Dr. Israel Charny Condemns Denial of Armenian Genocide in British Parliament

In an earlier column I wrote about the special conference held at the British Parliament on May 7, organized by the British-Armenian All-Party Parliamentary Group. Dr. Israel Charny and I were invited as guest speakers. I spoke about “The Armenian Genocide and Quest for Justice.” Dr. Charny could not attend due to illness, however, his prepared remarks were read by Peter Barker, a former broadcaster of BBC Radio.

Dr. Charny is an internationally-known authority on the Holocaust and the Armenian Genocide. He is the Executive Director of the Jerusalem-based Institute on the Holocaust and Genocide, past President of International Association of Genocide Scholars, Editor-in-Chief of Encyclopedia of Genocide, and author of several scholarly books. Dr. Charny’s lengthy paper was titled: “Confronting denials of the Armenian Genocide is not only honoring history, but a crucial policy position for confronting threats in our contemporary world.”

In his remarks presented at the British Parliament, Dr. Charny described the conference on the Armenian Genocide he attended two years ago in Istanbul. He found “the prevailing discourse stilted, blocked and rigid with denials.” The overwhelming majority of the statements were “one-sided rehashes of Turkish denial propaganda; a basic intellectual failure since they did not even mention or refer to or in any way acknowledge any of the voluminous documentation and evidences of the Armenian Genocide that are now part of world culture; and a great number were emotional diatribes rather than ‘scientific’ or properly scholarly contributions.”

In his paper, Charny singled out the presentation at the Istanbul conference of Prof. Yair Auron, his colleague from Israel, who spoke “in a strong resonant voice that there was no question but that the Armenians had suffered genocide at the hands of the Turks.”

In his London remarks, Dr. Charny’s also discussed the “failure of the State of Israel, but not of Israelis, to recognize the Armenian Genocide,” expressing his “deep regret and shame” that Israel (where he lives) and the United States (where he was born), “have failed seriously in their moral responsibility towards the Armenian people.” He felt “particularly wounded as well as angry at such failures by my Jewish people when we too have known the worst horrors of being victims of a major genocide, and therefore we should be all the more at your side as deeply committed allies in all aspects of preserving and honoring the record of the Armenian Genocide.”

Dr. Charny announced “the happy news [that] the battle for recognition and genuine respect for the memory of the Armenian Genocide [was won] on the level of everyday Israeli culture.” In great detail, he explained that “throughout the year there are major statements in our culture about the Armenian Genocide, including many full-length feature stories and interviews in all of our major newspapers and on our television. On April 24, there is powerful coverage, for example, this year on Roim Olam or Seeing the World, a major TV news magazine; there is an annual seminar at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem at which this year the keynote speaker was Prof. James Russell of Harvard University, and it was my honor to be the keynoter the year before together with an influential member of the Knesset who was totally knowledgeable about the Genocide and totally clear about Israel’s error in not recognizing it; and there is of course an annual commemoration by the Armenian Community—it was there that the two ministers in the past announced their recognition of the Armenian genocide. During a too-brief period, we also had two ministers of the Israeli government who officially recognized the Genocide, and although the governments in question promptly disavowed these ministers’ statements as private and not speaking for the country, the records of those ministers honoring the Armenian Genocide on behalf of the State of Israel cannot be erased. I would say that both the everyday Israeli man on the street and the professional scholars of the Holocaust, such as Prof. Yehuda Bauer perhaps the ranking scholar of the Holocaust at Yad Vashem, are basically sympathetic and committed to paying homage to the Armenian Genocide. A few years ago four of us, including one of the above former ministers, Yossi Sarid, Prof. Bauer, Prof. Yair Auron, an indefatigable scholar of the Armenian Genocide and of Israel’s denials of same, and myself traveled together to Yerevan to lay a wreath at the Armenian Genocide Memorial.”

As he has done many times in the past, Dr. Charny expressed regret that “sadly and shamefully the pull of practical government politics still leads to official Israel cooperating with Turkey in gross denials of the Armenian Genocide. No less than the arch fighter for peace in the Israel-Palestinian conflict, Shimon Peres, now President of Israel, then serving as Israel’s Foreign Minister, twice went notably out of his way to insult the history and memory of the Armenian Genocide.”

In a scathing letter, Dr. Charny told Peres in 2001: “You have gone beyond a moral boundary that no Jew should allow himself to trespass…. As a Jew and an Israeli, I am ashamed of the extent to which you have now entered into the range of actual denial of the Armenian Genocide, comparable to denials of the Holocaust.”

In response to a second “especially insulting” denial by Shimon Peres in 2002, Dr. Charny sent him one of my columns from The California Courier, with the following note: “I am enclosing with great concern for your attention an editorial in a leading US-Armenian newspaper calling on Armenia to expel the Israeli Ambassador. For your further information, the author of this editorial, who is the head of the United Armenian Fund in the U.S.—comparable to our United Jewish Appeal—was for many years a delegate to the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva.”

Dr. Charny concluded his London remarks: “I am happy to emphasize that the people and the culture [in Israel] very strongly recognize and honor the [Armenian] Genocide, and know how serious and important it is for us and the whole world.” He expressed his sincere hope that “some day we will succeed in changing the official Israeli government position.”

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Harut Sassounian

Harut Sassounian is the publisher of The California Courier, a weekly newspaper based in Glendale, Calif. He is the president of the United Armenian Fund, a coalition of the seven largest Armenian-American organizations. He has been decorated by the president and prime minister of the Republic of Armenia, and the heads of the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic churches. He is also the recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.

5 Comments

  1. Marty, I don’t think getting the Jews or any other ethnic group, politician or academic on our side is the panacea here. Over a span of about 100 years, Armenians have learned to trust our own for good reason and even then things are tentative at best (ex. the current Armenian governments reckless actions). I think as a community we’ve given up with this concept of instilling hope into others to make change on our behalf…ie. the Obama fiasco and his so called promise of change via Turkeys gag rules on Americas stance on genocide.
    Don’t get me wrong, they could be a good leverage point as Dr. Charney and others have been but I wouldn’t depend on people like him or Jews in general or any other group to make headway in our cause. Marty, you make a good point that some Jews have accomplished a lot for Turkey as their surrogate liars but remember some Jews and the Jewish state in particular has much to account for as an accomplice to Turkey’s denial. One day they will have to acknowledge that Israel, after the terrible tragedy of the Holocaust and its ridiculous denials, fell into the trap of denial themselves for political expediency only to cheapen and dilute Israel’s own history and its supposed lessons learned.

  2. This is example on the comments

    Genocide Victims in My Family
    The story of our family. My grandfather, Mihran Dabbaghian (head of the
    customs department), left for work and was never to be seen again. His
    uncle, Garabed Dabbaghian, famous lawyer/judge, given the short name
    Natick Effendi (“Mr. Speaker” in Turkish)—he and all his extended family
    where slaughtered in Diyarbakir. We still have the official papers that state
    we are owners of many lands in Diyarbakir.
    Other related families are the Abrahamian (changed their surname to
    Sabri to save their life—we recently discovered that their real surname
    name was Abrahamian before the massacres of 1915), Chilingirian,
    Kazandjian, Ouzounian, Misakian, and Simsarian (owners of silk factory
    in Diyarbakir).
    My granduncle’s wife, Katrina, the only survivor from Yousif Karagulla’s
    family (feudal lord in Mardin), had a brother, Numan Karagulla, who was
    graduated from the medical school of Harvard (1905?), and married to an
    American woman named Stella. They raped his wife in front of him then
    slaughtered him, his wife, and their son Philip. The genocide survivors are
    American citizens. There are endless stories, so which one to tell?
    My father’s family in Baghdad never experienced the same situation.
    However, in Turkey, his two cousins (from the Ohanessian family) who
    were medical students in Vienna (Austria) vanished when they came home
    in April to Diyarbakir for the Easter holiday.

  3. Sir:

    Comment number 2446 submitted by Sylvia-MD-Poetry attracted my attention, since she mentioned that her granduncle’s wife Katrina, the daughter of Yousef Karagulla was the only survivor in his family.

    Yousef Karagulla was my maternal great-grandfather. My father, now deceased, was born in Mardin, and spoke often of Katrina, Numan his uncle and of course Stella and their son Philip. Sadly, we have known about the tragic deaths of my great grandfather and also of his son Numan and Stella, although my father said that the latter two were massacred by local Kurds. Our family, though not Armenian, also suffered the massacres and loss of property.

    Those murderers, those assassins, were COWARDS. They relied on their vast numbers and a tremendous supply of military superiority in arms, to massacre a minority Christian population, almost totally unarmed.

    One little detail, Numan also had another son, who survived, and who in fact was brought by the Kurds to my grandmother (Yousef’s daughter), to be sold to her. My father said in fact that she did buy him (her own nephew), but that he died shortly afterwards beacause he was already in such terrible condition.

    One last detail, Numan, graduated in surgery from Johns Hopkins University in 1905,not Harvard, and Stella was from Baltimore.

    My father also met with Mr Gulbenkian, Mr. 5% as he was known at the IPC in Baghdad.

    Keep up your good work.

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