ASBAREZ Online [05-19-2006]

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05/19/2006
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1) House Subcommittee Maintains Military Aid Parity between Armenia And
Azerbaijan
2) Turkey Uses Blackmail to Block Passage of Armenian Genocide Bill
3) Armenian Independence Day Festival to Be Held in Little Armenia
4) Armenian Singer Andre in Eurovision 2006 Final
5) No Agreement Reached Yet on Armenian-Azeri Summit
6) Kocharian Appoints Yesayan Deputy Minister of Education
7) Opposition Newspaper Editor Harshly Beaten in Azerbaijan
8) Sunday’s Telethon to Raise Funds for ANC Programs
9) The New York Times Rebukes Turkey over Armenian Genocide Denial
10) Genocide Seminar for High School Students Held in Fresno
11) `From Need to Greed:’ New film documents illegal logging and deforestation
in Armenia
12) The `Buzz’ about Bezzerides: Film about Armenian-Greek screenwriter
featured at Southeast European Film Festival
13) The Conflict in Darfur: By Representative Joe Schwartz, MD
14) Critics’ Forum: Visual Arts: By Adriana Tchalian
15) Irritants III: By Garen Yegparian
16) SKEPTIK TAKES ON GOLDBERG: By SKEPTIK SINIKIAN

1) House Subcommittee Maintains Military Aid Parity between Armenia And
Azerbaijan

WASHINGTON, DC–Early reports from Capitol Hill sources indicate that the
House
Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations approved by voice vote to
maintain military assistance parity between Armenia and Azerbaijan, despite
the
Bush Administration’s request to break the parity agreement and provide 40%
more in assistance to Azerbaijan, reported the Armenian National Committee of
America (ANCA).
Sources on Capitol Hill reported that the key foreign aid panel also
allocated
$62 million in US aid for Armenia and $5 million for Karabagh for fiscal year
(FY) 2007. The amount represents a $12 million increase over President Bush’s
FY 2007 budget request, but is lower than last year’s appropriation of $75
million. The Subcommittee also rejected efforts by Azerbaijan’s lobbyists to
weaken Section 907 restrictions on US assistance to Azerbaijan, due to its
ongoing blockades of Armenia and Karabagh.
Overall, the Subcommittee approved $21.3 billion in foreign aid spending, an
increase of $600 million over last year’s budget.
“We commend the members of the Foreign Operations Subcommittee for
contributing to the continued stability of the Caucasus by maintaining parity
in military aid to Armenia and Azerbaijan and fighting back attempts to
further
weaken Section 907,” stated Aram Hamparian, Executive Director of the ANCA.
“We
also appreciate the efforts of our friends to increase Armenia’s assistance
above the level proposed by the President and to provide $5 million in aid to
Nagorno Karabagh. We look forward to action by the Senate–and later in
conference committee–to bring assistance to Armenia to at least last year’s
figure of $75 million,” added Hamparian.
Military assistance to Armenia and Azerbaijan will include $3.5 million in
foreign military finance (FMF) and $790,000 in International Military and
Education Training (IMET). Economic assistance to Azerbaijan was set at $29
million, $1 million more than the Administration’s budget request.
“We want to express our appreciation to Congressman Joe Knollenberg for his
advocacy within the Subcommittee, to thank Chairman Jim Kolbe, and Ranking
Member Nita Lowey for their leadership, and to share our gratitude for the
support of John Sweeney, Steve Rothman, Mark Kirk, and Chaka Fattah, and our
other friends on this vitally important panel,” said Aram Hamparian, Executive
Director of the ANCA.
On March 16 of this year, Representative George Radanovich (R-CA) and
Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) sent a
letter to
the leadership of the Subcommittee, cosigned by 48 of their House colleagues,
calling for an earmark of at least $75 million for Armenia; maintaining equal
levels of military aid for Armenia and Azerbaijan; an additional $5 million in
direct aid to Karabagh for FY 2007; and keeping in place the Section 907
restriction on aid to Azerbaijan.
The names of the fifty signatories are as follows: Tom Allen (D-ME), Robert
Andrews (D-NJ), Xavier Becerra (D-CA), Howard Berman (D-CA), Michael Bilirakis
(R-FL), Eric Cantor (R-VA), Lois Capps (D-CA), Dennis Cardoza (D-CA), John
Conyers (D-MI), Jim Costa (D-CA), Joseph Crowley (D-NY), William Delahunt
(D-MA), David Dreier (R-CA), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Mike Ferguson (R-NJ), Barney
Frank (D-MA), Scott Garrett (R-NJ), Rush Holt (D-NJ), Michael Honda (D-CA),
Dale Kildee (D-MI), James Langevin (D-RI), Sander Levin (D-MI), Frank LoBiondo
(R-NJ), Stephen Lynch (D-MA), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Edward Markey (D-MA),
Doris Matsui (D-CA), Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI), James McGovern (D-MA), John
McHugh (R-NY), Michael McNulty (D-NY), Martin Meehan (D-MA), Grace Napolitano
(D-CA), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Donald Payne (D-NJ), Collin Peterson (D-MN),
George Radanovich (R-CA), Bobby Rush (D-IL), H. James Saxton (R-NJ), Adam
Schiff (D-CA), Joe Schwarz (R-MI), Christopher Shays (R-CT), Brad Sherman
(D-CA), Rob Simmons (R-CT), Mark Souder (R-IN), Edolphus Towns (D-NY), Diane
Watson (D-CA), Henry Waxman (D-CA), Anthony Weiner (D-NY), and Lynn Woolsey
(D-CA).

2) Turkey Uses Blackmail to Block Passage of Armenian Genocide Bill

(Combined Sources)–Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Bureau member and
Parliament Vice Speaker Vahan Hovhannisian said on Friday that the
derailing of
the Armenian genocide bill in French Parliament is yet another example of
Turkey’s blackmailing policies.
“Blackmailing has been the main method in Turkey’s politics for the past 250
years,” Hovhannisian said. “Therefore, it didn’t come as a surprise to us.”
He added that Turkish reaction to Armenian foreign policy is a sign that the
policies are working.
The French bill would have made it a punishable offense to deny the Armenian
genocide. Facing threats of trade sanctions by Turkey, President of the French
Parliament, Jean-Louis Debré, blocked passage of the bill and delayed its
discussion until October.
“I believe that France cannot delay this issue forever,” Hovhannisian went on
to say. “I think, France, as a progressive European nation, will return to
this
issue, and we will succeed this time.”

3) Armenian Independence Day Festival to Be Held in Little Armenia

(HOLLYWOOD)–The Armenian Cultural Foundation, in conjunction with the
Armenian
Youth Federation (AYF) Western Region, will host a festival on May 28 to
commemorate Armenia’s independence. The festival will take place in Little
Armenia, on Hollywood Blvd. between the streets of Alexandria and Vermont,
from
10:00 AM to 6:00 PM.
The festival will feature performers such as, Element, Vokee, Sako, Ara
Sahagian, Karnig Sarkissian, Nersik Ispirian, Paul Baghdadlian, Gor
Mkhitarian,
Ara Shahbazian, and many more who will all be accompanied by the Knar Band. In
addition to the many singers there will also be various dance groups
performing
traditional and contemporary Armenian folk dances.
Organizers of the festival aim to promote Armenian culture and raise
awareness
within the greater Los Angeles community. The festival will feature various
aspects of the Armenian culture through different vendors, entertainers,
performers, writer, traditional Armenian foods, and artifacts.
Other Armenian organizations participating in the festival include the
Armenian Relief Society, Shant Student Association, Homenetmen (Armenian
General Athletic Union and Scouts), and Armenian National Committee of
America.
“The Armenian Youth Federation celebrates and recognizes the importance of
our
nation’s victories in establishing, after 600 years of oppression, the first
independent republic of Armenia on May 28, 1918, which laid the foundation of
today’s independent republic,” said Tro Tchekidjian chairman of the AYF
Western
Region.

4) Armenian Singer Andre in Eurovision 2006 Final

(Combined Sources)–Armenian singer from Karabagh, Andre Hovhanyan, qualified
Friday night to participate in the final round of the Eurovision Song Contest
being held this weekend in Athens. Andre is representing Armenia for the first
time in the contest with a song called “Without you love.”
Andre was one of 10 participants voted on to Saturday’s final round. Russia,
Macedonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Lithuania, Finland, Ukraine, Ireland, Sweden,
and Turkey also made the cut after a public text and telephone vote.

5) No Agreement Reached Yet on Armenian-Azeri Summit

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian said on Friday that he and
his Azeri counterpart Elmar Mamedyarov did not set a date for the next
Armenian-Azeri summit on Karabagh during talks in Strasbourg the previous
night.
The two men met in the presence of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs on the
sidelines of a regular session of the Council of Europe’s Committee of
Ministers.
“Discussions focused on the proposals and ideas that have been on the table,”
he said, referring to the Strasbourg talks. “Overall, it was not a bad
meeting.
However, there are still many issues that have not yet been agreed on.”
Oskanian said that that Baku and Yerevan have not yet laid the groundwork for
the crucial summit between the two countries’ presidents.
“While not ruling out the possibility of such a meeting at this point, I
can’t
say for certain that it will take place, because a lot depends on the
co-chairs’ high-level visit to the region,” said Oskanian.
The co-chairs will begin their visit on May 25 together with more
high-ranking
diplomats, including US Assistant Secretary of State Dan Fried and Russian
Deputy Foreign Minster Grigory Karasin. The mediators will discuss with the
conflicting parties their new, unpublicized peace proposals put forward after
the February meeting of Aliyev and Kocharian, which took place in Rambouillet,
France.
“The co-chairs see a new momentum after Rambouillet and they believe that by
raising the level [of their diplomacy] they can attract more attention and
will
try during their visit to create a situation that will convince the parties to
agree to a meeting of the presidents,” said Oskanian.

6) Kocharian Appoints Yesayan Deputy Minister of Education

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–President Robert Kocharian’s special Anti-corruption Adviser
and Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) member Bagrat Yesayan, was
relieved
of his duties and appointed Deputy Minister of Education on Friday.
The promotion follows the withdrawal of Orinats Yerkir from the ruling
coalition. Sergo Yeritsian, a former Orinats Yerkir leader who has headed the
Armenian Ministry of Science and Education for nearly three years, was
replaced
on Wednesday by Levon Mkrtchian, also a member of the ARF, one of the two
remaining governing parties.
Aside from advising Kocharian on anti-corruption matters, Yesayan headed a
“monitoring commission” to oversee implementation of the legislative measures
aimed at combating corruption.

7) Opposition Newspaper Editor Harshly Beaten in Azerbaijan

BAKU (AP)–Bahaddin Khaziyev, editor of the Bizim Yol (Our Way) newspaper, was
seized late Thursday in the Azeri capital, Baku, by five men who put a bag
over
his head and drove him to a lake outside the city, said the head of the
opposition Popular Front, Ali Kerimli.
“There, Khazhiyev was savagely beaten and, as a result of his injuries,
lay on
the lakeside until morning,” Kerimli said.
Khaziyev, also the deputy leader of the Popular Front, recounted that one of
his assailants called someone on a cell phone to say: “We did everything you
asked,” Kerimli said.
The opposition leader said the attack had been ordered. “It did not happen by
chance, and is part of the war waged in recent years in Azerbaijan against the
free press,” he said.
An official with the presidential administration, Ali Hasanov, condemned the
assault and pledged that authorities in the oil-rich Caspian Sea state would
fully investigate it and punish those guilty.
Last year, opposition magazine editor Elmar Huseinov was shot and killed in
the lobby of his Baku apartment building. Western countries have called on
President Ilham Aliyev and investigators to do more to solve that killing.
Aliyev has been at the helm of his former Soviet nation since 2003, when he
came to power in flawed elections, succeeding his father and longtime ruler
Heydar Aliyev.

8) Sunday’s Telethon to Raise Funds for ANC Programs

GLENDALE (Glendale News Press)–The Armenian National Committee of America has
done a lot for the Armenian community through its programs, but in order to do
more, it needs more money, organization officials said.
So it will host a telethon on Sunday to raise money for its general endowment
— the nonprofit and non-political arm of the group that funds educational
programs.
“The purpose is to raise funds for the endowment, whose purpose is to fund
education efforts to encourage civic participation and voter registration,”
said Zanku Armenian, a board member of the Western Region of the Armenian
National Committee based in Glendale.
The general endowment funds several programs a year that encourage civic
involvement, provide internship programs for university students and encourage
voter registration, all within the Armenian-American community, Armenian
said.
It also helps to fund Armenian Genocide education efforts in schools, he
said.
“In terms of a grassroots effort, the [Armenian National Committee of
America]
has done a tremendous job,” said Armond Aghakhanian, an executive board member
of the Glendale-based Armenian American Chamber of Commerce.
“It is very difficult, engaging communities who are new to this country and
the voting system, who come from eastern blocs where there was no trust
when it
came to the government, and a lot of corruption,” he said.
The organization has had to deal with a lot of barriers, but has been able to
lift those barriers, Aghakhanian said. Additional funding will hopefully allow
it to continue expanding its programs, he said.
The nationally televised telethon, which is being broadcast from Glendale
Studios, will tap Armenian American communities not only in Glendale, but in
all parts of the country, Armenian said.
It is being broadcast in Glendale because of the size of the Armenian
American
community in the city, but the organization has volunteers from across the
country participating to bring the telethon together, Armenian said.
This is the first time the Armenian National Committee of America is
hosting a
telethon to raise money for its endowment fund, he said.
“We don’t have a benchmark at this point, but every dollar helps,” Armenian
said. “The larger the amount the better, because we are trying to reach more
Armenian Americans in the country… When you take on an endeavor of this
magnitude, you hope to get a large amount. The point is, we are hoping in the
millions.”
Many local officials, congressman and prominent members of the Armenian
American community have been invited to attend the six-hour marathon.
The local and national community will likely come together to make the
telethon a success, Aghakhanian sad.
“I believe it’s going to turn to be very successful,” he said. “It’s a great
cause.”
The telethon will air in Glendale, La Crescenta, and Burbank on Channel 55
from 3 to 9 PM.

9) The New York Times Rebukes Turkey over Armenian Genocide Denial

— Editorial Decries Turkey’s “Self-Destructive Obsession” with Denial of the
Genocide

NEW YORKIn an editorial published Tuesday, May 15, The New York Times pointed
out Turkey’s `self-destructive obsession with denying the Armenian genocide,’
earning praise from the Armenian National Committee (ANC) of the Eastern
United
States. Noting Turkey’s inflammatory and intimidating response to governments
and individuals who speak truthfully about the first genocide of the 20th
century, The Times cited three of the many deeply troubling examples.
`The Turks pulled out of a NATO exercise this week because the Canadian Prime
Minister used the term genocide in reference to the mass killings of Armenians
in Turkey during and after World War I. Before that, the Turkish ambassador to
France was temporarily recalled to protest a French bill that would make it
illegal to deny that the Armenian genocide occurred. And before that, a
leading Turkish novelist, Orhan Pamuk, was charged with `insulting Turkish
identity’ for referring to the genocide,’ stated The Times.
As Turkey attempts to join the European Union, it is coming under increasing
pressure to recognize the Genocide, in which 1.5 million Armenians were
systematically exterminated. Turkey faces growing difficulty, and now
editorial reproach from the paper of record, for its ninety-one year practice
of persecuting journalists, government officials, and ordinary citizens who
exercise what should be their right to free speech. Publisher Ragip Zarakolu
and journalist Hrant Dink, who recently addressed Armenian communities in the
US, are only two of many brave individuals who have been prosecuted for
informing the Turkish public about the Genocide.
`The Armenian National Committee and the Armenian American community are
gratified to see that after changing its policy by allowing its reporters to
describe the events of 1915 as genocide, the New York Times has come to rebuke
Turkey for its sinister and anti-democratic campaign of genocide denial.
Decades of hard, thoughtful work to get the Times and the Boston Globe to
attune their coverage of the issue with historical scholarship have borne
valuable fruit,’ said Dikran Kaligian, Chairman of the ANC in the Eastern
United States.
The Armenian National Committee (ANC) is dedicated to advancing the concerns
of Armenian-Americans, the foremost of which is achieving recognition of the
Armenian Genocide. In light of the Turkish government’s campaign to have US
media organizations as well government officials deny the genocide, the ANC
strives to oppose revisionist agendas, which either out of racist or other
unscrupulous motives, defame a people through attempting to negate the
historicity of its mass victimization.
A full text of the editorial is provided below:

Turkey, Armenia and Denial

Turkey’s self-destructive obsession with denying the Armenian genocide seems
to have no limits. The Turks pulled out of a NATO exercise this week because
the Canadian prime minister used the term `genocide’ in reference to the mass
killings of Armenians in Turkey during and after World War I. Before that, the
Turkish ambassador to France was temporarily recalled to protest a French bill
that would make it illegal to deny that the Armenian genocide occurred. And
before that, a leading Turkish novelist, Orhan Pamuk, was charged with
`insulting Turkish identity’ for referring to the genocide (the charges were
dropped after an international outcry).
Turkey’s stance is hard to fathom. Each time the Turks lash out, new
questions
arise about Turkey’s claim to a place in the European Union, and the Armenian
Diaspora becomes even more adamant in demanding a public reckoning over what
happened.
Granted, genocide is a difficult crime for any nation to acknowledge. But it
is absurd to treat any reference to the issue within Turkey as a crime and to
scream `lie!’ every time someone mentions genocide. By the same token, we do
not see the point of the French law to ban genocide denial. Historical truths
must be established through dispassionate research and debate, not
legislation,
even if some of those who question the evidence do so for insidious motives.
But the Turkish government considers even discussion of the issue to be a
grave national insult, and reacts to it with hysteria. Five journalists who
criticized a court’s decision to shut down an Istanbul conference on the
massacre of Armenians were arrested for insulting the courts. Charges against
four were subsequently dropped, but a fifth remains on trial.
The preponderance of serious scholarship outside Turkey accepts that more
than
a million Armenians perished between 1914 and 1923 in a regime-sponsored
campaign. Turkey’s continued refusal to countenance even a discussion of the
issue stands as a major obstacle to restoring relations with neighboring
Armenia and to claiming Turkey’s rightful place in Europe and the West. It is
time for the Turks to realize that the greater danger to them is denying
history.

10) Genocide Seminar for High School Students Held in Fresno

FRESNO–One hundred and ten students from junior highs and high schools around
Fresno and Clovis participated in a successful Genocide Seminar on Saturday,
May 13, at the Armenian Community Center in Fresno.
The Seminar speakers Dr. Matthew Ari Jendian and Hasmig Tatiossian addressed
the similarities between the mass killings, political ramifications, and
social
issues surrounding the Armenian, Cambodian, Darfur, and Rwandan genocides.
They
also discussed the implications for individual and collective responses to
these events.
Hygo Ohanessian, chairperson of the Armenian National Committee of Central
California, introduced the speakers. The event was organized by the ANC and
funded by the Bertha and John Garabedian Foundation.
Sato Sanikian, learning director from Selma high school, advised the students
on conduct, rules, and regulations to abide by at the seminar.
The speakers began the day with an ice-breaker exercise that celebrated the
diversity in the room and emphasized that we are all part of the human race,
the most similar of all species on the earth.
They then discussed the word “genocide,” (literally “race murder” from the
Greek word “genos” and the Latin “cide”) coined by Raphael Lemkin in 1944.
The Genocide Convention adopted by the United Nations in 1948, defined
genocide as certain “acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in
part, a national ethnical, racial, or religious group.”
The great irony, however, of the 20th century and genocide is that the 20th
century saw many treaties defining and codifying genocide, yet it was one of
the bloodiest centuries in human history.
Unfortunately, after almost every case of genocide, denial has been a common
response. This denial, Tatiossian said, can grow over time and come to define
the identity of the person or people who are denying the events. As Cornell
West has said, “Denial of history represents a lack of maturity.” The first
step towards healing is to acknowledge the wrong we have done.
With each case of genocide discussed–Armenian, Cambodian, and Rwandan–the
speakers pointed to the lack of intervention of the international community
and, specifically, the United States. As Samantha Power notes in her book `A
Problem from Hell,’ the most common response to the question of “Why does the
world and the United States stand so idly by when genocide is occurring” is,
“We didn’t know” or “We didn’t fully appreciate the magnitude of the
situation.” But these answers are demonstrably not true. However, Power says,
the real reason the United States has not done what it could do and should do
to stop genocide is that US leaders lacked the will to do something–they
believed it was wrong, but they were not prepared to invest the military,
financial, diplomatic, and domestic political capital needed.
The speakers also gleaned lessons from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,
teaching that we all have a human responsibility to prevent injustice when we
see it:
`Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.’
“He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to
perpetrate it.’
`There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor
political, nor popular; but one must take it because it is right.’
As Dr. Jendian said, “Knowledge is potential power; it becomes powerful when
it is acted upon.” Taking action on behalf of others requires empathy–putting
yourself in the other person’s place and identifying strongly with the
circumstances and pain of another human being.
One of the greatest lessons from Dr. King that should be passed on to
students
is that the struggle for justice is not pitted against people; rather, it’s
against injustice itself. Instead of having students think that they need
to do
the right thing by fighting against a person–the “enemy”–the student must
understand that the real enemy is injustice, not the person committing it.
In light of that, Tatiossian shared a quote from King’s “Walk for Freedom”:
“Love must be at the forefront of our movement if it is to be a successful
movement. And when we speak of love, we must speak of understanding good will
toward all men. We speak of a creative, a redemptive sort of love, so that as
we look at the problem, we see that the real tension is not between the Negro
citizens and the white citizens of Montgomery, but is a conflict between
justice and injustice, between the forces of light and the forces of darkness,
and if there is a victory–and there will be a victory–the victory will
not be
merely for the Negro citizens and a defeat for the white citizens, but it will
be a victory for justice and a defeat of injustice. It will be a victory for
goodness in its long struggle with the forces of evil.”
Dr. Jendian is an Assistant Professor of Sociology and Director of the
American Humanics Nonprofit Administration Program at California State
University, Fresno. He received his Baccalaureate degree from CSU, Fresno in
Sociology with minor degrees in Psychology and Armenian Studies, and his
Master’s and Doctoral degrees from University of Southern California. Dr.
Jendian teaches courses on race and ethnicity, terrorism and genocide, and
contemporary social issues at California State University, Fresno.
Hasmig Tatiossian is the Southern California Regional Assistant
Coordinator of
The Genocide Education Project, a nonprofit organization whose mission it
is to
assist educators in teaching about human rights and genocide, particularly the
Armenian Genocide, by developing and distributing instructional materials,
providing access to teaching resources and organizing educational workshops
(see ). Tatiossian received her Baccalaureate degree from
UC Berkeley in International Relations with an Emphasis on Genocide and Human
Rights Violations.

11) `From Need to Greed:’ New film documents illegal logging and deforestation
in Armenia

A 20-minute film about illegal logging and deforestation in Armenia, titled
`From Need to Greed,’ was released this week by Vem Media Arts in Yerevan. The
fourth in a series of environmental films, the documentary was funded by
Armenia Tree Project, Armenian Forests NGO, and the World Wildlife Fund
Caucasus Office.
In the opening of the film, Armenian children declare the importance of
forests in supporting animals and birds, absorbing carbon dioxide and
generating oxygen, absorbing dust from the air, and preventing landslides.
`The
number of forests in Armenia is very few. We need to protect the existing
forests and plant new trees,’ states one child.
Produced by Manuk Hergnyan of Vem and written by Inga Zarafyan, the
documentary explains that forests provide food, shelter, clothing, and fuel
for
people, but over time humans have started to destroy this vital lifeline.
According to historical data, forests covered 20 percent of Armenia at the
turn
of the 20th century, but by the early 1990s this area was reduced to 11
percent
and is now below 10 percent.
Massive logging started in 1992 as a result of the energy crisis in the
country. Nearly half of the forests in the Vanadzor forest were destroyed,
with
much of the tree loss occurring on steep slopes and resulting in devastating
landslides. Reforestation projects were carried out in the Lake Sevan basin in
the 1950s to prevent erosion, but many of those forests were destroyed or
damaged during the severe winters of the 1990s.
Although the crisis of energy shortages has diminished, tree cutting has
continued and taken on new forms, notes the film. Since wood is treated as an
inexpensive source of fuel, 70 percent of the logged wood is still used as
firewood. The actual volume of logging was estimated in 2003 by World Bank
experts to be one million cubic meters, most of which is illegal logging since
the annual number of trees subject to felling does not exceed 70,000 thousand
cubic meters.
Aside from the segments of the population that rely on forests for their
survival, much of the tree cutting is widely believed to be done by oligarchs
who are illegally exporting wood from Armenia. The State Environmental
Inspectorate, however, denies the role of oligarchs in this sector.
`I myself haven’t come across any oligarch involved in forest consumption,’
states one government official from that office. `There are organizations that
are implementing forest consumption in due manner, signing a contract with
Hayantar (Forestry Department). People have won a certain land area by tender,
and have taken the wood out of there, one part as construction timber, the
remaining as firewood.’
`The situation is different than it was in the early 1990s with the energy
crisis,’ notes Armenian Forests NGO President Jeffrey Tufenkian. `There is
still need-based cutting for people who can’t afford fuel other than wood, but
it has moved from need to greed. The greed of a few who are taking truckloads
of wood out of the forest and keeping local villagers from entering the
forest.’
One of Hayantar’s chief foresters also points out some questionable
practices.
They include the abuse of logging licenses by using them several times and
questionable methods used to gain access to valuable walnut wood that is
exported to Europe for use in luxury automobiles. In fact, the film documents
the export of oak, walnut, ash, and hornbeam wood to countries including
France, Italy, Spain, United Arab Emirates, Germany, Iran, and even Turkey.
Experts agree that even if logging is halted, the forests in Armenia will not
be able to be restored naturally. It would be possible to save them only if
there is a national forest recovery program and strict controls in place, but
for now, the monitoring conducted by governmental structures is ineffective.
`How else can we explain the fact that in 2005, the State Environmental
Inspectorate recorded illegal logging of only 9,018 trees with 8,130 cubic
meters in volume, or 15-20 times less than in reality?’ asks the narrator.
According to data from the National Program Against Desertification, 80
percent of Armenia’s territory has already undergone desertification. If this
continues unchecked, soil humidity will decrease, pastures will shrink, cattle
head will drop, and production of fruits and vegetables will go down. `Thus,
Armenia will turn to a desertnot to the classical ecosystembut into a desert
created by man himself, and it will become an environment not fit for life
anymore,’ concludes the narrator.
Near the end of the film, representatives of Armenian Forests NGO and Armenia
Tree Project offer their views on steps that need to be taken to eliminate
illegal logging and allow Armenia’s forests to regenerate. `First, public
awareness needs to be raised, and environmental education is a useful way to
arouse public opinion,’ states ATP Foundation President Susan Klein. `In
addition, reforestation is an important goal for today. We in this generation
must preserve this for future generations.’
The 20-minute documentary film `From Need to Greed’ is being made available
for personal and public viewing in DVD format. To acquire a copy of the
film in
the diaspora with English subtitles, contact Armenia Tree Project via email at
[email protected]

12) The `Buzz’ about Bezzerides: Film about Armenian-Greek screenwriter
featured at Southeast European Film Festival

This year, the Southeast European Film Festival has chosen as its closing
night
film `Buzz,’ a film about a legendary Hollywood scriptwriter of Armenian-Greek
descent. The closing night event, during which the film about Albert Isaac
`Buzz’ Bezzerides will be screened, will take place at 7:30 PM on Wednesday,
May 24 at the Fine Arts Theatre in Beverly Hills.
`Buzz’ is a memorable, absorbing, and illuminating profile of the legendary
Hollywood scriptwriter (and acclaimed novelist) Bezzerides, whose most notable
credits include Robert Aldrich’s `Kiss Me Deadly’ (1955), Jules Dassin’s
`Thieves’ Highway’ (1942), and Raoul Walsh’s `They Drive By Night’ (1940).
Bezzerides is known as `The King of Noir’–in fact, François Truffaut, an
authority on film noir, considered the Bezzerides-scripted `Juke Girl’ (1942)
to be America’s first real film noir.
`Buzz’ traces Bezzerides’ arrival in the US and pre-Hollywood existence. Born
in 1908 in the Black Sea city of Samsun in the Ottoman Empire, Bezzerides fled
to the US with his family on the eve of the Genocide. His Armenian mother and
Greek father settled in Fresno, California where Bezzerides grew up in the
Armenian community. The fruit truckers of Fresno and the community in which he
grew up provided him with much of the material for his novels and
screenplays.
As a screenwriter, Bezzerides had a fascinating career. “Graylisted” during
the McCarthy era, he was one of many talents to suffer from the
industrial-style practices of Hollywood at the time, where writers were
regarded as being at the bottom of the food chain and frequently denied screen
credits.
Bezzerides himself is now well into his tenth decade, but as evidenced by
director Spiro N. Taraviras’s loving tribute he has not lost his famous zip
and
joie de vivre.
Interviewed for the film between 1999 and 2002, Bezzerides proves enormously
engaging company as he takes an idiosyncratic tour down memory lane. Anecdotes
abound, featuring the likes of William Faulkner (with whom Bezzerides had a
particularly strong, mutually-beneficial relationship), Marilyn Monroe, Ronald
Reagan, Humphrey Bogart, Robert Mitchum, and many more.
The film has won several awards including the Greek Film Critics Association
Award for Best Film of the Year (2005) and the Greek State Film Award for Best
Feature Documentary Film awarded by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs (2005).
For more information about the festival or to purchase tickets to see the
film, call (800) 838-3006 or visit
<;www.seefilm la.org.

Screening info:
Wednesday, May 24
Fine Arts Theatre, Beverly Hills
8556 Wilshire Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA 90211

13) The Conflict in Darfur

By Representative Joe Schwartz, MD

Those with Armenian, Jewish, and Cambodian heritage, among others, understand
all too well what happens when good people remain silent and allow atrocities
to continue unabated. On April 30, 2006, they were among the thousands who
attended a rally in Washington DC for those affected by the strife and unrest
in Darfur. Although many at the rally had divergent political and economic
views, tragic situations have a unique way of compelling many people to speak
with one voice.
The Darfur conflict began in February 2003, when rebels launched attacks
seeking greater political autonomy. In response, Sudan’s Islamic government
dispatched troops and pro-government militias known as the Janjaweed to quell
the uprising. The militias embarked on a campaign of terror, killing, and
raping civilians mostly from ethnic groups.
On occasion, the conflict in Darfur has been labeled as a fight between Arabs
and black Africans. Yet, the truth is more complicated in that African and
Arab
identities are often indistinguishable in Sudan. In fact, the true division in
Darfur is between ethnic groups, divided between herders and farmers. The
dialect of its members and whether they tend to the soil or herd livestock is
the true determinant of whether an individual is identified as `African’ or
`Arab.’
Despite any real ability to distinguish between bloodlines, this 3-year-old
conflict is responsible for the deaths of at least 200,000 people and for
causing more than 2.5 million to flee their homes and seek shelter in refugee
camps inside Darfur or to neighboring Chad. In the last month alone, more than
60,000 people have been forced to evacuate.
While the United States has been a leader, providing over $1.3 billion a year
in humanitarian assistance, we must continue to actively express our
disapproval and outrage at those who condone the genocidal actions of the
Janjaweed and their associates. For this reason, I supported HR 3127, `The
Darfur Peace and Accountability Act,’ approved 416-3 on April 5, 2006 in the
House of Representatives.
HR 3127 directs the President to deny visas for entry into the US of any
person responsible for acts of genocide or crimes against humanity in Sudan.
This bill authorizes the President to reinforce the deployment and operations
of the African Union (AU) peacekeeping mission in Darfur, and directs the
President to instruct our US Ambassador to NATO to lobby for a NATO
peacekeeping force in Darfur. In addition, the bill encourages the President
to consider pushing for an expansion of the mandate of the UN peacekeeping
mission already in Sudan supporting the north-south peace agreement.
Given the authorization provided by HR 3127, I also voted in favor of the
2006
Defense Supplemental bill that specifically included $303 million for the
peacekeeping mission in Darfur. This money will be used to sustain and expand
the 7,700-member AU mission, supported by US and NATO logistics, surveillance,
and airlift.
Finally, I signed a letter to the Secretary of State along with 119 other
members of Congress urging her to appoint a special envoy to Sudan. As the
letter states, I am concerned that there is not a single person whose sole
responsibility is to monitor the situation in Darfur and Southern Sudan and
answer directly to the Secretary of State. I believe the appointment of a
special envoy with a clear mandate, who has the ear of the Secretary of State,
will communicate to the Sudanese government and the world community the
seriousness of our government’s intent to see the suffering in Darfur ended.
While the pressure being placed on the government of Sudan and the three
rebel
factions may yet yield a peaceful result in Darfur, it will not come easily.
Mediators from the AU have already had to extend the deadline for agreement on
a peace settlement in order to bridge the gap on the issues of reintegration
and disarmament, as well as on wealth and power sharing.
There is no doubt that there are going to be some extraordinarily difficult
challenges, but it is not too late for appropriate and constant pressure to
convince the Sudanese government to do the right thing, to cease the mindless
and brutal genocide in Darfur, and to bring some order and tranquility back to
that part of Africa.
To its credit, the administration has dispatched Deputy Secretary of State
Robert Zoellick to Abuja, Nigeria, where negotiations are being held to
encourage a successful end to the horrific situation in Darfur. Success in
this effort is a must.

Representative Joe Schwarz is a Congressman representing Michigan’s 7th
District.

14) Critics’ Forum: Visual Arts

Joanne Julian: Concerning the Spiritual in Art

By Adriana Tchalian

The title of my article, `Concerning the Spiritual in Art,’ comes from a book
written by twentieth-century Modernist Wassily Kandinsky on the subject of art
and spirituality (1910). He, along with others such as Piet Mondrian, was
strongly influenced by religious and spiritual subjects of his times, and as a
result created art that reflected this awareness. Compared to the charismatic,
angst-ridden artists of today, these early twentieth-century Modernists were
sage and poet in one, creating works that reflected their inner life rather
than generating `art for art’s sake’ or imbuing their work with social or
political purpose.
In fact, ever since Paleolithic man began sketching crude renderings of
animals on the ceilings of the Lascaux caves (France, 13,000 BC), art has
become an expression or a reflection of one’s creedfor these renderings were
not meant for decorative or social purposes but rather as some type of
ritualistic magic. Assuming that one agrees that art has a purposewhether
cultural, political, or otherwiseand is not merely `art for art’s sake,’ empty
of meaning or purpose, it is clear that the most significant role of art has
been the expression of one’s religious or spiritual creed. The centrality of
the spiritual in art is undeniable, be it in the art of India or the art of
the
Italian Renaissance, the interior of an ancient cave or the ceiling of the
Sistine Chapel, or to offer a more contemporary example, the open-air ceiling
of James Turrell’s Roden Crater, an extinct crater that has been excavated to
function as an open-air observatory just outside of Flagstaff, Arizona.
And although some contemporary western artists do not offer much by way of
the
spiritual in art, even they are keenly aware of its absence. As art critic and
historian Suzi Gablik writes, `the real crisis of Modernism, as many people
have claimed, is the pervasive spiritual crisis of Western civilization: the
absence of a system of beliefs that justifies allegiance to any entity beyond
the self.’ Gablik goes on to say that even twentieth-century Abstract
Expressionists were closet spiritualists, quietly revering the early
Modernists’ efforts to distill their spiritual explorations into fine art.
Having made this argument about art and spirituality, then, how do we
apply it
to contemporary Armenian art? Enter the likes of Joanne Julian, a Los
Angeles-based Armenian artist who is a virtual unknown in the Armenian
diasporan community, yet one whose work is well-recognized amongst mainstream
art circles.
There is nothing intrinsically Armenian about Julian’s graphite and ink
drawings. The critic Robert McDonald describes her work as possessing `the
discipline and spirit of Taoist painting.’ It is this proclivity towards
things
spiritual that is the driving essence behind her work. Having traveled
throughout Asia, Julian has cultivated an extensive Asian visual vocabulary,
which is reflected in the simplicity and beauty of her drawingsimmense
brushstrokes, reminiscent of Asian calligraphy, are set against the glistening
sheen of the graphite, forming an exquisite contrast of color, texture, and
shape.
In February of this year, Julian, along with William Amundson and Robin Dare,
participated in an exhibitionDrawn to Scaleat the Spokane Falls Community
College Art Gallery in Washington. The exhibit was co-curated by Louise Lewis,
gallery director and professor of art history at California State University,
Northridge.
According to Lewis, `The juxtaposition of a delicately drawn silver braid
entwined within a vibrant circle of crimson or gold suggests an unusually
exuberant Zen exercise, ironically made more intimate by the all-enveloping
scale. In Horizontal Braid, the intricately drawn tress stretches within the
bottom portion of nearly 3′ high gold and circle, provocatively inviting the
viewer to contemplate the secrets within the circle.’
The presence of someone of Julian’s talent in both the Armenian diasporan and
American contexts suggests that the yearning for the spiritual is alive and
well, even among the most avant-garde artists in our communities. In an
earlier
article, I had posed the question of whether or not there was an Asian
aesthetic in Armenian visual art. It appears as if Joanne Julian’s work more
than answers that call, while transcending the limits of even that description
in the process.

Adriana Tchalian holds a Masters degree in Art History and has managed
several
art galleries in Los Angeles. You can reach her or any of the other
contributors to Critics’ Forum at [email protected] This and all
other
articles published in this series are available online at

To sign up for a weekly electronic version of new articles, go to
Critics’ Forum is a group created to discuss issues
relating to Armenian art and culture in the diaspora.

15) Irritants III

By Garen Yegparian

OK, this week, let’s just have some fun. It’s been a year and a half since I
went on a whining spree and there are weighty issues coming next week.
As I quoted before, Jean Paul Sartre said, `Hell is other people,’ and boy
was/is he right!
You go to the grocery market, and they’ve got `cluster tomatoes.’ They look
pretty good. They’re actually RED, not orange-red. They even smell like
tomatoes instead of some sterile gauze. But of course, some jerk is picking
off
the `best’ ones and avoiding paying for the `massive’ excess weight of the
stems. You start imagining a shotgun blast turning his head tomato colored…
Some drunken fool’s stomach decides it can’t take any more, and you’re
treated
to the stench and scenery in your building’s elevator. Hey, no need to clean
up, it’s OK. Or, you watch as some other pathetic human barfs all over the
floor at Versailles (the palace), yummy…
Some rocket-scientist of an Armenian starts `enlightening’ those around
him/her about perceived defects found among our kind, starting with `You know
what I can’t stand about Armenians…?’ Then of course you hear about an
admittedly irritating, though generically human, behavior that is found
equally
among any grouping from Angles-Saxons-Jutes to Russians to
environmentalists to
right-wing-whackos. The only reason such pontificators believe their own
spoutings is that they live such insular lives that the only significant
contact they have is with their own group.
Here it is. A good 30 years since major migrations of Armenians to the US
commenced, and the notion, `You’re not Armenian if you don’t speak Armenian’
persists. Fortunately, it is now subtler, indicating a weakening of the
mythology, and isn’t used to demean some of our compatriots. Of course this
makes it more insidious. What’s worse, some of the yoyos who think this way
would sooner eat a burger than kebab, can’t tell a shoorch-bar from a highland
reel, don’t set foot in an Armenian church but for weddings, baptisms, and
funerals (`What’s a sharagan?’ they wonder, `A predatory Armenian fish?’),
wouldn’t recognize traditional garb if it squeezed them like a boa, and whose
idea of maintaining Armenian customs is smoking cigarettes with a queer
tilt of
the head.
Humans exist in this day and age and society who have not yet grasped the
merits of bathing. Conversely, we have the water wasting weirdoes who think
nothing of showering three or more times a day. But, the real kicker is users
of perfumes and colognes. These people think that anointing themselves with
extracts of animals’ organs soaked in alcohol is pleasing to others’ olfactory
receptors. Frequently, `the more the merrier’ seems to be these folks’
approach
to using these pungent liquids. Many also seem to think that slathering these
expensive concoctions masks body odor rather than yielding a noxious hybrid.
There you are, minding your own business, riding the bus on the way to work.
Next thing you know, you think you’ve got tinnitus. Then you realize that
annoying pinging sound is just the overflow noise coming from some idiot’s
headset. You wonder how he/she tolerates such loud noise pumped directly into
the ear. But, that’s not your business. So you proceed to politely request
they
turn it down. After the initial uncomprehending stare, if you’re lucky, the
volume will get reduced, sometimes even attended by an apology. More often,
you’ll get asked if you can hear it, with a grudging reduction following.
Other
times you’ll get ignored, cursed, get a volume increase, and once even a
threatening warning that you should watch your back. All this when radio
playing is forbidden on public transit.
What about public toilets? There’s always some vermin who’re afraid to touch
the lever and actually flush the toilet or urinal. So we’ve found a remedy!
Yay! But wait, the Law of Unintended Consequences (LUC) has kicked in. The
automatic flushers, activated whenever the field of the sensor is disturbed,
cause thousands of gallons of wasted water. Walking past a urinal?
Flushhhhhhhhhhhh. Stand up at the toilet? Flushhhhhhhhhhhh. But wait, now
you’ve got all that paper in the bowl and you’re waving you’re hands madly in
front of the sensor to get another flush. Of course, it doesn’t cooperate. And
that’s after you got off one of those seats with the tubular plastic cover
(Chicago’s Ohare Airport has them). But there’s LUC again. Sure the seat’s
protected, as are successive users except… the mechanism that drives the
plastic sticks way up from the seat and if you’re even slightly larger than
what some designer imagined, your rump is pushing right up against that
(unprotected) gizmo. Sanitary and swell isn’t it?
If you’re not yet convinced that automation is ill-suited to toilets, how
about this: automated taps. Great! Put your hand under it, water runs… well
sometimes. Eventually it comes, but beware, move your hands millimeter in the
wrong direction and you’re dry again. As if that’s not frustrating enough, you
don’t get to choose the temperature of the water. It’s preset. How
difficult is
it to have it be adjustable? What if you don’t enjoy having your hands
scalded,
or just want to splash your face with some cool water after a long flight?
Carpool (HOV) lanes? Great idea, right? Except morons get in them who drive
under the speed limit so that regular lanes, congested as they are, move
faster
than you do as you formulate plans for mounting a rocket propelled grenade
launcher on your hood for the next time this occurs. Not bad enough?
California
now allows single occupant hybrids in these lanes, uhhhh, what part of `high
occupancy vehicle’ connotes the number one?
And now, for the hoity-toity art lovers among us, a perspective on the Getty
Art Museum. I’ve had the misfortune of being dragged there thrice. The first
time was early in its life when finding parking was a bigger challenge than on
Broadway in New York’s theatre district on a Friday night. The synagogue
across
the street had some event, and generally disallows museum parking anyway. I
ended up three miles away, near the UCLA campus, looking for parking, then a
shuttle bus that no one seemed to know about. By the time I got to the museum,
I had lost what little interest I had in being there. Then came the
`agh-beeber’ of my friends bickering over what time we would leave and docents
describing manuscript illumination who’d never heard of the (significant)
Armenian contribution the genre. The second Getty trip was with a date who
wanted to attend a poetry reading/discussion, oooh, goody, my favorite.
Finally, I got dragged to a Gustave Courbet exhibition last weekend. Turns out
old Gustave liked to paint nature, among other things, but the pictures look
blurry–maybe it’s because of the `incredible brush strokes’ described by my
tormentor. I did notice one fun thing: Courbet, a fat guy, is described in the
museum’s literature as `robust.’ It reminded me of Armenia, where fat folk are
referred to as `aroghch’–`healthy,’ an interesting coincidence of euphemistic
usage.

16) SKEPTIK TAKES ON GOLDBERG

By SKEPTIK SINIKIAN

In any given week, I receive a dozen or so emails from around the world from
various readers. I try to respond to as many as I can but sometimes it
will be
one of those weeks where I don’t get to respond as quickly as I want or to
everyone who wrote to me. In fact, I owe some folks from Bulgaria and Hungary
apologies for my delays in getting back to them. This was just one of those
weeks and on top of everything else, I was forwarded more e-vites (electronic
invitations) to different parties or fundraisers than Paris Hilton gets in a
month. That’s the great thing about being Armenian–you never have to worry
about having an empty social calendar. For instance, I received an email the
other day from an organization that is raising money for something called the
Armenian Cosmic Ray Division (CRD).
Now the name Armenian Cosmic Ray Division may sound more like the name of a
boy band from Armenia who covers 80s pop hits from groups like Depeche Mode
and
the Pet Shop Boys than a serious research group. But the CRD is actually a
world class scientific organization in Armenia that has made an international
impact in the area of cosmic and space weather observation. I don’t know what
this all means because during Earth Science class in the 8th grade, I was more
interested in finding out if Tammy Portafino’s hair smelled like strawberries
and cream than I was interested in learning about sun-spots and space
weather.
But lo and behold, Armenia’s science community is making an impact in
international research and all thanks to this little research facility nestled
atop Mount Aragats in Armenia. And their work is important to you as well
because many everyday services such as cell phones, weather reports, TV
programs, and even safe airline flights and electricity depend on accurate and
reliable space weather forecasting. See, I bet you didn’t know that. Next
time you’re chatting it up at Starbucks on your Nokia Razor phone trying to
look important for the ladies while talking to your grandmother, remember that
your cell phone service relies on a group of Armenian scientists who spend
morning eating `khash’* and evenings studying the stars. (*Khash is Armenian
menudo–or menudo is Mexican khash depending on your perspective) Anyway, you
can learn more about the CRD by visiting
Another reader forwarded me an excerpt from an interview with documentary
filmmaker Andrew Goldberg and the Kurdish Media in New York, which was
published online on May 14, 2006 and can be found at
Goldberg was the guy who made the documentary `The Armenian Genocide’ that PBS
wanted to show followed by a panel discussion/debate with denier propagandists
pushing the Turkish agenda and Armenian-American authors and scholars. The
idea of having a legitimate documentary on the Genocide followed by folks
`debating’ a non-debatable issue which remains a sensitive topic because of
Turkish proactive denial is reminiscent of a twisted sideshow from a three
ring
circus. It was such a big deal that PBS received tens of thousands of emails
from Armenian Americans and from Turks around the country and the globe. The
Armenians were writing to not have the panel aired after the documentary. The
Turks were writing to have the documentary pulled entirely.
When I read the question in the Kurdish Media interview and Goldberg’s
response, I felt the need to put in my two cents’ worth. Particularly since I
actually attended his screening in LA, made a pretty decent contribution
for my
own meager means and also bought one of the overpriced DVDs (it was selling
for
30 bucks but it was for a good cause, right?) Anyway, here’s the question and
Goldberg’s answer:

KurdishMedia: `Do you have any future plans to further explore the Armenian
genocide or other historical events in the region?’

Goldberg: `No. This was a very upsetting experience for me. Seeing PBS get so
incredibly assaulted by the whole world–justified or not–was very upsetting
to watch. Seeing Congressmen try to stop PBS from showing either the film or
the panel, regardless of the value of either, reminded me of Turkey where
government controls the media. Terrifying. For the record, I never want to
live
in a country where the government tells the press what to do. The people can
always speak out instead. Our government cannot even build a sidewalk and yet
we are [to] take seriously their nonsensical efforts at censorship? Again, no
matter how offensive something is–the government cannot be the ones to
tell us
what we can and cannot say. It must only be the people and the viewers.
Going on, being attacked, often with fabrications, by nationalists in the
Armenian press in California was very upsetting and uncalled for. In my
opinion, it is press like this that only harms efforts at recognition. It
divides rather than unites and prevents any consistent voice to speak for the
issues.
Furthermore, raising money was nearly impossible. I was told by one of our
funders that a man named Walter Karabian actually suggested that supporting
our
efforts was a mistake! But we were able to finish the film and we are very,
very proud of what we achieved for journalism and for human rights.
As for the Armenian organizations such as ANCA (Armenian National Committee)
and the Armenian Assembly? We tried to work with them many times but we found
them to be entirely non-responsive. The AGBU [Armenian General Benevolent
Union] on the other hand was amazing, outstanding, and incredible. They were
truly wonderful to work with and I wish I had such talented and generous
people
to work with on all our projects.’

Mark Twain, one of the sharpest American satirists of all time once said that
`It is better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and
remove all doubt.’ If Goldberg read Twain, then he’d have saved him the
embarrassment that I’m about to spank him with. First of all, in the previous
part of his interview (which I didn’t print due to space limitations but you
can read online), Goldberg dishes out a critique that there is not enough
research being done by non Armenians on the Genocide. Well DUH!! But there’s
still work being done by non-Armenians scholars such as Donald Miller and
Israel Charney to name a few. But he’s right. More can be done. Yet in the
same breath he mentions that his film was funded exclusively by Armenians.
What I’d like to ask Mr. Goldberg is why he didn’t receive any funding from
any other sources? Why did the Armenian community have to foot the bill one
more time? Was it because we’re so generous and hospitable? Well, that can’t
be the case at all, because as Mr. Goldberg said `As for the Armenian
organizations such as ANCA (Armenian National Committee) and the Armenian
Assembly? We tried to work with them many times but we found them to be
entirely non-responsive.’ This was the statement that caught my eye.
First of
all, let me just say that I do not know of the Assembly’s activities, nor do I
particularly care. But I do have first hand sources that after reading the
Goldberg interview, informed me that the ANCA worked as hard as they could to
help him with this screenings in Washington, DC. Yet at the same time, they
urged community members and activists to urge PBS to not air the panel
following the documentary. They did all this while working on the dozens of
other issues they usually work on–Artsakh, aid to Armenia, State Department
issues in the Caucasus, etc.
I don’t know what Goldberg expected from the ANCA? It’s not like his
documentary was earth-shattering or presented anything new that we hadn’t seen
before. Every week the ANCA is approached by folks who are working on
different projects that require some assistance, and how does a group that’s
extremely limited in resources decide who and what to help and how much? I
don’t envy them at all. Not only that, but Goldberg’s documentaries remind me
of the yellow jacket books that you see at Borders with titles like `Poker for
Dummies.’ Goldberg’s previous works and films on Armenians (although
well-shot
and edited) usually neglect key elements that do not do justice to the subject
matter. I never commented on this before because it was never an issue before
and because I didn’t know that Goldberg was involved in these previous
movies.
But here’s a BIG example from his past movie about Armenians titled
`Armenians:
A Story of Survival,’ which aired on PBS a few years ago. The movie
chronicled the early history of Armenians through Christianity and eventually
to modern day Armenia and the struggles in Artsakh. But here’s what pissed me
off about the movie–it talked about the difficulties Armenia has
developing as
a democracy and how the Soviet system has embedded a lot of corruption. This
was said/implied while showing an image of your classic Yerevan police officer
with a huge pot belly waving a baton. Soon after this image, the movie ends.
I had issues with this scene and I’ll tell you why…
Now here’s my question to you and my critique of Goldberg. If you’re
making a
documentary about Armenians and survival, what do you think has been the most
critical event of the last twenty years that has affected Armenia as a
nation?
What image of the last twenty years conveys survival more than the war in
Artsakh? If you said the 1988 earthquake in Armenia–which killed over 25,000
people and left over half a million people homeless in a country of a
population of roughly 3 million–then you should be making documentaries
instead of Goldberg. And right after this earthquake, our neighbors–Turkey
and Azerbaijan–in violation of US laws, cut off the railway lines and
prevented Armenia from receiving any humanitarian aid (that’s right…
HUMANITARIAN) and still do so today. This led to one of the largest
humanitarian aid airlifts in the history of the world, making the Berlin
Airlift seem like a Boy Scout Canned Food Drive. And Armenia has been
surviving like this since then. SINCE 1989!! But did Goldberg cover this
critical, crucial, indispensable portion of Armenia’s recent history which
still affects its economic development and even drives a few desperate people
to desperate measures??? ABSOLUTELY NOT! Instead, he showed a fat Yerevan
cop
with a fat belly! That’s just poor filmmaking and there are no excuses for
that.
When I met Goldberg at his film’s premier in Hollywood, I congratulated
him on
a job well done. I hadn’t made the connection between the two films he’d
worked on at the time because I usually don’t care much about stuff like this.
I’m usually only pissed off for about three hours and then I forget about it.
But reading Goldberg’s statement blasting Armenian community organizations in
Washington DC and then doing some research on my own just brought back the
frustration. And it made me realize that sometimes, if you want something
done
right, I guess you just have to do it yourself. So, I’m going to go buy a
video
camera today. I’ll see you next week.

Skeptik Sinikian asks Mr. Goldberg to respond to his article by writing to
[email protected] He promises to publish Goldberg’s entire letter
response, unedited, on his blog at

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