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National ADL Changes Stance on Genocide

The unexpected reveral of a long help policy on the Armenian genocide is the subject of today's Anti-Defamation League New England board meeting.

The ADL is now calling the killing of more than a million and a half Armenians by Ottoman Turks in the early 1900's --genocide. It's still unclear if Andy Tarsy, the Regional Director who was fired for challenging the national policy, will be reinstated as many local Jewish leaders want.

WBUR's Monica Brady-Myerov reports on reaction to the changed policy.TEXT OF STORY

MONICA BRADY-MYEROV: The news of the reversal was applauded by local Jewish leaders. Former ADL board member Steve Grossman commended national director Abraham Foxman for taking the moral highground.

STEVE GROSSMAN: I was very pleased that nationally the ADL recognized that their position was no long tenable and no longer the morally acceptable position to take. I give Abe Foxman a lot of credit it takes a distinguished leader to recognize a mistake and to recognize that a position has to change.

The sudden reversal was sparked by a controversy that started in Watertown. Last week the town council voted to withdraw from an anti-bigotry program sponsored by the ADL because it refused to recognize the Armenian genocide. ADL Regional Director Andy Tarsy broke ranks and called on the national organization to acknowledge the genocide. He was fired. Rabbi Ronne Friedman of Boston's Temple Israel commends Tarsy for holding his ground.

RONNE FRIEDMAN: I think the regional board did absolutely the right thing I can only image given their position that they must have gone thru an extraordinary difficult period trying to persuade the national director and the national board to modify its position.

The national ADL did not change its position on a Congressional Resolution that would recognize the World War I era killings as genocide. The ADL said yesterday they don't support the resolution because its quote "a counterproductive diversion." Rabbi Friedman says the ADL should support the resolution.

RONNE FRIEDMAN: I think its half way there it was incomplete in my eyes in that if we recognize a genocide as a genocide then as citizens of this country we have an obligation to stand in support of the recognition of that historical fact by our American government.

This also bothers many Armenian Americans, who say they don't feel satisfied with the change in policy.

Yesterday at an Armenian bakery in Watertown, where 8,000 Armenian Americans lives, Lauren Arakelian was skeptical about the quick turn around.

LAUREN ARAKELIAN: The ADL seems to be flip flopping about their position and I don't understand how they can say now that they agree and acknowledge the genocide which they all agreed they support and yet they won't support the congressional resolution.

Watertown resident and Eastern Chairman of the Armenian National Committee Dikran Kaligian says without supporting the resolution in Congress, the reversal isn't complete.

DIKRAN KALIGIAN: Its not a reversal, this is participating in genocide denial and the very phrasing they use it the same phrasing used by Turkish government in arguing why this resolution should not be considered.

The ADL says it fears supporting it may put the Turkish Jewish community at risk and hurt the relationship between Turkey, Israel and the United States. It's unclear if the regional board will further press the national organization to support the resolution. In a letter to board members, Regional Board Chair James Rudolph said the group still has much work to do.

For WBUR I'm Monica Brady-Myerov

This program aired on August 22, 2007. The audio for this program is not available.

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