Premature Declaration of Victory

 Editorial, 19 May 2016

Imagine a besotted man who, after courting a woman for 30 years, hasn’t been able to get more intimate than a dry quick kiss (in 2007 to be exact) on the cheek from the object of his adoration. And then one day she phones and invites him to a fancy restaurant and to late night drink afterwards at her place.  The naïve and grateful beau starts calling his friends to congratulate himself for his humiliatingly belated amorous triumph.

The metaphor is not perfect, but something close to the above occurred in mid-May when Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), stated through a blog that the Armenian massacres of 1915 were (ahem) genocide. Armenian spokesmen (the Armenian Assembly of America, the Armenian National Committee of America, an Armenian sheriff in Massachusetts, and several other “community leaders”) who had for years tried to persuade the ADL that there had been an Armenian Genocide, welcomed Greenblatt’s announcement without reservation. The Armenian supporters of the statement believed that the Armenian community had finally, after three decades, convinced the influential and supposedly anti-racism organization–which had fought US recognition of the Armenian Genocide tooth and nail–that Turkey had committed genocide against the Armenians.

 Editorial, 19 May 2016

Imagine a besotted man who, after courting a woman for 30 years, hasn’t been able to get more intimate than a dry quick kiss (in 2007 to be exact) on the cheek from the object of his adoration. And then one day she phones and invites him to a fancy restaurant and to late night drink afterwards at her place.  The naïve and grateful beau starts calling his friends to congratulate himself for his humiliatingly belated amorous triumph.

The metaphor is not perfect, but something close to the above occurred in mid-May when Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), stated through a blog that the Armenian massacres of 1915 were (ahem) genocide. Armenian spokesmen (the Armenian Assembly of America, the Armenian National Committee of America, an Armenian sheriff in Massachusetts, and several other “community leaders”) who had for years tried to persuade the ADL that there had been an Armenian Genocide, welcomed Greenblatt’s announcement without reservation. The Armenian supporters of the statement believed that the Armenian community had finally, after three decades, convinced the influential and supposedly anti-racism organization–which had fought US recognition of the Armenian Genocide tooth and nail–that Turkey had committed genocide against the Armenians.

It might sound churlish, but alas, the whole-hearted embrace of Greenblatt’s statement might have been premature. There’s a fly in the ointment: in fact, there are more than a half-dozen.

Before analyzing the two Greenblatt phrases (“…What happened to the Armenian people was unequivocally genocide…we would support US recognition of the Armenian Genocide”), let’s consider that for three decades the revolting leader of the ADL (Abe Foxman) was the point man for the Turkish government’s successful lobbying against US recognition of the Genocide. Gunslinger Foxman was unabashed in his politicking efforts on behalf of Turkish denialists. The despicable man didn’t mind that his misguided posturing had made the ADL not only a virtual arm of the Israeli government’s foreign ministry but had also compromised the reputation of his organization as a haven where injustice and discrimination were abhorrent. The blowhard blithely admitted to “The New York Times” (Feb. 4, 2009) that the ADL opposed a Congressional resolution [re Genocide recognition] because “there’s too much at stake in the [Israeli-Turkish] relationship.”

On another occasion, the fat cat politico, who for many years led the 103-year-old organization, said: “…the Jewish community shouldn’t be the arbiter of that [Armenian/Turkish] history, nor should the US Congress” and then called the recognition of the Genocide “a counter-productive diversion.” He didn’t say what he meant by counterproductive or diversion. To crown his work on behalf of Turkey, in 2005 Foxman awarded the then-Prime Minister Erdogan the ADL’s “Courage to Care” award.  Two years later, because of pressure from righteous Jews, Foxman grudgingly said the massacre of the Armenians was “tantamount” to genocide. That was the “quick dry kiss on the cheek” to the Armenian lobbyists.  Foxman at last retired last June and was succeeded by Greenblatt.

Considering the harm the ADL caused the Armenians for so many years, one would have expected an apology from the current ADL CEO. For all those years the hard-pressed Armenian-American community invested a great deal of time and effort in Washington to gain recognition of their genocide, but at every turn ADL led the anti-Armenian posse in the Washington Belt Way. An apology from Greenblatt for wasting so much of Armenian effort would have been the right thing to do.

Another fly in the ointment: Amazingly, the word “Turkey” doesn’t appear in Greenblatt’s statement. So who was the phantom genocidier? Was it spontaneous bloodletting like spontaneous combustion?

The third fly: There is no talk of compensation or reparations to the Armenians in the statement. As we have said more than once, apology and 50 cents will not get you a cup of coffee.

Writer Jack Kalpakian, in a comment to a US publication, pointed out that the ADL recognition is “far too late. Foxman and ADL did immense damage to the simple demand of the fundamental justice of acknowledgment pursued by Armenian-Americans…the ADL is too late. It lobbied against the recognition when it mattered, and it is highly unlikely that there would be recognition by the US at this stage.”  Kalpakian also wondered whether the acknowledgment is a ploy to “reduce friction with the Armenian community…but it will do nothing to rebuild trust and bridges, particularly after the Israeli support for Azerbaijan in the April war.” The Armenian-American writer said that the Greenblatt statement is reminiscent of a person who marches in the funeral cortege of the person he harmed.

The other fly in the ointment is the fact that the statement didn’t come from the ADL National Commission. Since it was made by its CEO, it doesn’t necessarily bind the organization to a solid and permanent policy. The ADL can anytime disassociate itself from the statement and declare Greenblatt’s recognition was an individual belief. Some months ago President Joachim Gauck of Germany twice used the word “genocide” to describe the suffering of the Armenians during the First World War. However, this did not mean recognition of the Genocide by Germany. According to writer Luther Sahagian, “The wording doesn’t require any further action or follow-through on the part of the ADL.”

Another pesky fly: Greenblatt wrote that he “would support US recognition of the Armenian Genocide.”  “Would” (the past tense of “will”) is a conditional word. According to the British Council’s English language mavens, “would” is used to talk about the past or about hypothesis—things that are imagined rather than true. “Would,” says the British Council, is also used for politeness. Another source of correct English says that “would” is used for unlikely situations, unlike “will” which is a definite statement. This is not an idle game of semantics. There is a huge difference between “would” and “will”. Considering the importance of the statement, we are certain lawyers went through Greenblatt’s blog with a fine tooth comb to protect the ADL. The ADL CEO can dissipate some of the clouds if he changed “would” to “will”.

The U.S.-based "No Place for Denial" website says the ADL must recognize the Armenian Genocide unequivocally and "cease the denialist tactic of calling for further study of the Armenian Genocide." The website also wants the ADL to "cease its active opposition to U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide" and support U.S. affirmation of the Genocide, "as it does with the Holocaust".

We believe that because of the ADL’s long-time Genocide denial and the bad blood this policy has created between some Armenians and Jews, the ADL CEO should issue another statement which removes the above “flies”. The new statement should be sent to President Obama, to the US Senate and Congress, to the presidents of Turkey and Israel. The statement should also affirm Turkey’s obligations (compensation, restitution) to Armenians.

Finally, the new ADL CEO should consider the words of Andrew H. Tarsy, former ADL regional director, who several years ago split with the organization on the Genocide issue: “I think they ought to lead the conversation about reparations for these families… the recovery of assets, land, money, items, family heirlooms. Everything that Holocaust reparation…has represented should be on the table.”

16 comments
  1. Congratulations

    I usually do not waste readers' time with congratulations, but I feel compelled to do so in this instance.  This is an amazingly researched and written piece.  The moral clarity in it should be a lesson to all humans. 

  2. Are you kidding me?

    Next you'll be wanting Israel to stop selling munitions to oil rich Azerbaijan !  

    The only solution to the Armenians' grievances has never come from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

    Of course, that would put the ADL out of business.

  3. ADL

    Who are we as a nation that can't do anything right except criticize snub our nose to some positive change of venue, be it Jewish or otherwise while Turkey is accelerating its battle against denial.

    Let's squarely blame our leadership for being so impotent and cowardly. Pleading to Russia not to sell arms to the Azeris is not the way of a leader who is in charge of the defense of a nation.

  4. ADL and Israel

    I have not paid much attention to the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by ADL. But I remain concerned of Israel’s recognition.

    Should the Knesset vote to recognize the Genocide of the Armenians by the Ottoman era Turks, we should not accept the recognition in view of their terrible record in dealing with the Palestinians.

  5. The ADL flies.

    Excellent article. Would Obama have a chance to read this? All what it needs is
    plain white envelope with a stamp on it addressed to the white house.

  6. Bravo !
    A courageous article. I congratulate the editor of Keghart for this excellent analysis.  We need to be more assertive in our demands for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide. 

  7. The Greenblatt Statement

    You do Jonathan Grenblatt a great disservice!

    You do not know how much internal discussion must have taken place before he was permitted to make this statement.

    Instead of welcoming his remark, you act like a spoiled child who didn't get two dollops of ice cream with his slice of birthday cake, instead of the only one his mother put on the plate.

    His statement should have been welcomed; he should have been thanked profusely; and he and his statement quoted everywhere–without further qualification.  Let the name Greenblatt at the statement be added to the list of those who accept the historical fact of the Armenian Genocide, and it is possible that the ADL could take another step..  Like a large ocean liner trying to stop and turn around in mid-ocean, it is not easy and immediate for the ADL to change (if that is, indeed, what this statement seems to indicate).  The logical next steps would be for Armenian organizations to have (had?) private meetings with Greenblatt and others of the ADL.

    But, typically Armenian, we don't know how to deal with anything that requires thinking.

    Avedis Kevorkian
    Philadelphia, PA

    1. Real reason for ADL about-face

      We learned through the Armenian Mirror-Spectator that now, the ADL is free to return to those communities that had thrown it out because of its position and activities against the Armenian human rights issue. We know that the ADL entered into Newton schools even though it had been forbidden from doing so by the Massachusetts Municipal Association. One Armenian activist sounded the alarm, which is the ONLY reason the ADL had to make some sort of move. Did the ADL come clean first AND THEN see about entering Massachusetts towns? It had to be caught red handed first. What does that tell you about the organization?

    2. The Greenblatt statement

      As Armenians we cannot accept Mr. Greenblatt's passive statement as a policy statement for the ADL. AFTER 80 years of Hollocost recognition Mr Greenblatt's  action does not carry any legal or judicial weight. A candle light held in full sunlight.

    3. ADL is wrong

      The Armenian Assembly of America (AAA) and Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) are weak.

      The ADL has been causing great damage to the Armenian people for a long, long time. Maybe 30 years.

      We should thank it for this?

      If  the ADL were a human rights group as it claims, it would never have worked with Turkey to defeat Armenian genocide resolutions.

      The ADL statement is insincere, and the ADL will never lobby for the Armenian genocide resolution with any  real sincerity.

      The AAA and ANCA are obviously lousy negotiators and can never again be trusted, not that we were thrilled with them anyway. 

      What has been gained? Nothing.  AAA and ANCA let the ADL off the hook because they are afraid of the Jewish lobby.  They are a pathetic bunch.

    4. Jonathan Grenblatt’s remarks.

      Avedis,

      I have not paid much attention to ADL because I have regarded it as a Jewish organization run by Americans of Jewish faith whose mission is to stop defamation of the Jewish people in the U.S.

      This editorial and the many comments make it amply evident that ADL’s mission could not possibly entailed  ADL to fight “US recognition of the Armenian Genocide tooth and nail–that Turkey had committed genocide against the Armenians.”

      Having made the case, I agree with you, that the editorial should have ended welcoming Jonathan Grenblatt’s remarks.

  8. Facts vs political interests

    Since The essence of international  relations  consists of pursuing  interests rather  than  truth, the Armenian Genocide will be recorded as an undeniable  historical fact, whereas  the recognition of it may  remain a political  issue for some entities, be they counties, nations, organizations, or individuals.  Just as, incidentally, the Jewish Holocaust is. 

  9. Editorial

    "Ver para crer" (To see to believe), we say here in Brazil, following the words of Saint Thome. I think that so must be our position facing the Greenblat statement. 

  10. Over the Top ADL

    Questions for the ADL:

    Why is it any of ADL's  business to get involved in international politics? Isn't its sole mandate protecting U.S. citizens against racism and discrimination? Why does it cross the ocean and the sea to stick its nose in the affairs of Armenians and for decades fights against U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide?

    After tormenting the Armenian-American community for so long it has now decided there was, after all, a genocide. So we should be grateful?

    The timing of the recognition is suspicious. For years the ADL has worked openly to advance Israeli government interests, as proven by its unflinching support of once-Israeli ally Turkey. There is even talk that the ADL worked with the Mossad. Perhaps the recognition comes now because the Israeli government, military and weapons industry are helping Azeris kill Armenian soldiers. The ADL wants to mitigate that crime by its so-so recognition of the Genocide.

    Operating drones takes training and experience. The effectiveness of the "Azeri" drones makes me wonder whether the drones are manned by Israeli military officers sitting in a Tel-Aviv suburb. As we know, the U.S. drones in Afghanistan are manned by U.S. officers sitting in their Florida base.

    Armenia recognizes the Holocaust and has a memorial to it. Jews in Armenia are well treated. Israel doesn't recognize the Armenian Genocide, and barely punishes Israelis who attack and insult Armenians and Armenian priests in Israel/Palestine. Not only Israel doesn't recognize the Armenian Genocide it is now helping the Azeris commit a new genocide of Armenians.

    As if the above hurts were not sufficient, a big group of Israeli scholars and journalists have seemingly dedicated themselves to distorting Armenian history, portraying Armenians as the villains in the Armenian/Azeri conflict and are the backbone of the publishing "industry" which denies the Armenian Genocide. And through their US media connections get a lot of coverage for their lies in the US media. Their names are familiar to people who follow the Armenian/Turk/Azer conflict. These mercenaries are unlike the righteous Jews of the International Association of Genocide Scholars who tell the truth and are not afraid of pressure.

  11. Let’s give them a chance

    I shall not argue with the points made by the editorial. They are all valid.

    However, in my view, this is a small step in the right direction. The glass now instead of being 100% empty, it is may be 10% full.

    For reasons that were incomprehensible, reprehensible and morally corrupt, the State of Israel and the ADL have adamantly refused to recognize the Genocide and vigorously lobbied the U.S. Congress against passage of a Genocide Resolution.

    What was their agenda? What objectives were they pursuing? What were to gain from it?

    Now the ADL has slightly changed its course. What is their objective and agenda now?

    Time will tell. The future actions of the ADL will reveal their intentions and whether this is a true change.

    Let's give them the benefit of the doubt, a chance to redeem themselves.

    Vart Adjemian

  12. The beam (log) in our eyes

    Do we have to keep spitting out all this թոյն ու թարախ against the Jewish?
    Can't we – just for once – try to use (even) a half measure constructively?

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