The Town Council in Watertown has voted to urge the state's largest insurer to withdraw its support of the Anti-Defamation League's No Place for Hate program.
In a meeting Tuesday night, the council also voted unanimously to send a letter Abraham Foxman, the league's national head, formally requesting he appear before the council to clear up what some called ambiguities in the ADL's previous statements regarding the acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide of 1915 to 1923.
These moves come after John J. Curley, a Senior Vice President of Government Affairs for Blue Cross, told town officials and a crowd of 60 that the company does not intend to end its relationship with the program.
Curley said he and company executives met with leaders from the ADL New England office last month seeking clarity on the issue and now feel comfortable with the assurances they received over league's position on the Armenian Genocide.
"Our relationship is with the local ADL and we're very satisfied with the response we got," said Curley. "If it was ambiguous, we would have ended our partnership," he said.
Council President Clyde L. Younger, Vice-President Mark Sideris and Councilor Jonathan Hecht implored Blue Cross to join the Town Council in approaching the national ADL leadership for clarification on the league's stance.
"Getting involved in national and international politics is not something we do" said Curley.
Curley did note the company was "not pleased with the tone and tenor" of an August 22 written statement by Foxman that was posted briefly on the New England chapter's website.
"There is simply no basis for the false accusation that we engage in any form of genocide denial, and we believe this characterization of ADL crosses the boundary of acceptable criticism and falls into the category of demonization," Foxman's statement read.
"It was not helpful," Curley said.
Local ADL leaders have been disatisfied with the national group's statements on the genocide, saying the national office did not go far enough in acknowledging the atrocities. In August 2007, Foxman sought to clear up controversy by issuing a statement.
"We have never negated but have always described the painful events of 1915-1918 perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire against Armenians as massacres and atrocities," Foxman said in that 2007 statement. But upon reflection, Foxman continued, "the consequences of those actions were indeed tantamount to genocide."
Tuesday night, Councilor Vincent Piccirilli said the lingering gap between what the local ADL leaders and national leadership have said about whether the slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turks constitutes genocide is at the heart of the outrage expressed by many local Armenian Americans and their supporters.
"Most of the citizens of Watertown are somewhat dismayed with the talking around the issue and the failure to come clean," said Piccirilli. "This kind of two-faced action and statement is not" helpful to resolving the dispute. "All the citizens of Watertown are tired of this."