Back from Armenia

April 27, 2005
Source: Haaretz (Israel)

By Yossi Sarid

We returned from Jerevan, Armenia, after taking part in the international conference marking the 90th anniversary of the Armenian genocide. We were four Israelis there - Prof. Yehuda Bauer, Prof. Yair Oron, Dr. Israel Charny and I. Most of those invited were researchers and academics. Only a few were statesmen. The Israeli presence was very important for the organizers, so they changed the schedule to suit our needs: We all wanted to be home for the Pesach seder.

The Israeli-Jewish position on their genocide is a matter of great worry for the Armenians, and also a source of hope. Worry, over the ongoing alienation by official Israel toward their terrible disaster, from which they have yet to recover; and hope, because of the signs being shown by the international Jewish community - and even among us - indicating strong reservations with the infamous statement made by Shimon Peres, in effect denying there had been any genocide of the Armenian people.

That entire debate about whether there was or wasn't genocide is foolish and ugly. Nobody disputes the fact that more than one million Armenians were murdered during a two-year period, and a million people are not murdered without planning and without organization. The Turks can invent a thousand reasons to explain what happened, but of what importance will that be when the important thing is that people, women, men, children, died strange and ruthless and unnatural deaths?

After 90 years, one can of course ask what is the point of digging at history and wounds. A bad question. Genocide has not passed from this world, it still takes its victims and not only in Darfur in Sudan.

Dealing with the past is therefore dealing with the present and the future, so it is forbidden to leave it only to the historians, as Peres suggested in his day. It won't be the historians who prevent more cases of genocide now lurking at the doorsteps of various nations in more than 60 different places around the world, according to the researchers'diagnosis. Only the politicians can prevent it, if they want - but they don't really want.

Those same researchers point to another horrifying fact: In the 20th century, some 160 million civilians were murdered in gases of genocide and "politicide," compared to "only" some 40 million soldiers. Fighting apparently is less dangerous than living in the zones of abandonment, where nationalist hatred and racist incitement are the opium for the masses.

The genocide yet to come can be prevented, if the previous cases are not whitewashed, on condition that those responsible don't get away with it.
The Turkish position is grave and outrageous: The murderers themselves are long since dead. Contemporary Turks are not guilty, so it is not entirely clear why they insist on their great denial instead of accepting the moral and historic responsibility. They are only harming themselves, their stature and image, just as they knock on the doors of the international community and want to be accepted to the European Union. They should be accepted, but not before they recognize their responsibility.

It's not always remembered that the Armenian genocide was the first case of genocide in the 20th century, characterized more than previous ones by monstrosity, reaching its satanic climax in the Holocaust of the Jews (though Prof. Bauer always steps in with the correction that the first genocide of the last century was conducted by the Germans in Namibia, but it has been forgotten completely).

If already then, in the early part of the century, the international community had dealt the way it should have with the Armenian genocide, it is very possible that it would have been possible to prevent all that came after it, maybe even the Holocaust. But the eyes closed to the Armenian victims were what made it possible for all the murderers of the world to come out of their holes and slaughter, knowing there was no shield to protect small and weak nations, which are such easy prey.

The alliance between the victims is very important for the Armenians, and important for us; the main importance is meant for the entire human race. Knowing our species, its impulses and talent for destruction, we cannot accept victims without murderers, genocide without the responsible. An orphaned genocide is the father of the next genocide.