Yair Auron: Genocide recognition is morally paramount

Yair Auron: Genocide recognition is morally paramount –

Israeli historian, scholar and expert specializing on Holocaust and Genocide, Yair Auron, attended the 12th conference of the International Association of Genocide Scholars in Yerevan. According to him, conducting the event in Yerevan was very important. “It was successful and well-organized. At academic meetings, some things are interesting, and some are not. But the good thing is that you meet old and new colleagues. Besides, genocide studies developed significantly,” Auron said, adding that a conference on the Armenian Genocide is scheduled to be held in November 2015 in Israel, with prominent scholars and young specialist from all over the world participating. Auron is currently working his book on the Armenian Genocide. 

 ArmenianGenocide100.org presents an interview with the scholar: 

 What do you think is the most important aspect of holding the 12th conference of the International Association of Genocide Scholars in Yerevan on the centennial of the Armenian Genocide?

 I think it is very important to have this meeting in Yerevan. It was successful and well-organized. At academic meeting, some things are interesting, and some are not. But the good thing is that you meet old and new colleagues. Besides, genocide studies developed significantly.

 Turkey continues to deny the fact of genocide of Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians in the Ottoman Empire by all means, and the majority of Turkish scholars back this policy. How would you explain and describe the reasons behind such behavior?

 Changes can be observed in the Turkish society nowadays. More and more people are open for discussions and encourage the recognition. Even some 5 years ago they could be imprisoned. There was a young scholar from Turkey at the conference, who addressed the issue openly. I asked him about his conditions in Turkey, and he said that nobody insulted him or treated him badly, but he could not find a position of professor anymore. But I do know Turkish professors, studying the issue. Taner Akcam, in particular, is one of my oldest friends and a professor. Leaving Turkey, he lived in Germany for some time, and has now settled in the United States. He speaks about the Genocide openly, and people call on him to go back and do the same in Turkey. However, Akcam was suppressed in Turkey when trying to discuss the Genocide.

 I was invited to participate in an academic conference in Turkey in 2008. My Armenian friends advised me not to go there, as they thought Turks would “utilize” me. But I decided to go anyway, and read the synopsis for my account of the Armenian Genocide. I encouraged them to acknowledge the Genocide, although it was a difficult issue to address. They can never be a democratic society, if they don’t face the history. During the question and answer period following the reports, I was given some very nasty questions, even accused of being unaware of the issue I was reporting on. I told them that everything I said, I am confident is true, and called on them face it.

 What would you say about the possibility of Israel’s recognition of the Armenian Genocide? What are the reasons behind non-recognition?

 If you asked me this question a month ago, my response would be a negative one. Now, I do not think the government will recognize the Genocide, but I do think that the Knesset will. The problem is that the coalition is very limited: they have extremist views concerning Palestine, are against the agreement with Iran.

An event on the Armenian Genocide was held at the committee for education last week, organized by deputies representing all the parties.  Even Parliament Speaker Yuli Edelstein attended the discussion: he usually does not. All the MPs who spoke at the meeting were in favor of the recognition. And there was an official decision of the committee to call the parliament to recognize the Armenian Genocide. On the other hand, I don’t think Netanyahu will let them do it.

 When Israel’s relations with Turkey deteriorated, some people, who were previously against the recognition, encouraged the government to acknowledge the Genocide. But I was against using such an issue in politics.

 So, to cut a long story short, I do not really know. The President, Reuven Rivlin, who openly addressed the issue as a parliament speaker, and the current Knesset leader may recognize the Genocide, but this will be something symbolic. According to our constitution, the government takes all decisions. It is much like Germany, where the President acknowledged the Genocide. Rivlin is a great friend of Armenians: his parents lived in Jerusalem during the Genocide. And he remembered his parents’ stories and spoke openly about the issue at a United Nations conference.

 How would you assess the society’s response to the recognition of the Armenian Genocide?

 President of Civilitas Foundation, Salpi Ghazarian and I had planned to conduct a survey to find out the society’s stance concerning the issue in several countries, including Israel. We are now conducting similar researches in our university, but all the people know much about the Genocide there. So, it would be much more interesting to conduct the survey among the public. And we need corresponding resources. If we conducted such a survey this year, we would get better results, as Genocide was spoken so much about. 

 As a Jewish scholar, you have always been in favor of the official recognition of the Armenian Genocide, whereas other Jewish scholars take no stance on the issue, or consider the Holocaust to be a unique example of genocide and prefer to ignore the fact of the Armenian Genocide. What do you think about this?

 There are many Jewish scholars abroad, who speak out for the recognition. In Israel, I know Israel Charny and others who also struggle for the acknowledgement. The majority of Jewish scholars, I should say, are not precisely against, but are indifferent to the issue.

 People can side with the perpetrators, as the latter are strong, confident that they are superior to their future victims. All the super powers were well aware of what was going on, but nobody told the perpetrators to stop. This is all about hypocrisy and lack of attention.

 Bernard Lewis, a Jewish-American scholar wrote a classical book, The Emergence of Modern Turkey, in 1963, describing the 1915 massacres as “the Armenian Holocaust.” In the new edition of the book, however, the phrase was removed. And when a Parisian Le Monde journalist, unaware of this change in the book, asked Lewis about his position concerning the Genocide, he said: “You mean the Armenian version of the story?” He faced a civil proceeding in a French court for this and was found guilty.

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