Responding to growing local pressure, the local ADL backed a move in Congress to term the massacres as genocide, the effect of which would mark the atrocities as being premeditated and centrally planned, a position that is widely and popularly held but is still disputed by some eminent scholars, such as historian Bernard Lewis. The local ADL’s support — and its willingness to refer to the slaughter as genocide — led to the firing this past week of its New England regional director, Andrew Tarsy, and the subsequent resignation of some board members. Now that the national ADL has bowed to pressure, it is unclear whether Tarsy will be invited back. (We hope that he is.)
Even so, the national ADL is still withholding support for the congressional move, out of concern for the safety of Turkish Jews — perhaps the only Jewish community that thrives in the Islamic Mediterranean. The ADL and others are also concerned that the congressional action would poison or taint Turkish relations with Israel, as Turkey stands as the only Islamic ally Israel has in the region. And to further complicate an already complicated situation, a friendly Turkey is vital to US interests should Iraq further deteriorate and already-hostile relations with Iran further escalate. Meanwhile, the local Armenian-American community soldiers on to dignify and memorialize the suffering of its ancestors.
That Tarsy and his board bucked the national ADL’s long-held position is a tribute to their integrity and the seriousness of their purpose. As this dispute enters a new phase, we can only wonder what another man of conscience, the late ADL regional chief Lenny Zakim, would counsel as the next step to take. It is doubtful, however, that had Zakim taken the same steps as Tarsy and his board took, he would have been fired.
: The Editorial Page
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