A moral Israel must recognize the Armenian genocide

Israel must put an end to this charade and fully recognize the Armenian genocide.

By ISRAEL W. CHARNY
January 24, 2012 18:43
3 minute read.
Armenian genocide memorial in Lyon, France

Armenian genocide memorial in Lyon, France 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Robert Pratta)

 
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I never cease to be amazed at the “upside-down double talk” that genocide deniers speak – not only in denial of  the Armenian genocide, but in denial of the Holocaust and, believe it or not, denial of the Rwandan genocide. In fact, many of us scholars characterize denial of genocide as the “last stage of genocide.”

In a recent article in The Jerusalem Post called “Armenian Genocide: Israel must maintain its moral compass,” the arguments set forth by Hakan Yavuz and Tal Buenos are a thin veneer for nothing less than a pro-Turkish government position of maintaining denial of the Armenian genocide.

What is their argument? For Israel to now to break its silence and recognize the Armenian genocide, it would be tantamount to confessing, retroactively, that its been playing politics all along by remaining silent and, with crocodile tears, admitting that those of us who care about Israel cannot allow that to happen.

Wrong enough, but their basic argument is extended by a manipulative and factually irresponsible debate of the very concept of “genocide.” Suddenly the historic Polish attorney Raphael Lemkin, a Jew with a high post in the Polish government legal system who we recognize as having virtually given his life to bring into international law the concept of  “genocide” that he created, is characterized as “an employee of the US Government” who he was serving to gain a moral advantage over the Germans after WWII.

There is not a word of recognition that Lemkin first submitted a resolution about the mass killing of religious and national entities to the League of Nations long before WWII. Lemkin was an employee of the US occupational Army in Germany very briefly after surviving the Holocaust in which he lost virtually all of his family. After giving up law positions at Duke University as well as Yale, he devoted himself full time to the passage of the Genocide Convention in the newly founded United Nations. The authors should be reprimanded severely for their distorted presentation of Lemkin’s identity.

The key issue that emerges is the question of whether, after years of a realpolitik denial of the Armenian genocide, in disheartening obsequiousness to Turkey in an attempt to gain their favor at the expense of the basic moral principles that are intrinsic to recognition to another people’s genocide or holocaust, Israel’s recognition of the Armenian genocide would constitute another politicized move rather than a moral correction.

Finally, the authors seek to stall with a disingenuous promise, 70 years after the Holocaust, that further study of the concept of “genocide” will bring us to an understanding we do not have, as if we do not know that genocide is the mass murder of a significant part of a targeted people, executed by a government or any other entity, such as a religious or ideological group or a terrorist organization.





The facts are well known: The Turkish government executed the Armenian genocide – in which one to one-and-a-half million Armenians were murdered.

And for us Jews and Israelis, there are added meanings: One Israeli Professor at Bar Ilan University once characterized the Armenian genocide as a “dress rehearsal for the Holocaust.”  We also know that Hitler explicitly built on the precedent of the Armenian genocide when he went after us Jews.

The writer is executive director of the Institute on the Holocaust and Genocide in Jerusalem, editor of the Web Magazine GPN GENOCIDE PREVENTI0N NOW, a co-founder and former president of the International Association of Genocide Scholars and editor of the Encyclopedia of Genocide. He was awarded the Armenian Presidential Prize –similar to the Israel Prize – in Yerevan in June 2011 for his contributions to the study of denials of genocides—of course including the Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust.

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