An Open Letter to the Genocide Education Project

By David Boyajian, Belmont MA, 31 October 2011

 

An Open Letter to the Genocide Education Project,
its
Staff, Board, and Advisors, and the Armenian American Community
About Facing History and Ourselves

Sometimes it takes friends to tell a friend that the latter has a problem.

The friends who must do the telling, in this case, are Armenian Americans, particularly those of the San Francisco-based Genocide Education Project (GEP) whose main mission is teaching about the Armenian genocide. The friend with a problem is the Brookline, Massachusetts-based Facing History and Ourselves (FHAO), the Holocaust and human rights organization whose curriculum includes the Armenian genocide.

By David Boyajian, Belmont MA, 31 October 2011

 

An Open Letter to the Genocide Education Project,
its
Staff, Board, and Advisors, and the Armenian American Community
About Facing History and Ourselves

Sometimes it takes friends to tell a friend that the latter has a problem.

The friends who must do the telling, in this case, are Armenian Americans, particularly those of the San Francisco-based Genocide Education Project (GEP) whose main mission is teaching about the Armenian genocide. The friend with a problem is the Brookline, Massachusetts-based Facing History and Ourselves (FHAO), the Holocaust and human rights organization whose curriculum includes the Armenian genocide.

GEP collaborates with FHAO and makes use of the latter’s teaching materials.  More importantly, two top FHAO executives are advisors to GEP, while two famous Armenian American academicians are advisors to both organizations.

The problem is that FHAO is cosponsoring an Anti-Defamation League (ADL) panel on “The New Anti-Semitism: A Contemporary Discussion in Historic Faneuil Hall” in Boston on November 7, 2011.  

Abraham Foxman, ADL National Director, will be a panelist. 

Mr. Foxman and his ADL have denied the factuality of the Armenian genocide of 1915 – 1923 committed by Turkey and, to this day, have failed to unambiguously acknowledge that genocide. They have also immorally and actively assisted Turkey in defeating Armenian genocide resolutions in the U.S. Congress.  A political agreement two decades ago among Turkey, a few top groups such as the ADL, and Israel formalized this arrangement . This contrasts with the principled Jewish American groups and individuals who support recognition of the Armenian genocide.

It is clearly wrong for a genocide education organization such as FHAO to affiliate itself with Foxman as long as he and his organization remain foes of Armenian genocide acknowledgment.

Foxman continues to oppose passage of the Armenian genocide resolution, contemptuously terming it a “counterproductive diversion.”

My October 24 “open letter” (on this website and elsewhere) to FHAO explained this and more.  The letter respectfully asked FHAO to withdraw its partnership with Foxman for the November 7 event.

Since that letter, scores of Armenian Americans have emailed and called FHAO, and posted online, to express their dismay at the FHAO-Foxman pairing.

FHAO’s response has been a disappointment.  FHAO has said, against all evidence, that Foxman has acknowledged the Armenian genocide.  In fact, he has done no such thing. Though Foxman’s statement of August 21, 2007 used the “G” word, it also employed evasive language that implied, for example, that Armenian deaths may have been merely a “consequence” of Turkish “actions” rather than having been intentional.   Article II of the U.N. Genocide Convention specifically requires “intent” for an act to be considered genocide. Foxman and the ADL know that.

A dozen Massachusetts cities and the Massachusetts Municipal Association, which represents every city and town in the state, did not buy Foxman’s rhetorical gymnastics. They cut ties with the ADL’s “No Place for Hate” program even after – after – Foxman’s statement. This matter was national and international news.

Astonishingly, FHAO’s response did not even attempt to address Foxman’s and the ADL’s past and present opposition – hand in hand with the Turkish government – to the Armenian genocide resolution. There is a failure to recognize that Foxman and his ADL have not even begun to undo the damage they have done to Armenians.

It is difficult to understand why or how the FHAO-Foxman partnership for this event came about. One hopes that ADL members among FHAO’s donors and its treasurer, Elizabeth Jick, an ADL Executive Committee member, did not unduly influence its decision.  The FHAO is unnecessarily and gratuitously lending its prestige to Foxman. This is offensive to Armenians.

Four years ago, Armenian grassroots activists, including those from the Armenian National Committee of America and the Armenian Assembly of America (AAA), and others, were the movers and shakers behind the campaign against the ADL’s anti-Armenian actions. With very limited exceptions, however, Armenian American academicians – genocide specialists and historians – including those affiliated with the GEP, remained uninvolved. 

Even as the issue moved to New York, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and San Francisco in 2007 and 2008, these academicians largely remained silent.

Journalists and grassroots activists in Los Angeles and on the East Coast often take the lead on this and similar issues while academicians fail to add their own voices.

The GEP, its staff, board, and advisors are friends of FHAO, as they should be.  And as friends, they are obligated to urge FHAO to withdraw from its partnership with Foxman for the November 7 event.

When credibility hangs in the balance, silence is not an option.

Sincerely,

David Boyajian

Belmont, MA

Note: The Genocide Education Project can be contacted at

[email protected] (Raffi Momjian),
[email protected] (Sara Cohan),
[email protected] (Esther Kalajian),
[email protected] (Pauline Getzoyan),
and [email protected]

For a complete list of GEP officials and advisors:

http://www.genocideeducation.org/boards/index.htm.

Facing History and Ourselves can be contacted at
http://www.facinghistory.org/contact?openform;
http://www.facinghistory.org/contact

Related Material

Open Letter to "Facing History and Ourselves"

4 comments
  1. Contacts at Genocide Education Project

    I looked up the contacts at the Genocide Education Project and am sending each an email asking them to tell the "Facing History" people not to hold this event with Abe Foxman of ADL.  I believe the GEP people should  have done this on their own, but they haven’t, and they need to hear from us. When using these emails, please replace "AT" with "@" and "DOT" with "."

    Apsel, Joyce – jaa5ATnyuDOTedu

    Astourian, Stephan  – astourATberkeleyDOTedu

    Auron, Yair  – yairauATopenuDOTacDOTil

    Balakian, Peter  – pbalakianATmailDOTcolgateDOTedu

    Bartrop, Paul  – pbartropAThotmailDOTcom

    Blum, Morgan  – mblumAThcncDOTorg

    Charny, Israel – infoATinstituteforthestudyofgenocideDOTorg

    Cohan, Sara – saracATgenocideeducationDOTorg

    Demoyan, Hayk  – demoyanATgmailDOTcom

    General Email – InfoATgenocideeducationDOTorg

    Getzoyan, Pauline  – paulinegATgenocideeducationDOTorg

    Hovannisian, Richard  – hovannisAThistoryDOTuclaDOTedu

    Kalajian, Esther – estherkATgenocideeducationDOTorg

    Krekorian, Paul  – councilmemberDOTkrekorianATlacityDOTorg

    Makasdjian, Roxanne  – roxannemATberkeleyDOTedu

    Marashlian, Levon  – levonmATglendaleDOTedu

    Momjian, Raffi – raffimATgenocideeducationDOTorg

    Payaslian, Simon  – payasATbuDOTedu

    Strom, Adam  – adam_stromATfacingDOTorg

    Theriault, Henry  – htheriaultATworcesterDOTedu

    Vartanian, Nicole  – nicoleDOTvartanianAThunterDOTcunyDOTedu

    Weinstein, Jack  – jack_weinsteinATfacingDOTorg

  2. Balakian and Hovannisian have a responsibility

    I just looked at the Board members at  GenocideEducation.org and the annual report at FacingHistory.org.

    Two of our best scholars, Peter Balakian and Richard Hovannisian, are advisors to the Armenian Genocide Education Project and also to Facing History, which is mainly a Jewish group.  I am surprised they would be part of an organization that would sponsor  a genocide denier like Foxman. 

    This makes everyone look bad.   It casts doubt on the sincerity of both groups and the professors who are advisors like Balakian and Hovannisian.

  3. “Facing History” may be a fake

    The reason that this facing history group may be sponsoring Foxman is that it really does not believe in the Armenian genocide but is just using our genocide as an excuse to teach the Holocaust. 

    It makes it easier for Facing History to go into public schools if they can appear to be fair-minded by teaching about a non-Jewish genocide  less ethnocentric, ya know?  Maybe the Armenian Genocide Project gets support from "Facing History" because Armenians alone could not make it into public schools.  Armenians have to teach the ‘real’ genocide, the Holocaust, in order to be able to teach the Armenian genocide. So neither group is about to ever criticize the other.  That’s what might be going on.  It’s a lesson for the Armenian community as to what ethnic groups its members are beholden to.  I hope I am wrong.

  4. What if…

    I have only one question.

    How would Israel Charny or Abraham Foxman (a good Jewish man and a  bad one, respectively) respond if Peter Balakian and Richard Hovanissian called the second Holocaust of the 20th century "an unfortunate event in a war," and lobbied to "stop" legislation that would issue guidelines regarding educating ambassadors about it (the Holocaust)?

    Are they aware that

    1). the  word HOLOCAUST was used in the 1890’s to describe the murder of the Armenians (see press reports/headlines at website  http://www.teachgenocide.org )?

    2). GENOCIDE was a word invented by a Polish Jew, Rafael Lemkin? (The video of him mentioning the Armenians is on the internet — a video–YES!)

    3). Abraham Foxman is a sly,

    full-genocide-acknowledgement-evading fox?

    VAN

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