Prof. Auron Blasts Israel’s President for Calling Armenian Genocide a ‘Massacre’

Harut Sassounian


Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin generated a major controversy after his January 28 speech at the UN General Assembly in New York.

As Speaker and member of the Knesset (Parliament), Rivlin had led the struggle for many years to have Israel recognize the Armenian Genocide. But, after becoming President, like Pres. Obama, Rivlin has been reluctant to reconfirm his principled position on this issue.

Last month, Pres. Rivlin delivered a powerful speech at the UN General Assembly’s annual International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. Regrettably, Israel’s President made two serious errors. He called the Armenian Genocide a massacre and, to balance those comments, referred to the Azeri deaths in Khojalu during the (Karabagh) Artsakh war.

Here is an excerpt from Rivlin’s UN remarks: “In 1915, when members of the Armenian nation were being massacred, Avshalom Feinberg, a leading member of Nili, the Jewish underground which cooperated with the Allies during the First World War, wrote the following, and I quote, ‘My teeth have been ground down with worry, whose turn is next? When I walked on the blessed and holy ground on my way up to Jerusalem, I asked myself if we are living in our modern era, in 1915, or in the days of Titus or Nebuchadnezzar? Did I, a Jew, forget that I am a Jew? I also asked myself if I have the right to weep over the tragedy of my people only, and whether the Prophet Jeremiah did not shed tears of blood for Armenians as well?’Avshalom Feinberg wrote that exactly 100 years ago — 100 years of hesitation and denial! But in the Land of Israel of that time, in the Jerusalem where I was born, no one denied the massacre that had taken place. The residents of Jerusalem, my parents and members of my family, saw the Armenian refugees arriving by the thousands — starving, piteous survivors of calamity. In Jerusalem they found shelter and their descendants continue to live there to this day.”

Distinguished scholar Yair Auron, Professor at Open University of Israel, was irate at his President’s choice of words, despite his personal friendship with him. Auron is a long-time advocate of Armenian Genocide recognition by Israel and author of several books on this subject. He is currently teaching at the American University of Armenia.

On January 31, while I was delivering a lecture on the Armenian Genocide at the newly-opened Komitas Museum in Yerevan, Prof. Auron approached me and asked if he could address the audience. After obtaining my consent, he read a personal statement, titled: “Apology to my Armenian brothers”:

“The President of Israel, Reuven Rivlin, made a remarkable speech with very touching sentences, identifying honestly and profoundly with the suffering of the Armenian people. But, intentionally, he did not use the term Armenian Genocide, neither in Hebrew nor in English.” Prof. Auron went on to disclose that Pres. Rivlin had told him personally that “he had not changed his opinion, but that he cannot declare it [genocide] as President of Israel. This, I can understand. But, in the last minute before the speech, somebody, probably from the Foreign Ministry of Israel, maybe even the Foreign Minister of Israel, Avigdor Lieberman, told him to include this terrible sentence: ‘Is our struggle, the struggle of this Assembly, against genocide, effective enough? Was it effective enough then in Bosnia? Was it effective in preventing the killing in Khojalu?’”

Prof. Auron continued his criticism: “Mr. President, you used the name of Khojalu in the context of genocide. You know well the difference between genocide and massacre. … Who proposed to you, Mr. President, who asked that you make this terrible error? You do not use the term genocide regarding the Armenian Genocide itself. Using the term genocide, in the context of one village in Nagorno-Karabagh, as if it was genocide, is unacceptable…. You do not dare to use the term genocide regarding the Armenian Genocide, and you define the massacre of this village, that I am sure you did not know its name just a few minutes before [your speech], as genocide. It is sacrilegious, and by it, you betray the legacy of the Holocaust and its victims.”

The righteous professor concluded his heartfelt remarks by pledging: “Let me, my Armenian brothers, apologize in my name and on behalf of many Israeli Jews. We are with you. We will not stop our struggle till Israel recognizes the Armenian Genocide.”

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  1. ara said:

    Well the Jews too indeed were massacred by the Nazi-s= yes- we too by the Turks-for us though-centuries longer and more people that are accounted for-no ill will toward the Jewish position-we know u r and must be out for urself-as are we Armenians- We had a genocide-u were massacred-thats a fact.

  2. GeorgeMardig said:

    Maybe Ahmadinijad of Iran was right, when he said we should revise if Holocuast did realy happen, if Israel ia capable of distorting truth about others, why not to distort the Holocaust if so much interest is involved?

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  4. Edward Demian said:

    In 2017 Turkey would have cause to celebrate yet another event. Seventy years of US foreign Aid. We, the American people have

  5. Edward Demian said:

    In 2017 Turkey would have cause to celebrate yet another event. Seventy years of US foreign Aid. We, the American people have bankrolled the arming of Turkey, and its military juntas, turned a blind eye to a horrible human rights record, denied suffering of too many to count them all. Armenia, Capadokia, Cilicia, Gordium, etc., etc., too many to count here. All in the name of containing Soviet Communism.But now that Communism is as dead as Fascism and Cannibalism, we can’t seem to be able to turn off the spigot. So the old sick man of Europe, has turned into the bully of the region. It is making moves through proxy players, funding IS, training all who would kill Kurds, Armenians Bahais, and throw in a few Jews, and we still don’t know how to turn off the spigot. Who is running the State Department?

  6. Edgar said:

    Jews just like Armenians suffered a lot in the 20th century. Any Jewish person should feel the pain of a genocide of a culture, any culture. I personally believe Jewish people are by our side, it’s the politics that is dirty.

  7. Sarkis said:

    I appreciate Yair Auron’s thoughtful response and the principled stand he has taken for years. I have read both his “Banality of Indifference” and “Banality of Denial “books. I recommend “Banality of Indifference” for its unique examination of the Armenian Genocide from Palestine and among various Jewish communities in 1915. But as both books, especially “Banality of Denial” make clear, the Jewish establishment is no friend of Armenians. For every Yair Auron, there are hundreds of very influential Jewish leaders who, at best, carry out an anti-Armenian agenda, and at worst are openly bigoted and racist against Armenians and directly complicit in Turkish criminality and denial. Below is a partial list:

    -abraham foxman (anti-defamation league of b’nai b’rith)

    -brenda schaffer (israeli scholar, past president of American Political Science Association, former Research Director of the Caspian Studies Program at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, current faculty at the israeli University of Haifa in the School of Political Science, and a visiting professor at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy and at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.)

    -shimon pere (president and former prime minister of israel)

    -guenter lewy (professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Amherst)

    -bernard lewis (Cleveland E. Dodge Professor Emeritus of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University)

    -bruce fein (attorney, worked for the Turkish Coalition of America, the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation, the Assembly of Turkish American Associations court case against Mourad Topalian in 2001, the lawyer of fellow Jew guenter lewy against the Southern Poverty Law Center regarding the Armenian Genocide, lawyer of Jew House of Representatives member jean schmidt against David Krikorian, lawyer for the Turkish Coalition of America against University of Minnesota, of the Ron Paul’s presidential campaign leaders and a huge influence on Paul)

    -david saltzman (Turkish Coalition of America, works with brunce fein in their anti-Armenian activity)

    -george friedman (founder of Stratfor, advocate of “keep Armenia isolated”)

    -rivka cohen (israeli Ambassador to Armenia and Georgia, openly and officially denied the Armenian Genocide while in Armenia)

    -vladimir socor (political analyst of East European affairs for the Jamestown Foundation and its Eurasia Daily Monitor, prominent Armenian Genocide denier, prominent supporter of the lie that Artsakh “belongs to Azerbaijan,” psychotic Russophobe)

    -michael rubin (current resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School, has lectured in history at Yale University, Hebrew University, and Johns Hopkins University, heavily involved in the war and destruction against Iraq)

    -stephen blank (a Senior Fellow and resident Russia expert at the American Foreign Policy Council, previously worked as a professor at the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, PA)

    -richard weitzor (currently a Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for Political-Military Analysis at Hudson Institute and an Expert at Wikistrat, previously from 2002 to 2004was a consultant for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Defense Science Board, and DFI International, Inc, also has held positions with the Center for Strategic Studies, the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, and the U.S. Department of Defense.)

    -denis jaffe (anti-Armenian journalist)

    -guy billauer (anti-Armenian attorney)

    -stephen schwartz (anti-Armenian, anti-Russian, anti-Serbian, advocate for turco-islamist extremism)