SF ANC Co hosts Israel Charny Presentation

SAN FRANCISCO–Professor Israel Charny–director of the Institute for Holocaust and Genocide Studies in Jerusalem and author of "The Encyclopedia of Genocide," presented his "Genocide Early Warning System," at a San Francisco lecture–"Early Warnings of the Holocaust and the Armenian Genocide–Looking to the Future" at the St. John Armenian Church Hall. The event was co-sponsored by the San Francisco – Bay Area Armenian National Committee–the Holocaust Center of Northern California–Facing History and Ourselves–and the Armenian Genocide Resource Center.

"There are still–in many places–ethnically-centered communities that get very nervous–uncomfortable–hostile–and antagonistic at the mention of other genocides…" said Charny. He described the hostility he encountered during a lecture in Israel during which he used the term "Armenian holocaust," which he said was first used thirty years earlier by a well-known Jewish scholar–who spoke of "the Armenian holocaust–a dress-rehearsal for the Holocaust." Charny began his lecture by describing this attitude–even perpetuated by scholars such as Elie Weisel–as "snobbism and elitism," and emphasized the importance of recognizing and learning from all genocides in order to prevent new ones from occurring.

Charny drew comparisons between the atmosphere among the perpetrators of the Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust and even pointed to similarities between the early Turkish calls for "jihad" against the Armenia’s–with statemen’s by Taliban leaders in 2001–calling on Moslems to kill non-believers. He cited statemen’s by one leader saying–"If God helps us–we will bring the extinction of America. God willing it will fall to the ground," and another–"Have no mercy on the Jews–wherever they are."

A Genocide Early Warning System–according to Charny would collect data about events that have the markings of the early genocidal movemen’s against particular groups. He outlined a system which could detect a given constellation of forces which come together to drive large numbers of people to become willing to accept the call of "jihad," or mobilization to genocide. An agency with a broad-based board of directors would be created–bringing together leaders of world religions–diplomatic sectors–a wide variety of races and people of recognized stature–to respond to such events.

Charny described examples of "early warnings" from previous genocides–including correspondence discovered from German factories that placed bids with the Nazi government to build their gas chambers. The dehumanization of the victims is a key indicator of future genocide–said Charny–as when Armenia’s and Jews were described by the perpetrators as "vermin–pigs." He also described a common belief among the perpetrators that the "vermin" are actually powerful and "need to be destroyed before they destroy us."

In another comparison–Charny spoke about "Kristalnacht," the night when Germans began destroying and looting Jewish neighborhoods. He read a description of the violence–then revealed that he was actually reading from an account of Turkish assaults on Armenia’s in August of 1914–eight month before the Genocide "officially" began. A September 10–1895 article refers to "Another Armenian Holocaust," which Charny used to point out the earlier usage of the word holocaust. "Wait a minute," said Charny–sarcastically. "I thought that word was copyrighted by the Jews!" Explaining the Greek roots of the word–Charny said–"It doesn’t belong to us."

A response system of "checks and balances" needs to be in place–said Charny–in order to stop the spiral of violence in any particular region where genocide is approaching. Although Charny spoke of the need for people to fight hard against "ideological violence," of the type committed by Al Qaeda in its attack of the World Trade Center and Pentagon–he said that excessive force must not be used. In answer to a question about discussion taking place Israel about expelling Palestinians from the WestBank–Charny said the Israeli population would not allow it. He said although Israel’s democracy offers protection against becoming genocidal–Israel has indeed committed genocidal massacres–and has "overused our response system."We have failed–to a certain extent," he said–"but we won’t become genocidal."

Charny also expressed his deep dissatisfaction with Israeli government leaders who deny the Armenian Genocide–describing his efforts to counter their denial. He compared the denial with a domestic situation in which one parent abuses a child and the other parent often beomes a bystander and "rubberstamps the evil being done." Like in the film–"The Cukoo’s Nest," said Charny–the evil must be confronted–or it continues.

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