ADL's Boston director rehired after dispute

Tarsy was fired on August 17 after publicly voicing opposition to the organization's refusal to recognize the Armenian genocide.

ADL 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
ADL 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reinstated Andrew Tarsy as its New England regional director late Monday. Tarsy was fired on August 17 after publicly voicing opposition to the organization's refusal to recognize the Armenian genocide. Abraham Foxman later reversed the organization's position by recognizing the World War I massacre of Armenians as "tantamount to genocide." "I am delighted to be back on the job as the New England regional director," Tarsy said in a statement released Tuesday. "I am proud that ADL has made a very significant change confronting a moral issue and acknowledging the Armenian genocide for what it was. This was an act of leadership by Mr. Foxman and ADL." While, Tarsy's rehiring has pleased members of both the Jewish and Armenian communities, both seem to recognize that this issue has not yet been laid to rest. "I don't think it's the end of the story, but rather the end of a chapter in an ongoing story," said Nancy Kaufman, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston. "It's a terrific ending, which speaks to the importance of speaking our mind when we have a moral issue we feel strongly about." Kaufman applauded the ADL's recognition of the genocide last week, reversing a long-standing refusal to do so, but at the same time acknowledged the road ahead. In the coming weeks, Jewish organizations will need to decide whether to support the congressional resolution that calls on the administration to formally recognize the genocide. "This is a very complicated issue and hopefully Turkey will be able to look at this chapter in history," said Kaufman. "With international pressure, maybe that will happen." Though pleased with the ADL's recognition of the genocide and with Tarsy's reinstatement, the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) pointed to what they see as an inconsistency in the national ADL's position. While recognizing the genocide, Abraham Foxman has continued to stand by his opposition to the congressional bill, calling it a "diversion." "There is a glaring inconsistency in ADL's position, which says, on the one hand, it was genocide, but Congress shouldn't recognize it," said Amram Hamparian, executive director of ANCA. "Once we recognize the crime, at the very least we should act on it [this recognition]. Once you cross the line and say it's genocide, certain things follow, and that's apparent to everybody." The bill, which thus far has 224 cosponsors in Congress, is largely expected to pass. David Cohen, mayor of Newton, Massachusetts, which has one of the largest Jewish populations in the state, said the city is supporting the position of the New England chapter of the ADL, which last week voted to reinstate Tarsy and to bring the congressional bill to the table at the ADL's annual meeting in November. "I think the New England chapter of ADL and its executive director have really stood tall on this issue and it is my firm hope that the national ADL will adopt the position of the New England branch, which is the most just position there is," said Cohen. "I think the ultimate goal is to make sure that the ADL position on the Armenian genocide is consistent in word, deed and spirit, as it is on all other important causes for world justice which the organization has embraced," said Cohen. Some Armenian and Jewish activists have taken a more critical approach, saying Foxman has already "backtracked" from his recognition of the genocide, or that his recognition did not go far enough to begin with. The day after ADL called the massacre of Armenians "tantamount to genocide," Foxman wrote a letter of apology to Turkish prime minister expressing "regret for any pain we have caused you and the Turkish people in these past few days." This has angered Armenian activists who believe the apology should be directed at them. In his letter Foxman said, "We have utmost respect for you, your government and the people of Turkey. It was certainly not our intent to hurt or embarrass the Turkish people and their leaders." Activist Sevag Arzoumanian, a member of the Watertown, Mass.-based group that is running the activist Web site and an activist with the local Armenian National Committee of Eastern Massachussetts, said Foxman owes the Armenian community an apology for his continued denial of the Armenian genocide. "To this day, I don't think a single Armenian leader or organization has received a letter of apology from him, or even a phone call," said Arzoumanian. "That half-hearted acknowledgment of the genocide by Foxman was a step forward, but it didn't go far enough. An organization like ADL should stand with the Armenian people to demand congressional affirmation, anything short of that is blatant hypocrisy." "ADL comes into our town trying to teach our kids and citizens how to combat bias and hate speech, when the worst hate crime is genocide," said Arzoumanian. "The leaders of the organization were engaged in helping Turkey to cover up the genocide, which is a profound contradiction, and the worst kind of hate speech is genocide denial." In the coming weeks, Armenian activists will be pushing for cities in Massachusetts to withdraw from the ADL anti-bias program 'No Place for Hate,' until the national leadership of ADL commits to a stronger statement about the genocide. Arzoumanian is equally angry at Israel for what he calls "bartering with the Armenian genocide" as part of its agreement with Turkey, cemented in the 1990s. "Israel should have made it clear from the beginning that they would not act as agents of denial for the Turkish state. They should have said, 'Yes, we will help you advocate in DC to get more funding, to get more arm shipments and for stronger ties with US establishments.' But they also should have said, 'We are not willing to bargain with another people's right to its history.'" In a New York Sun op-ed published on Tuesday, Hillel Halkin echoed this criticism of Israel's position on the Armenian genocide, "For a Jewish state to abet the denial of genocide because it deems this necessary for the defense of Jewish interests is to make a mockery of the campaign against Holocaust denial." "Worse yet, it is to make a mockery of Jewish accusations against the world for standing by and doing nothing while six million Jews were killed by the Nazis," Halkin said.