About calling genocide cases as "massacres"

By Israel W. Charny and Yair Auron

Azeri tanks

Azeri tanks (AP)

Both writers of this piece have been awarded the Presidential Gold Medal in Armenia for our contributions to the memory and recognition of the Armenian Genocide. Here is a summary of one of their Haaretz pieces where they criticize Israel for refusing to recognize the Armenian Genocide out of what they describe as a "self-serving attitude". 

Although many Armenians continue to admire Israel greatly [...], a degree of hate of Israel is mounting. How could the people of the Holocaust fail to extend full recognition to the Armenian Genocide (which, at times, is referred to as the "Armenian Holocaust," especially in Hebrew, such as in one article by an historian in Bar Ilan University Magazine and various press reports)?
Israel has had its "excuses." But would we accept such excuses from a government that denies the Holocaust was genocide?
Moreover, we, the proud people who are not to be led like lambs to humiliation, would look for ways to fight back hard and resolutely.

So, goes the reasoning, why not admit that also the Armenians would be hurt if other people, and especially the Israelis, continued refusing admitting the one perpetrated by the Young Turks in 1915-16 was properly genocide

Auron and Charny retrace the history of Israeli denial by recalling the behavior of former leaders: 

When the Knesset Education Committee met in June 2012 to consider the unanimous resolution of the Knesset to recognize the Armenian Genocide, almost everyone who spoke – including then-Knesset Chairman Reuven Rivlin – was firmly and warmly for recognition. There were two parties who were opposed. One was a spokesman for the Azerbaijan Jewish community and the other was the spokesman for our Foreign Ministry. Do you remember how America’s State Department was at the head of the opposition to rescue Jews in the Holocaust and then to recognizing the new State of Israel? The atmosphere in the Education Committee was overwhelmingly in favor of recognition of the Armenian Genocide, and then suddenly the chairman of the committee, a representative of Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu party stood up, banged his gavel and announced, “The meeting is now adjourned. I will arrange for a vote in the future.” Not surprisingly, he never arranged the vote.

For many years, the government of Israel did not even allow mention of the Armenian Genocide. The brother of one of the writers of this article, the late poet T. Carmi (Charny), was editor in the 1960s of Ariel, the respected magazine of our Foreign Ministry, of which thousands of copies were published in a number of languages, on glossy paper that was unusually expensive for those days. In a totally innocent article on the Armenian Quarter in Jerusalem, there was a passing reference to the survivors of the Armenian Genocide who had found refuge in Jerusalem – the same survivors to whom our current president, Rivlin, emotionally referred to in his address to the United Nations this year on International Holocaust Day. After all the copies of the magazine were printed and bound, this terrible infraction of the sheer mention of the Armenian Genocide led the Foreign Ministry to order the withdrawal of all the copies of the issue so that the one sinful page could be removed.

For many years, the Israeli government literally forbade mention of the Armenian Genocide in our media (until a principled Yaakov Ahimeir took the daring leap, in 1994). During those days, too, there was at least one instance in which the Israel Broadcasting Authority met for a detailed discussion on whether to show a documentary about the Armenian Genocide and voted overwhelmingly to do so, but the next morning then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir exercised his veto power to cancel the broadcast. (Our Institute on the Holocaust and Genocide in Jerusalem did show the film in the Cinematheque auditorium with the participation of the legendary mayor Teddy Kollek, the wife of the Russian freedom fighter Andrei Sakharov, the Armenian Patriarch and others).

To the authors of this article, it seems as though the blame of such denial were to be put on cowardice, immorality and self-serving attitude in sight of a "lucrative business of selling weapons to Azerbaijan". Let's hope their fierce criticism can help accomplice an act of justice for the people who suffered the major case of genocide preceding the Holocaust.  

Professors Israel Charny and Yair Auron were invited by the Armenian government to speak at the Centennial Observance of the Armenian Genocide in Yerevan, in April 2015. Both are leaders of the Institute on the Holocaust and Genocide in Jerusalem, and Auron has created the outstanding and probably sole academic program in Israel on genocide at the Open University. Yair Auron is also the founder of Gariwo Israel. 

5 May 2015

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