Saturday, August 30, 2008

Genocide Denial Issue Sent Back To Policy-Making Board

Genocide Denial Issue Sent Back To Policy-Making Board

The Mashpee Affirmative Action Committee has passed back to the
selectmen the question of the town's continued participation in a
program linked to an organization that some residents claim denies the
occurrence of a historical genocide. In what seemed like a political
hot potato maneuver, the chairman of the affirmative action committee
sent the Mashpee Board of Selectmen a letter last week arguing that,
since the selectmen make up the town's "policy making entity." they
should make the decision about the No Place for Hate program, its
sponsorship by the Anti-Defamation League, and the organization's
refusal to recognize the Armenian genocide in the early 20th century. A
group of residents asked selectmen last month to sever the town's ties
to the No Place for Hate program.

Selectmen in turn asked the
affirmative action committee, the local sponsor of the pro-tolerance
program, to consider the issue and bring a recommendation back to
them. Despite the controversy, the affirmative action committee this
week continued its pursuit of a grant through the No Place for Hate
program. The committee is currently seeking contributions that would
match a $1,000 grant from the ADL. John J. Cahalane, chairman of the
board of selectmen, said this week that the issue would likely not be
on the agenda of the board's upcoming meeting, on Monday, other than
to acknowledge the board's receipt of the correspondence from the
affirmative action, committee. He said board members are still
researching the matter and are in need of more information before they
can come to a decision. "We are not ready for it yet is basically what
it is," he said. "It is not a priority subject right now by any
means. "Mr. Cahalane said he reviewed the No Place for Hate program
proclamation, which describes a pledge to combat racism, bigotry,
prejudice, and bias, and found he did not disagree with anything in
it. "You read that proclamation and there is no way you could disagree
with it," he said. "It is a national issue, and there is a lot of town
business for us to consider.

We have never before gotten into national
issues, and we haven't discussed yet if we want to now," Mr. Cahalane
said. The Anti-Defamation League, which hosts the No Place for Hate
program, has not only refused to acknowledge that the Turkish
slaughter of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians during World War I is
unequivocally "genocide," but it lobbied against a Congressional
resolution that would have identified it as such, Shahkeh Yaylaian
Setian told selectmen last month. Calling the ADL "genocide deniers,"
Ms. Setian implored the selectmen to cut the town's relationship with
the national organization. "[Participants in the No Place for Hate
program] have been duped by ADL, because ADL has not been transparent
about its work to deny the Armenian genocide," she said. Mashpee first
joined the program in 2000, then let its membership lapse because of a
lack of participation, and then re-earned membership last year. The
affirmative action committee never met to discuss the question of
sending the issue back to selectmen, but Town Manager Joyce M. Mason
said this week that it is the chairman's prerogative to make such a
decision without a public meeting. "After careful consideration of the
role of the volunteer members for both the Affirmative Action
Committee and the No Place for Hate Program, of which the members are
to conduct activities and events only, along with the fact that the
Board of Selectmen is the policy making entity, it is recommended that
the request of Shirley Setian relative to the Armenian Genocide
recognition by the Anti-Defamation League and the Town's further
involvement in their No Place for Hate Program be sent back to the
Board of Selectmen," according to the memorandum, written by Chairman
Janice Rhoden.

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