Dr. Charny Deserves Much Credit Should Israel Recognize the Armenian Genocide

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By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier
Oct. 6, 2011

Armenians have good reason to be offended by the Israeli government’s failure to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide. It is unconscionable that some victims of the Holocaust can be so insensitive about those who have suffered a similar fate. Israel’s callous denial has been motivated by its unethical desire to appease Turkey -- its “strategic ally.”

Dr. Israel Charny, like so many Israeli citizens, vehemently opposes his government’s shameful stand on the Armenian Genocide. He is the longtime Director of the Institute on the Holocaust and Genocide in Jerusalem and former president of the International Association of Genocide Scholars. On numerous occasions, Dr. Charny has taken a strong stand against Israeli officials, rebuking them for their deplorable position on the Armenian Genocide.

Earlier this year, the President of Armenia awarded Dr. Charny a Presidential medal and a $10,000 prize for his lifelong efforts to champion recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

Since Dr. Charny did not have the opportunity to make a speech during the award ceremony in Yerevan, I wish to present key excerpts from his prepared remarks:

“Denials of genocide are very unfair, unjust and ugly. They are also extremely dangerous not only to the victim people, but to our human civilization. Denials of genocide are disgusting attempts to humiliate the victim people once more, and hurtful reopening of wounds of stigmatizing and persecuting the victim people once again.

“Moreover, denials of genocide are also loud and clear affirmations of the legitimacy of violence; they are retroactive justifications of the specific violent killing that was done in the genocide; and they are warnings and calls for renewal of violence -- whether towards the same victim people or to other peoples. In fact, it has become clear that denials of genocide often are messages from the deniers that they are already engaged in or preparing to be violent once again.

“It is not at all by chance that [Turkish Prime Minister] Erdogan in the last year twice has threatened to expel 100,000 Armenians from Turkey; and it is not at all by chance that Erdogan’s Turkey -- a regime that is bizarrely devoted to denials of the Armenian Genocide -- continues to be violent towards the Kurdish people who have suffered thousands of destroyed villages, tens of thousands of dead, and who are frequently not allowed by the Turkish government to use their language or celebrate their culture.

“Israel has been attempting to have a good relationship with Turkey very much at the expense of the truth of the Armenian Genocide. I am convinced this policy has been deeply wrong. Of course, I do not believe that nations -- especially small ones -- can afford not to evaluate political realities and security risks, but I think that in the long run there must be limits to the extent of realpolitik and that denials of the history of a genocide are beyond the limit that should be acceptable.

“I cannot take leave without a further reference to the State of Israel's recognition of the Armenian Genocide. Israel has been entirely wrong in not recognizing the Armenian Genocide. At the same time, thank heaven I have been able to say now for many years that we have won the battle for recognition of the Armenian Genocide in Israeli culture, our media, and in our public. When a few years ago a delegation of four of us -- Prof. Yair Auron, Prof. Yehuda Bauer, Former Minister Yossi Sarid, and myself -- came to lay wreaths at the Armenian Genocide Memorial [in Yerevan], we indeed represented our larger Israeli society.

“At this very writing we have been informed that the Knesset will hold a major hearing on recognition of the Armenian Genocide. The overall Knesset has already voted -- now for the third time in Israeli history -- to hold hearings on possible recognition of the Armenian Genocide. Each of these votes has represented some progress towards our goal. In the Israeli system a proposal then has to be reviewed and decided by a major committee of the Knesset. Politics are not simple, as you know, and our opponents have succeeded in the past in defeating the recognition at this level.

“This time the proposal will go to the Committee on Education where, unlike proceedings in the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Security where a proposal even can be buried without any discussion at all and no one knows what happened, discussion and voting in the Education Committee will be publicly known to us. My closest colleagues and I have not been too hopeful of success, but now there is more possibility of success than we previously estimated. In truth, the possibility of recognition is greater now that Turkey has shown its vicious side to Israel, and there are many of us who will be ashamed if we now achieve recognition for this reason rather than on the basis of a real correction of Israel's error all these years.”

As Israeli journalist Raphael Ahren accurately pointed out in a recent Haaretz article: “If Israel recognizes the Turkish genocide of over 1 million Armenians in the near future, it may be largely due to the decades long efforts of American-born scholar Israel Charny.”