Remember the others
The Armenians apparently also suffered genocide. It would be especially
appropriate for representatives of the Jewish people to express their
pain and empathy, despite Israel’s close relationship with Turkey, which
is accused of the crime.
Maariv International (Israel)
By Yaakov Ahimeir ([email protected])
This Saturday, another nation will mark its own genocide. Some of them
live here, in Jerusalem and the Galilee. The Armenians will mourn the
destruction of one or one and half million members of their people at
the hands of the Ottomans, during World War I. To be fair, there are
some historians who claim that there was no genocide. They claim that
many Armenians died while being exiled to remote sections of the Ottoman
Empire, as the Turkish Ambassador once told me dismissively, `It was a
matter of very bad weather, a natural result of the war’.
Anyone who reads The Forty Days of Musa Dagh by Franz Werfel or the many
articles that were written during and shortly after the events, would
find it hard not to believe that a genocide did in fact take place. Even
without concentration camps, there was genocide. A telegram sent by the
American ambassador in Istanbul at the time, Henry Morgenthau, Sr.
Although the Armenian genocide cannot be compared to the Jewish
Holocaust, the question remains: Can we as Jews find within ourselves a
modicum of understanding and empathy for what the Armenians often call
`our holocaust’? The Armenians also quote Hitler. In the 1930s, when
justifying his murderous ideology against the Jews, when he said, `Who,
after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians’?
The issue of empathy for the murdered Armenians is an exceptionally
sensitive issue for the Israeli government. We do not want to anger the
Turks. In order to please them, we buy water from them, renovate their
tanks and hold joint naval and air training exercises. Indeed,
maintaining a strategic relationship with a Moslem government is no
small accomplishment in its own right. Internationally, no fewer than 15
parliaments have recognized that the Armenian genocide did indeed
happen. When France recognized it, Turkey cancelled a large government
transaction because Turkey, as the heir to the Ottoman Empire, does not
accept responsibility for the genocide. Israel is not France. Chirac can
be angry with the Turks, but Mr. Sharon cannot express empathy for the
genocide of a small nation, whose sufferings often resemble our own.
The question is, if not the government, who can express empathy for
genocide? Perhaps the Ministry of Education could increase the awareness
of genocide by augmenting the world history curriculum with special
lessons and seminars, which need not negate the uniqueness of the
Holocaust or belittle the Rwandan genocide ten years ago. Perhaps some
students with a wreath could join the march through the Armenian Quarter
of Jerusalem on Saturday, April 24. Maybe next year, on the 90th
anniversary of the genocide, a special Jewish delegation could travel to
Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, to the ceremony that will be held in
the Memorial Hall dedicated to the victims, as if to say, `Never again.
As Jews, we understand and empathize with your suffering’. It seems to
me that these are not unreasonable demands to make of a people whose
memories are as long as the exile.