Israelis commemorate Armenian Genocide as government still doesn’t recognize

Armenian school girls hold signs as they demonstrate in front of the Israeli Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem

By Emily Rose

Teaching about the Holocaust while omitting the Armenian genocide is a mistake. the Armenian genocide was a precursor to the holocaust.

(i24News) – Hebrew University professors and students along with representatives of the Armenian community in Jerusalem gathered Tuesday in order to pay tribute to the 1.5 million Armenians massacred by Ottoman soldiers in the Armenian genocide committed from 1915 to 1923.

The Armenian genocide, commemorated annually on April 24th, coincided with Israel’s national Holocaust Memorial Day this year. While 29 governments and parliaments recognize the systematic murder and deportation of Armenians, also known as the “Armenian Holocaust”, Israel does not. Turkey vehemently rejects the use of the term “genocide” to describe the mass killing of Armenians during World War I, arguing the episode was a collective tragedy in which both Turks and Armenians died.

Honorary Consul of the Republic of Armenia in Jerusalem Mr Tsolag Momjian addressed the crowd and affirmed that he hopes for a day when Israel recognizes the Armenian genocide.

“Yesterday Armenians all over the world commemorated the anniversary of the Armenian genocide,” he said. “Yesterday Israel also marked annual Holocaust Remembrance Day, on this occasion I would like to express my solidarity with the Jewish people who died during the Second World War.”

Very Reverend Father Samuel Aghoyan, who spoke on behalf of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, explained that, while Armenians were being killed, the world remained silent.

“The world at the time was silent and never tried to stop it, thus Armenians lost more than one and half million of their people,”Aghoyan said. “My parents were the lucky ones to escape from being killed but their relatives and brothers were the victims.”

“Turkey today vehemently denies that its ancestors committed such barbaric acts and it is sad to say that the Israeli government has not the courage to side with justice by recognizing the historical fact of genocide of the Armenians,” he said.

Aghoyan affirmed that the world has not learned the lessons of the past.

“It seems that the world has not been changed since 1915, because today we hear of and witness new genocide being carried out on different scales and in different parts of the world, “ he said, affirming that “the great powers could care less- by shutting their eyes they silently permit them to happen.”

Aghoyan issued a call saying that “It is time for turkey to stop lying,” and admit to the “horrible and inhumane” massacres committed by its ancestors.

The path to recognition

Yoav Loeff teaches Armenian history and cultural studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Speaking to i24NEWS, he theorized that there are three main reasons why Israel does not recognize the Armenian genocide. The most common reason provided is that Israel does not wish to ruin its diplomatic ties with Turkey but this, Loeff believes, is not the central reason.

As the holocaust narrative is embedded deeply in Israeli society, Leoff thinks there is a fear in Israeli society that the Armenian genocide will take over the holocaust narrative and belittle the Jewish Holocaust in the eyes of Israelis. Loeff also hypothesized that Israel does want to risk ruining diplomatic ties with Azerbaijan, a close ally of Turkey’s. Last year, Azerbaijan’s president stated that the country had purchased nearly $5 billion-worth of defense equipment from Israel.

Loeff thinks that teaching about the Holocaust while omitting the Armenian genocide is a mistake.

“The Nazis had great teachers,” Loeff said, affirming the belief of several scholars that the Armenian genocide was a precursor to the holocaust. Indeed many tactics used by the Nazis were adopted from Ottoman practices including discourse and propaganda about ethnic cleansing and the use of poisonous gas in order to kill innocent civilians.

The Knesset Education and Sports Committee in August 2016 recognized the Armenian genocide which Loeff sees as a landmark shift in Israeli policy but he believes this is not enough.

French presidential frontrunner Emmanuel Macron criticized Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan,on Monday and condemned the Turkish government at an event commemorating the Armenian genocide in Paris.

“I regret very deeply the route Turkey is taking, and I disapprove of it,” the former economy minister said.

US President Donald Trump on Monday recognized the Armenian massacre but refused to refer to it as a “genocide”.

“Beginning in 1915, one and a half million Armenians were deported, massacred, or marched to their deaths in the final years of the Ottoman Empire,” Trump said. “I join the Armenian community in America and around the world in mourning the loss of innocent lives and the suffering endured by so many.”

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