The Armenian Genocide Commemorative Committee of Australia has just received the following translation of an article written by Dr. Yair Auron in response to Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres’ recent statemen’s. Dr. Yair Auron is Senior Lecturer at the Open University of Israel and the Kibbutzim College of Education and author of The Banality of Indifference: Zionism and the Armenian Genocide. Dr. Auron will be visiting Sydney next week to participate in the Armenian-Australian community’s planned commemoration activities on the occasion of the 86th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.
Et Tu Peres?
Not only has Israel systematically avoided the Armenian Genocide issue–this week it’s foreign minister joined the deniers
(Translation from Hebrew of article published in Ma’ariv–April 16–2001)
Written By Yair Auron
Shimon Peres’s visit to Turkey has received much media attention in Israel. It is not at all surprising that one subject was disregarded. The headlines of the Turkish Daily News on the 10th of April were clear: "Peres: Armenian allegations are meaningless."
The newspaper described Peres as being a supporter of the Turkish position regarding the dispute over the meaning of the events that had taken place during the Ottoman regime 86 years ago. During the first word war a million and a half Armenia’s were murdered by this regime. Apart from a short period immediately after the Genocide–the Turks have never admitted to the crimes committed.
Peres claimed that historians ought to deal with such historical issues. This claim may seem feasible–nevertheless–individuals who deal with this subject know that this is a denial tactic practiced by the Turks. Furthermore–Peres is quoted as saying "We reject attempts to create a similarity between the Holocaust and the Armenian allegations. Nothing similar to the Holocaust occurred. It is a tragedy what the Armenia’s went through but not a genocide".
Peres has in fact given the Turks a precious gift. The Armenia’s have been struggling for 86 years to obtain recognition of the crimes committed against them. On the 15th of August 1995 Peres wrote to me:" I am aware of the fact that Israeli officials did not acknowledge the horrible massacre out of concern for the Holocaust’s unique place in the chronicles of human history". Nevertheless–even the uniqueness of the Holocaust should not lead to the denial of another people’s genocide. On the contrary.
For the Armenia’s–the importance of the recognition of the Armenian genocide by the Jews–and more importantly by Israel–cannot be overstated. The dispute over Israeli acknowledgment of this genocide has been going on for some years now. It is the fact that the State of Israel was founded by a people that were victims of the Holocaust–and the special meaning derived from this–that is raised again and again in this dispute.
Israel has been systematically avoiding the Armenian issue. Government representatives – apart from a few such as Yair Tzaban and Yossi Beilin– have systematically avoided the issue altogether as well as avoiding participation in Armenian Memorial Day ceremonies held on the 24th of April. A year ago it seemed as though a change was in the making. In a historical visit to Jerusalem during the Armenian Memorial Day ceremony–Education Minister–Yossi Sarid–Presented a speech in which he sympathized with the Armenian pain over the denial of their genocide and promised to teach the subject to Israeli school children. Sarid’s speech received praise from all over the world–but soon the sad truth emerged. Barak’s government rejected Sarid’s speech and stressed over and over that he did not represent the government or it’s policy.
If this is not enough–now the Foreign Minister has joined the deniers on behalf of the Israeli Government. This was not a holocaust or a genocide–claimed the minister. Picture to yourselves our reaction to a similar claim made by another country’s Foreign Minister regarding the Holocaust. What would we feel if the Holocaust had been called a "tragedy"?
In the past few years the research regarding Holocaust and genocide denial has greatly developed. Peres’s claims may be regarded as Israel’s escalation from passive to active denial–from moderate denial to hard-line denial. "I do not know of any enlightened politician in a democratic state that has ever made remarks such as these" told me an Armenian friend–"you the Jews of all people".
In every act of aggression–the bystander is in a way a supporter of the aggressor (who will deny his acts). "You will not stand against the blood of your neighbor," says the good book (Leviticus 16–19). It is this moral law which we do not follow.
This week we commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day. On this day we will demand of the world–and justly so–not to forget. A few days later the Armenia’s will hold their Memorial Day. Again this year they will feel alone–maybe even more than ever. Our hearts are closed to the suffering of others.