BY GREER FAY CASHMAN
From the Jerusalem Post
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 genocide.
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 genocide.
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 peace.”
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 debate.
Former Member of Knesset 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.
Unfortunately, as prime minister, he has not seen fit to recognize the Armenian genocide, said Tzaban.
“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.
Stone 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.