Boston Globe, MA
Aug 31 2008



Insurer's support of ADL challenged


It's been a little more than a year since Watertown became the
white-hot center of controversy over formal recognition of the
Armenian Genocide, and tempers continue to rage as town officials
pressure the state's largest insurance carrier to join the fight.

In August 2007, Watertown severed ties with the AntiDefamation
League's No Place for Hate program, sponsored by the venerable
national organization to fight intolerance on the local level. The
action followed protests from members of the Armenian-American
community who objected to what they termed the failure of the ADL's
national leadership to officially recognize the slaughter of nearly
1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Turkish empire between 1915 and
1923 as a geno cide. Other cities and towns have followed Watertown's
lead, and so far, 13 communities statewide have dropped the program.

Now, members of the Town Council are lobbying Blue Cross and Blue
Shield of Massachusetts, the state's largest insurance carrier, to
drop its financial support for the No Place for Hate program. In a
letter to Blue Cross president Cleve Killingsworth, dated Aug. 14, the
council offered an invitation for him to appear before its members "to
discuss your interest, relationship and future plans" with the ADL and
the No Place for Hate program, adding its intention to "strongly
encourage" the firm to sever that relationship.

Jay McQuaide, a Blue Cross-Blue Shield spokesman, noting that
Watertown is a customer, said a company official would be happy to
talk to the council about its financial support for the program. He
declined, however, to discuss the company's position on halting its
funding. John J. Curley, a senior vice president and public affairs
officer at Blue Cross, has agreed to meet with the council on
Sept. 23, McQuaide said.

Councilor Stephen Corbett had drafted a resolution to formally request
that Blue Cross immediately withdraw funding for the No Place for Hate
program. But at the urging of the council's president, Clyde
L. Younger, councilors opted to postpone a vote on the resolution
until officials from Blue Cross-Blue Shield were given an opportunity
to explain the company's stance.

Younger, who expressed some surprise that the issue has percolated
again in recent weeks, said it was "great news" to hear the company
will talk to the council. "You want to be fair with people," he said.

"I would've liked to see us take action on it," said Corbett. "We just
don't feel Blue Cross funds should be going toward a program that
won't recognize the Armenian Genocide."

McQuaide declined to comment on an Aug. 22 statement issued by the
ADL's national director, Abraham H. Foxman, ostensibly to clarify the
league's position on the Armenian Genocide. Posted on the ADL's New
England office website just two days after the announcement that
Derrek L. Shulman of Needham had been appointed the new regional
director for its New England chapter, Foxman's latest statement
asserted that the league has referred to the massacre as a genocide.

"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," the posting read.

Last August, Foxman issued a statement on the mass killings in Armenia
that said "the consequences of those actions were indeed tantamount to
genocide," and acknowledged to the Globe that he privately believed
those events constituted a genocide.

Foxman's statement came just days after he fired the ADL's then-New
England regional director, Andrew Tarsy, who had defied the national
organization to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide. Two weeks later,
Tarsy was rehired, only to resign in December. On Aug. 19, the ADL
announced that Shulman, political director in the Boston office of the
American Israel Public Affairs Committee, had been hired as his
replacement.

Ara Nazarian, with the No Place for Denial campaign, a blog-based
activist group, said Foxman's latest remarks are both inaccurate and
curiously timed, perhaps offered to help offset the current Blue Cross
controversy.

"They're trying to whitewash this," Nazarian said, while denying that
any Armenian group is trying to demonize the ADL. "Nobody's trying to
do that. We don't have any problem with the ADL, only on this issue."

Shulman has declined to comment on the controversy until he assumes
his new position in October. Jonathan Kappel, the ADL New England
chapter's interim regional director, did not return calls requesting
comment.

Citing the Massachusetts Municipal Association's decision to withdraw
its umbrella support for the No Place for Hate program in April,
activist David Boyajian of Newton said, "Blue Cross Blue Shield should
really follow suit."

Corbett cautioned that even if the company decides to continue to
support No Place for Hate, neither he nor the council are ready to
advocate dropping Blue Cross-Blue Shield as one of the insurers
available to town employees.

"Too many people have it, and it wouldn't be realistic or
appropriate," said Corbett.

Both Corbett and Younger said they are Blue Cross customers.

http://www.boston.com/news/local/artic les/2008/08/31/insurers_support_of_adl_challenged/