By Khatchig Mouradian
The Armenian Weekly
September 4, 2007
BEDFORD, Mass. (A.W.)—On Sept. 4 at 7:30 a.m., the Bedford Violence Prevention Coalition (VPC) held its monthly meeting at the First Church of Christ Congregational with members of the Bedford Armenian community and activists from neighboring towns. The committee discussed the ADL’s ambiguous position on the Armenian genocide and decided to officially demand an explanation from the ADL. The committee agreed that it would then proceed accordingly, yet maintained that severing its ties with the ADL was still very much on the table.
During the meeting, members of the committee were briefed on the recent developments in the controversy surrounding the ADL. Armenian activists were then given the floor to speak.
Bedford resident Stephen Dulgarian spoke about the ADL’s opposition to the Armenian Genocide Resolution in the U.S. Congress and expressed his hope that Bedford would follow in the footsteps of Watertown, Newton and Newburyport by sending a strong message to the ADL. “We ask this committee to send a letter to the ADL demanding the unambiguous recognition for the Armenian genocide and support for the Genocide Resolution,” he said.
“I just lost a great uncle who was a survivor of the Armenian genocide,” said Bedford resident Mike Bahtiarian. He went on to criticize the ADL’s position on the genocide, underlining how its use of expressions like “tantamount to genocide” were deliberately unclear. Not supporting genocide recognition, he said, is “like not recognizing [the Holocaust during] World War II.”
“We would like to see this No Place for Hate committee continue its work independently of the ADL,” said activist Berge Jololian. “The ADL has lost its moral authority to lecture us on human rights. Denying any genocide is an act of hate and this community should have zero tolerance to it.” He noted that statement after statement, the ADL’s “hypocrisy is multiplying.” He rejected the ADL’s talk of a joint Turkish-Armenian commission to look into the history of 1915. “It is like saying that Elie Wiesel and David Irving should sit and discuss the history of the Holocaust. It’s outrageous!” he exclaimed.
Talking about ADL national director Abraham Foxman, Jololian said, “ADL has not apologized to the Armenian community or addressed any Armenian, however, Foxman offered an apology to the Turkish government for ADL’s statement recognizing the Armenian genocide.” Jololian was referring to a letter Foxman sent to Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan in which he said, “I feel deeply sorry over discussions that erupted after the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) changed its stance on the incidents of 1915.”
Watertown councilor-at-large Marilyn Petitto Devaney spoke about the proclamation she introduced at the Watertown Town Council meeting. “I look at the proclamation as an act of lighting a candle instead of cursing the darkness,” she said. Pettito Devaney recounted how the ADL had asked the Watertown Town Council for 90 days before making a decision about severing ties with the No Place for Hate program. “I wouldn’t even give them 90 seconds,” she said. Underlining that the Armenian genocide is not merely an Armenian issue, Petitto Devaney called on Bedford to sever its ties with the NPFH.
Police chief James Hicks said that long before coming to Bedford, he had worked with the ADL on several programs. “This summer has been quite eye-opening,” he said. “I feel embarrassed.”
“If the facts are facts, the ADL should state the facts clearly and back its statement with words and actions,” Hicks noted. “I have some serious reservations with the ADL. They need to explain their position,” he added.
Hicks and other members of the VPC noted that their committee was functioning years before its association with the NPFH and that good work can be done with—and if need be without—that association.
“We have some serious concerns and I would like to have the ADL here before taking action,” Hicks said. “But I have to say,” he added, “the present state of affairs jeopardizes NPFH’s position.”