By David Boyajian

Watertown TAB & Press festyle/columnists/x1059915943
March 20 2008

WATERTOWN - With health insurance now compulsory in Massachusetts,
and premiums high enough to cause altitude sickness, it's inexcusable
that the state's largest insurer, Blue Cross Blue Shield, is still
misusing its subscribers' money by sponsoring the alleged anti-bias
program known as "No Place for Hate."

Eleven municipalities - Arlington, Bedford, Belmont, Lexington,
Medford, Needham, Newburyport, Newton, Northampton, Watertown and
Westwood - recently gave their NPFH program the boot. They discovered
that its creator and sponsor, the Anti-Defamation League, denies
the factuality of the Armenian Genocide committed by Turkey and
doesn't want America to recognize that genocide. And they understood
that NPFH - the name is a federally registered ADL trademark - was
violating its own human rights principles by being affiliated with
a genocide-denying organization.

The ADL has hypocritically opposed acknowledgment of the Armenian
holocaust to win political points with Turkey, which has close
relations with Israel. In actuality, the ADL is a highly controversial,
ethnic-specific organization known to be focused on political lobbying,
not universal human rights.

So why hasn't Blue Cross Blue Shield followed the lead of towns that
have severed ties to NPFH?

Here's what we know. Several years back, Peter Meade, the recently
retired Blue Cross Blue Shield vice president, "was instrumental in
mobilizing Blue Cross" to become the state's first official NPFH
corporation. And Meade sits - amazing coincidence No. 1 - on the
board of the New England ADL and received its Chairperson's Award.

Meade also chairs the Greenway Conservancy, which will oversee future
upkeep of Boston's Rose Kennedy Greenway. For some strange reason -
amazing coincidence No. 2 - he opposes the Greenway's proposed Armenian
Heritage Park, which might include a small plaque that remembers
the victims of the Armenian Genocide. It's an obvious conflict of
interest for a member of the genocide-denying ADL to sit in judgment
of anything Armenian. But so far the well-connected Meade has gotten
away with it, aided by a major Boston paper that won't report that
conflict of interest.

And here's amazing coincidence No. 3: Blue Cross Blue Shield's Boston
headquarters is hosting this year's board meetings of the Greenway

How much has Blue Cross Blue Shield been spending on NPFH programs?

It won't give me a figure, and I can guess why. Blue Cross Blue Shield
was recently in the spotlight for the controversial $16.4 million
retirement package it lavished on ex-Chairman William Van Faasen.

Interestingly, Van Faasen declared in 2001 that Blue Cross Blue
Shield was "pleased [to] assist the ADL" with NPFH. Which brings us
to amazing coincidence No. 4: Van Faasen received the ADL's coveted
Maimonides award.

Another Blue Cross Blue Shield executive, Vice President Fredi
Shonkoff, "helped spearhead" the company's designation as NPFH. How
might that have happened? Amazing coincidence No. 5: Shonkoff sat on
the ADL's board, along with Peter Meade.

Are you getting the feeling that the ADL and its board members and
friends have been throwing their weight around inside Blue Cross Blue
Shield, the Greenway Conservancy and the state's NPFH municipalities?

Think of the powerful ADL as the hub of an enormous wheel with these
spokes: NPFH - Blue Cross Blue Shield - Shonkoff - Van Faasen -
Meade - the Greenway Conservancy - opposition to the Armenian Park -
denial of the Armenian Genocide - Turkey.

Had a Holocaust-denying organization created and sponsored NPFH,
Blue Cross Blue Shield would long ago have cut ties with both of them.

Blue Cross Blue Shield apparently believes Armenians and their genocide
do not deserve the same respect.

And, yes, the ADL still denies the Armenian genocide. Last August, ADL
National Director Abe Foxman deliberately used ambiguous phrases such
as "tantamount to genocide" and language that parroted Turkey's line
that the mass murder of Armenians from 1915-23 was not intentional,
but rather just an unfortunate "consequence" of wartime conditions.

Blue Cross Blue Shield is squandering not only its subscribers'
premiums but also the reputations of a 70-year old health-care
institution and its dedicated employees. One hopeful sign: Blue Cross
Blue Shield told me, "Each year we carefully evaluate our commitment
to the NPFH program."

Though Massachusetts treats Blue Cross Blue Shield as a nonprofit,
the feds consider it for-profit. Since corporate contributions to
groups such as NPFH are tax-deductible, everyone is paying for NPFH.

And if you're a Blue Cross Blue Shield subscriber, as thousands in
Watertown surely are, you're shelling out even more.

Turkish doctors experimented on Armenians during the genocide just
as German doctors did on Jews during the Holocaust, according to
a study published in "Holocaust and Genocide Studies." Would any
network of doctors tolerate a health-care corporation affiliated with
an organization that denied or diminished the Holocaust? Of course not.

Blue Cross Blue Shield network doctors, therefore, should insist that
Blue Cross Blue Shield cease participation in all ADL programs.

Blue Cross Blue Shield needs to drop its official NPFH designation,
stop misusing its members' precious health-care dollars on NPFH and
sever ties with the ADL.