House of Reps. in US Congress has a resolution pending with 227 co-sponsors (a clear majority) recognizing the Armenian genocide, much to the consternation of Turkey, an ally of Israel’s and also an avid buyer of Israeli arms and an ally of the U.S. So what was Foxman to do? Like Solomon, Foxman opted for a split decision, but unlike Solomon, Foxman has tried to execute it. He said in Boston that he has reversed his decision and the ADL now considers the Armenian massacre "tantamount to genocide." ("Tantamount"?) But in Washington national ADL will continue to oppose the Congressional resolution, recognizing the Armenian genocide. So in Boston the massacre of Armenians is genocide but in Washington it is not. What the status will be in NYC or Baltimore, Foxman has yet to decide.
The Armenians, both locally and nationally, will have none of this. They want the ADL to support the Congressional resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide or else stand accused as genocide deniers. So now both the Armenians and the local Boston ADL are at odds with Foxman and national ADL.
Enter the Turks. They too have denounced Foxman for admitting genocide in Boston even if he has not done so in Washington. And they are angry about it. Foxman laid his original genocide denial at the feet of the Turks, saying he feared for the safety of Jewish Turks if he crossed the Turks. Friday the Turkish Foreign Ministry responded, "The Jewish community in Turkey is part of our society, and its members do not have any reason to worry." Clearly the Turks do not like Foxman’s accusations of anti-Semitism, any more than the Watertownians did. The Turks then one-upped Foxman, claiming that his Boston recognition of the Armenian genocide denies the special nature of the Holocaust. "We consider the statement of the ADL as an injustice to the unique character of the Holocaust, as well as to the memories of its victims," the Turkish Foreign Ministry in Washington said in a statement. "We expect it to be rectified." There you have it, Abe Foxman, Holocaust denier! So Foxman now has accomplished what has eluded diplomats for nearly a century, bringing Armenians and Turks together in this case in opposition to national ADL. And he has even brought down a Turkish charge against his own proper respect for the Holocaust!
Foxman of course is little more than an intellectual bully, sliming with charges of anti-Semitism whomever dares challenge the policies of Isreal. But his defamatory, anti-defamation league is in trouble. Foxman’s actions now put the fabled and hitherto invincible Isreali Lobby on the line. The Turks certainly must have thought that the Lobby could "deliver" Congress on genocide denial, and Foxman’s ADL is a key component of that Lobby. The Turks have already complained to Israel about the ADL’s Boston-Washington split decision. This is very important to them, having hired both Dick Gephardt, former House Majority Leader and Bob Livingston (Remember him?) former Speaker of the House at considerable cost to get Congress on their side. So the battle lines are drawn. CounterPunch will keep you posted.
JOHN V. WALSH can be reached at John.Endwar@gmail.com.