Category Archives: diaspora

Photograph at Armenian Genocide Protest Outside 92Y in Manhattan

Photo of Armenian Women from Trabizond all murdered except for second from left (seated), c.1915. The protesters are speaking up against ADL Executive Director Abraham Foxman’s speech tonight at the 92Y. Foxman and the ADL refuse to support the Armenian Genocide resolution in the US Congress, citing bogus excuses, including the “safety” of Jews in Turkey. For more photos from the protest visit here & here, and for background on the issue, visit here.  Jewschool has some great pics posted on Flickr.

The photo is a reproduction of an original image archived at the Armenian Genocide Museum in Yerevan, Armenia.


A Report from Vietnam’s Art Scene

NOTE: I’ve been out of commission for a few days due to laptop madness but I’m glad to report that I’m back and itching to blog.

justinsaigon01.jpgI caught up with a longtime friend and neighbor from the bodacious borough of Brooklyn, Justin B. {via Facebook} and discovered that the one time resident of Lagos, Madrid, New York, and most recently Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) has chosen to move on to Osaka to build a new nest.

A connoisseur of the creative and a subversive personality in general, I took the opportunity to email Justin and get the skinny on Vietnam’s culture scene.

Why did you choose to move to Saigon?
I must have been out of my mind or feeling nostalgic and slightly violent. I guess the RNC 2004 pushed me over the edge.

requiemforawallphanumthucha.jpgWhat were your first impressions and how have they changed?
At first I thought it was paradise, then I discovered it was Disneyland.

What is the art scene like in Saigon or Vietnam in general?
The art scene is dead, except for expat fantasies.

Who are some of the major artists in the scene?
Outsiders mostly, who come in to the playground. The major gallery had to drop “Vietnamese” from its title due to a lack of local artists. Cash, not creativity, is king in Saigon.

Tell me a little about some artworks you’ve created or been involved with, including that sleep project (Magma) that was webcast?
Magma was an effort by Sue Hadju, who along with Motoko Uda runs “A little Blah, Blah…” They are perhaps the real power house pushing creativity in Saigon but mostly by hosting foreign visiting curators and artists. I embed myself in other people’s shows, generally providing some kind of peripheral service and then hijack the implementation a little. My artistic efforts are based on interventions, situations and disruptions, mostly in an effort to force the audience to stop taking themselves so seriously and take the work seriously by recognizing they are viewers and participants, that they are part of the work.

Are there institutions that support the arts in Vietnam?
ALBB (A little Blah Blah), Gallery Quynh, and Wonderful District.

Are there any limits for artistic freedom of expression?
Oh yeah. Everything has to pass through the censor, who of course knows nothing about art.

In your opinion, what are some of the biggest obstacles the Vietnamese art world faces?
Greed, greed, greed, a complete lack of interest in creativity outside of profits. A complete lack of interest in art by the youth. A consumer culture with no interest in creative production.

Is there any local interest in the art being produced in their country? How does the media cover it? Does the government get involved?
The media is censored. Fortunately, the government has little interest in art as long as it stays in foreign circles. Because of the censorship what little art there is remains a private matter for people with means.

What is the legacy of communist social realism in Vietnam, if any?
It sells well to tourists who love to pay silly amounts for viet-kitch.

In your opinion, what is the future of the art in Vietnam?
Vietnam is developing its consumer culture and won’t have a creative/counter culture for another decade. The government remains uninterested and unconcerned. Interested artists should check back in about 10 years or focus on ethnic-chic documentation.

ADL Gets Defensive

foxman.jpgI have to admit, I didn’t expect this blog to be political when I started, but on issues of social justice I make exceptions and the ADL issue is one of those rare cases.

The ADL is still embroiled in a PR disaster of their own making and today they released yet another proclamation from Foxman that “reiterates support for efforts to reconcile Turkey and Armenia” (source). That’s nice…but the problem is that the issue is about Armenian Americans demanding a stop to the industry of hate that Turkey is funding in the way of Armenian Genocide denial. ADL is still oblivious.

Of course, it was only a matter of time before some people stepped forward to support ADL’s byzantine and evolving (shall we say flip-flopping?) position on the Armenian Genocide. Alan Wolfe at The New Republic‘s Open University blog is the most blatant in his endorsement of ADL’s stupidity, though the editors at Foreign Policy also chime in with their own two cents.

Wolfe writes:

On this issue, the ADL’s stance is the correct one. At best, such a resolution is pure symbolism, and the last we thing we need is more symbolic politics. More likely, passage of the resolution would infringe on free speech, as hate crime legislation often does, and encourage defensive nationalism in Turkey when we in the United States should be supporting democratic movements in that country, even if those movements are religious. (source)

There are a few problems with Wolfe’s words:

  • If symbolism is meaningless, then why did the US build a Holocaust Museum fifty years after the fact? In my opinion, it is about educating people about history, not symbolism. Facts are facts and they teach us things.
  • Free speech? Hate crime legislation? Turks don’t have that luxury (ask assassinated Istanbul editor Hrant Dink) and the only way to oppose hate and ignorance is by strong words that reiterate facts. Hate crime legislation? I don’t think I’ve ever heard any Armenian American mention hate crime legislation in the States, the European Armenians have pushed for those in their own countries, not here though.
  • Why is there no discussion of the fact that ADL allows Turkish Jews to be pawns at the whim of Turkey? If Turkish Jews are equals in Turkey, then why must they be protected by lies? One “leading” Turkish Jewish businessman wrote a letter that was published today in the Turkish press (and the Jerusalem Post), in which he proclaims “…Turkish people, who deserve your praise for their centuries-long tradition of compassion and their culture of humanity and cohabitation that remains an example to the world.” How about asking Greeks, Kurds, Armenians, Assyrians and Arabs if they think Turkey is a model of compassion?

Also, people talk about Armenians like we’re all foreign nationals. Most of us are proudly American, and there are over a million Armenian Americans in the country. So shouldn’t American interests come before Turkey’s interests in this case? Shouldn’t all Americans be offended that Turkey is falsely accusing its fellow citizens of lying and distorting the truth?

At the request of ADL’s New England Board (frankly, I’d like to hug each and every one of them) the issue of whether to support the Armenian Genocide resolution before Congress will go to the ADL National board on November 1–probably a move partially engineered by Foxman to defuse the criticism directed at him.

Today’s Jerusalem Post points out that the Nov. 1 outcome is far from certain:

Steven Grossman, former chairman of the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC and a former ADL board member, said he believed the issue of a congressional resolution would receive a fair hearing at the national meeting in November, but it would be up to the New England leadership to make a convincing case to move forward.

“If the only ones supporting it are from New England, it won’t pass, but it’s up to the New England region to make a case that the moral high-ground and the effectiveness of ADL would be enhanced by changing their policy,” said Grossman. (source)

Now is the time to voice any and all concerns directly to ADL and its leaders (ADL contact form).

The issue is certainly not over…the Massachusetts town of Arlington has pulled out of the ADL program, neighboring Belmont is considering it, and other towns may follow.

Also, controversies like this always have a way of airing other dirty laundry about an organization and it’s leaders. One writer at Bay Windows, New England’s largest LGBT newspaper, says that he’s not surprised with the Armenian Genocide controversy since ADL’s relationship with the gay & lesbian community has long been contentious and rocky.

Stay tuned…

Foxman Issue Is Still Raising Eyebrows

cartoonandrewsullivan.jpgThe ADL issue has now hit the A-list bloggers, as The Atlantic‘s Andrew Sullivan points out that Foxman’s under fire for his Armenian Genocide sidestep and things may get hotter for the ADL honcho.

I should mention one thing though…Sullivan points to a blog (Mideast Youth) which gives a great context for the controversy but inserts a non sequitur that clouds the issue:

Now here is where it gets interesting: the first strong voice of dissent regarding No Place For Hate came from a Watertown native named Mark Charalambous who wrote vitriolic letters to the Watertown Tab asking that he be granted the right to hate homosexuals. No Place For Hate, he argued, interfered with the First Amendment which gives us the inalienable right to hate whoever we choose. (source)

The fact is that Watertown did not discontinue the No Place for Hate program, it simply disassociated itself from the ADL.

Also, since we’re clarifying the timeline, it was David Boyajian’s letter to the Watertown Tab on July 6, 2007 which really started the outcry over ADL’s hypocrisy–though let’s not forget, the Watertown Tab, the Boston Globe and bloggers all contributed in their own way.

ADL Takes First Step to Full “Armenian Genocide” Recognition

The ADL has finally accepted the fact of the Armenian Genocide, which was transmitted to the world via an awkward statement released today. By the way, why say “tantamount to genocide” and not just say it was genocide?

Unfortunately, the ADL fell short of giving its support to the Armenian Genocide resolution before the US Congress. The legislation will ensure that the historical fact will be part of US foreign policy thinking and put pressure on Turkey to face its demons.

Interestingly, the Jerusalem Post today reports:

Neither Jerusalem nor Ankara had any official comment on the matter, with the foreign ministries in both capitals taken completely by surprise by the [ADL] statement. (source)

Continue reading

ADL Continues to Deny Armenian Genocide


My past posts on the topic:

Here’s what the ADL line I’ve pointed to above hyperlinked to–the text of the ADL’s fancy worded ad that will appear in two Boston-area papers this week & the PDF of the ad. They still don’t say genocide, but try to make us feel like they do…no chance!

And the go-to site for current news on the ADL’s continued adherence to the Turkish government’s policy of genocide denial: NO PLACE FOR DENIAL.

“Fire Foxman” Movement Gaining Momentum


You gotta give credit to Jewcy (the new Jew blog of choice) for taking the definition of mensch to a new level and turning up the torque on the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) Abe Foxman.

They cite an earlier blog post of mine (link), professionalize my quirky graphic (which the Watertown-based also used) and outline the fall out from ADL’s refusal to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide.

I’ll let them explain:

Last night, the Armenian community of Watertown, Massachusetts voted to break all connections with the Anti-Defamation League by severing ties with its No Place for Hate Program, which attempts to promote tolerance (though not, apparently, for descendents of the Armenian Genocide). Armenian-American activists in Watertown are promising to lobby all 67 of the Massachusetts towns still participating in NPFH to drop their connection, too. Ultimately, they want the Massachusetts municipal association to stop working with the ADL entirely. These activists have Jewcy’s emphatic support, and we will do what we can to help their cause along. (source)

Now the ball is in Foxman’s court. But wait! Jewcy has even outlined some things Foxman can do to make amends–guess they beat the California Courier‘s Harut Sassounian to the punch on this one, Sassounian is usually the one making these lists–here’s Jewcy again:

We think it would be fitting to see Foxman take a sensitivity course on the challenges faced by the modern Armenian-American community, but all we really want from him are three simple responses:

  1. Acknowledge the Armenian Genocide
  2. Apologize to the Armenian-American community
  3. Apologize to the Jewish community, for humiliating us before our fellow-citizens (source)

While we’re waiting…you HAVE TO read Jewcy blogger John DiMascio’s first-hand account from Watertown’s raucous meeting last night…it’s priceless!

Coincidentally, this isn’t the first time Foxman has done something ethically questionable…for instance he seems to have had a role in the pardon of Marc Rich by President Bill Clinton.