Jerusalem: Armenians urge Jews to take moral high ground

The Jerusalem Post
Aug 23, 2007 0:56
Armenians urge Jews to take moral high ground

The State of Israel and Jewish organizations around the world should
take the moral high ground and recognize the World War I-era killing
of Armenians by Turks as genocide regardless of the political
ramifications with Turkey, Armenian residents of Jerusalem said


The Armenian Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Torkom Manoogian, lays a
wreath in the city last year, marking the anniversary of the mass
killing of Armenians in Turkey.

"Israel understands the issue better than anyone else… [but] her
judgment is impaired by the politicizing of the issue," said Father
Samuel Aghoyan, 66, a priest at the Armenian Patriarchate in the Old
City of Jerusalem and a superior at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

He noted that politics alone has prevented Israel from recognizing the
killing as a genocide.

"When you politicize the issue, you kill the spirit upon which both
the US and Israel were founded," Aghoyan said.

"If you don’t want to recognize it openly at least say that it
happened," he added.

His remarks come one day after the New York-based Anti Defamation
League reversed itself and called a World War I-era massacre of
Armenians a genocide after previously firing an organization official
who said the same thing.

The director of the Armenian school and library in the Armenian
Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem said that Armenians were pleased
over the about-face taken by the ADL.

"The Jewish lobby should make their minds up as representatives of the
Jewish people – as people who suffered the Holocaust – to take a more
moral stand in fully and unconditionally recognizing the killing of
the Armenians as a genocide, regardless of politics," Father Norayr
Kazazian, 30, said.

He added that Israel and the Jewish world should not be overly fearful
of the repercussions such a move could have on the Jewish community
living in Turkey, noting that hundreds of thousands of Armenians are
also living in Turkey, and citing Turkey’s good relations with both
France and Belgium even though both countries have defined the
killings as a massacre.

Historians estimate that as many as 1.5 million Armenian Christians
were killed by Muslim Ottoman Turks between 1915 and 1923, an event
widely viewed by scholars as the first genocide of the 20th century.

Turkey, however, denies the deaths constituted genocide, saying that
the toll has been grossly inflated and that those killed were victims
of civil war and unrest.

Armenian residents of the small Armenian Quarter in the Old City said
Wednesday that they sensed an unquestionable difference between the
views of Jewish people, who recognized the mass killing as genocides,
and the political leadership who were concerned with the political
ramifications of such a move with Israel’s warm relationship with

"I know the Jewish people are with us and recognize the killing as a
genocide but it is political interests which prevent the Knesset and
Jewish groups from doing so," said Hagop Antressain, 63, an Old City
shopkeeper who expressed mixed feelings about the ADL reversal.

The son of a survivor of the massacre, Antressain said that the Jewish
and Armenian people shared a common tragedy.

He noted that when he watches Holocaust movies on Holocaust
Remembrance Days he sees not Jewish children but Armenian children.

"It is my father’s eyes when he was seven-years-old," Antressain said.

He opined that passage of a pending US Congressional resolution, which
would term the killings a genocide, was "only a matter of time,"
adding that the legislation was brought about as a result of pressure
by Armenian and Jewish intellectuals, and not by American Jewish

Antressain lambasted recent remarks by the Executive Director of the
American Jewish Committee David Harris that Armenian and Turkish
historians should sit down together and discuss the genocide.

"Should we ask Jewish and Nazi historians to discuss the Holocaust?"
he asked.

As a native of Jerusalem, Antressain said that it was important for
him that Israel would not be the last country to recognize the killing
as genocide.

"I know the feelings of the Jewish people and I do not want the Jewish
State to be the last to recognize the genocide," he said.

The Armenian residents of Jerusalem opined that eventually all
countries would come to recognize the killing as a genocide.

"Sooner or later the right time will come," Aghoyan concluded.