Armenian Patriarch Nourhan Manougian wrote – in a missive read on Sunday at a
conference in Jerusalem – that he cannot understand Israel’s ongoing refusal to
recognize the Turkish massacre of 1.5 million Armenians as
Manougian reasons is that if the United States has recognized
the massacre – which took place over several years and began more than a century
ago – than Israel should as well.
Manougian’s message was read at the
Hebrew University, where Prof. Michael Stone, the founder of the Armenian
Studies program at the university’s Institute of Asian and African Studies,
annually conducts a symposium and commemoration of the Armenian
In his message to Israeli Armenians and Jews at the event,
Manougian wrote, “For 98 years, so many efforts have been invested in getting
the Turks to admit that they committed genocide and the Turks continue to deny.”
Each year, the message continued, people repeat “never again,” and each year
human rights organizations repeat the same report about human rights abuses,
genocide, hunger and torture.
Manougian cited Rwanda and Darfur as
examples of genocide that occurred in recent history, “but who remembers them
today?” he asked.
At the start of his message, Manougian quoted Napoleon
Bonaparte as saying, “The world suffers not because of the violence of bad
people but because of the silence of good people.”
Similarly, in a
leaflet distributed by the Combat Genocide Association, Holocaust survivor and
acclaimed author Elie Wiesel is quoted as saying: “The opposite of love is not
hate, but rather indifference.
The opposite of life is not death but
rather indifference toward life and death. The opposite of peace is nothing
other than apathy towards the ugliness of war and the beauty of
Tsolag Momjian, the honorary Armenian consul in Jerusalem, whose
grandparents and uncles were slaughtered by the Turks, took exception to a
remark made last week by Deputy Minister for Liaison with the Knesset Ofir
Akunis, in which he said that the State of Israel has never denied the massacre,
but that the decision to label it a genocide should be made through open
Former MK Yair Tzaban, who was the keynote speaker at the Hebrew
University event, was praised by Stone and Momjian as being the first lawmaker
and government minister to take up the Armenian cause. Tzaban noted that Yossi
Sarid and Haim Oron, two of his former Knesset colleagues who were also
ministers, had also brought the Armenian genocide to public attention in both
the Knesset and the classroom.
He also praised broadcaster Yaacov Ahimeir
for his efforts, begun in 1994, to ensure that something related to the Armenian
genocide was broadcast each year on Channel 1.
Tzaban recalled that when
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had been deputy foreign minister, he said that
there are some things beyond politics and diplomacy, and the Armenian genocide
is one of them. Neither politics nor diplomacy “should prevent us from
identifying with the victims,” Netanyahu said at the time.
as prime minister, he has not seen fit to recognize the Armenian genocide, said
“If America can recognize April 24, why can’t we?” he asked. Like
the Armenians, Tzaban was outraged by what Akunis had said.
“Israel is so
sensitive to all forms of Holocaust denial, racism, and neo-Nazism, but can’t
bring herself to acknowledge the Armenian genocide because it might harm her
political and diplomatic interests.”
Tzaban bemoaned how quickly Israel
had forgotten, in his opinion, how many Jews begged for help and were turned
away because it was not in the national interest to help them.
underscored that genocide meant not only killing a people or a substantial part
of a nation, but also killing a culture, a language, music and folk customs.