Sassounian: Auron Blasts Israel’s President for Calling ‘Armenian Genocide’ a Massacre

Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin generated a major controversy after his Jan. 28 speech at the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

As speaker and member of the Knesset (Parliament), Rivlin had led the struggle for many years to have Israel recognize the Armenian Genocide. But, after becoming president, like President Barack Obama, Rivlin has been reluctant to reconfirm his principled position on this issue.

Last month, Rivlin delivered a powerful speech at the U.N. General Assembly’s annual International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. Regrettably, Israel’s president made two serious errors: He called the Armenian Genocide a massacre and, to balance those comments, referred to the Azeri deaths in Khojaly during the (Karabagh) Artsakh War.

Here is an excerpt from Rivlin’s U.N. remarks: “In 1915, when members of the Armenian nation were being massacred, Avshalom Feinberg, a leading member of Nili, the Jewish underground which cooperated with the Allies during the First World War, wrote the following, and I quote, ‘My teeth have been ground down with worry, whose turn is next? When I walked on the blessed and holy ground on my way up to Jerusalem, I asked myself if we are living in our modern era, in 1915, or in the days of Titus or Nebuchadnezzar? Did I, a Jew, forget that I am a Jew? I also asked myself if I have the right to weep over the tragedy of my people only, and whether the Prophet Jeremiah did not shed tears of blood for Armenians as well?’Avshalom Feinberg wrote that exactly 100 years ago—100 years of hesitation and denial! But in the Land of Israel of that time, in the Jerusalem where I was born, no one denied the massacre that had taken place. The residents of Jerusalem, my parents, and members of my family saw the Armenian refugees arriving by the thousands—starving, piteous survivors of calamity. In Jerusalem they found shelter and their descendants continue to live there to this day.”

Distinguished scholar Yair Auron, a professor at Open University of Israel, was irate at the president’s choice of words, despite his personal friendship with him. Auron is a long-time advocate of Armenian Genocide recognition by Israel and the author of several books on this subject. He is currently teaching at the American University of Armenia.

On Jan. 31, while I was delivering a lecture on the Armenian Genocide at the newly opened Komitas Museum in Yerevan, Auron approached me and asked if he could address the audience. After obtaining my consent, he read a personal statement, titled, “Apology to My Armenian Brothers.”

“…Rivlin made a remarkable speech with very touching sentences, identifying honestly and profoundly with the suffering of the Armenian people. But, intentionally, he did not use the term ‘Armenian Genocide,’ neither in Hebrew nor in English.”  Auron went on to disclose that Rivlin had told him personally that “he had not changed his opinion, but that he cannot declare it [genocide] as president of Israel. This, I can understand. But, in the last minute before the speech, somebody, probably from the Foreign Ministry of Israel, maybe even Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, told him to include this terrible sentence: ‘Is our struggle, the struggle of this Assembly, against genocide, effective enough? Was it effective enough then in Bosnia? Was it effective in preventing the killing in Khojalu?’”

Auron continued his criticism: “Mr. President, you used the name of Khojalu in the context of genocide. You know well the difference between genocide and massacre. … Who proposed to you, Mr. President, who asked that you make this terrible error? You do not use the term genocide regarding the Armenian Genocide itself. Using the term genocide, in the context of one village in Nagorno-Karabagh, as if it was genocide, is unacceptable… You do not dare to use the term genocide regarding the Armenian Genocide, and you define the massacre of this village, that I am sure you did not know its name just a few minutes before [your speech], as genocide. It is sacrilegious, and by it, you betray the legacy of the Holocaust and its victims.”

The righteous professor concluded his heartfelt remarks by pledging: “Let me, my Armenian brothers, apologize in my name and on behalf of many Israeli Jews. We are with you. We will not stop our struggle till Israel recognizes the Armenian Genocide.”

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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. {“‘Is our struggle, the struggle of this Assembly, against genocide, effective enough? Was it effective enough then in Bosnia? Was it effective in preventing the killing in Khojalu?’”}

    “…killings in Kohjalu” ?
    President President Reuven Rivlin forgot to mention these:

     Deir Yassin massacre by Zionist paramilitary groups Irgun Zevai Leumi and Lohamei Herut Israel. Around 100 villagers were massacred, including women and children.
     Massacre at Sabra and Shatila: a massacre organized by the invading State of Israel, carried out by Lebanese Christian Phalange. Up to 3,500 Palestinians and Lebanese (Shia) civilians murdered.
     1982 criminal invasion of Lebanon: up to 20,000 Lebanese killed and up to 30,000 wounded. Beautiful, cosmopolitan Beirut destroyed. Thriving communities destroyed. In particular, the Lebanese-Armenian community was badly damaged and lost billions of dollars due to the Israeli criminal invasion. The Lebanese-Armenian diaspora, descendants of the AG, was forever changed – for the worse.
     War crimes in the Palestinian territories. (as determined by South African Judge Richard Goldstone, himself a Jew and an ardent supporter of Israel).
     Operation Cast Lead aka Gaza Massacre (2008/2009): estimated 1,000 Palestinian civilians killed, 5,000 wounded.
     Operation Pillar of Defense (2012): estimated 100 Palestinian civilians killed, 1,000 wounded.
     Operation Protective Edge (2014): estimated 2,200 Palestinian civilians killed, 10,000 wounded.
     Criminal attack by Israeli fighter jets on USS Liberty, an unarmed intelligence gathering ship: murder of 34 American sailors and wounding of 171.
     Murder of American Rachel Aliene Corrie by bulldozer.
     Murders of innocent Iranian civilian nuclear scientists.
     ……..

    And let us not forget that during the NKR war (1991-1994), Israel was supplying the Anti-Armenian genocidal criminals in Turkabaijan with military technical support (for a fee), knowing full well that IslamoFascist Musavat murderers were attempting to commit another Genocide of Armenians in Artsakh: after having massacred hundreds of Armenian civilians in Sumgait (1988), Kirovabad (1988), Baku (1990).

    The delusional leaders of Israel are becoming more and more irrational by the day.
    Having served their masters in Turkey for years, and recently been unceremoniously discarded by their Turkish masters after having outlived their usefulness to Islamist Turks, in desperation, the panicking Israeli leaders had to make-do with a low-grade pimp: renting themselves out to a tin-pot criminal dictator of a fake state.

    How degrading.

    • Respectfully, what is your point? IF we expect their denial we should no longer protest it?

      How would Israel like it if Armenia proposed that Israel and Iran, in the context of establishing diplomatic relations, form a “joint historical commission” to investigate the veracity of the Holocaust?

      How would Israel like it if every reference to the Holocaust were “balanced” with a reference to the numerous incidents of killing of Palestinians?

  2. Well done and thank you Mr. Auron.
    Shame on denyers of genocides as they perpetuate the situation and encourage criminal minds and countries to commit these atrocities over and over again. Unless all such crimes are recognised internationally and treated equally comparisons become meaningless and serve only as a platform for political gains.

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