The Boston Globe is reporting today on a controversy involving the well-respected Anti-Defamation League (ADL). Apparently, the Armenian community in the United States is angry that the ADL refuses to acknowledge mass killings near the turn of the last century as a genocide. As reported in the paper, ADL Executive Director, when asked if the killings were genocide, replied "I don't know."
I actually respect that response. This is a highly charged geopolitical topic. And I get the argument that vacillating does enormous harm. I understand what is happening in Darfur is terrible and horrifying. BUT, this issue is about a horrible thing that happened almost 100 years ago. It isn't happening right now. Armenian lives aren't at risk while leaders have intellectual and cowardly debates about the definition of genocide. And I think it is unreasonable for the Armenian community to organize against the ADL's meaningful No Place for Hate program because of the organization's ambivalence. Calling a "I don't know" response "Genocide denial" puts the issue in a black/white realm, when it really is shades of gray.
Who defines what a genocide is? Every one of the entries at Dictionary.com call it "The systematic and planned extermination of an entire national, racial, political, or ethnic group." But, what makes something an "official" genocide worthy of coordinated intervention? And, what are the sociopolitical and economic implications of calling something merely "mass killings" when someone else wants to call it "genocide?" What about the sociopolitical and economic implications of the "mass killing" versus "genocide" discussion on something that happened over a 15-year period almost 100 years ago? This is the nuanced conversation I'd like to see reported.
Want to read the story yourself? Visit this link.