Recently I have discovered a brother, a brother nation to my own. A nation whose parallel fate connects and intertwines us together. I would like to tell you some of what I have discovered, to your people and my people, the Armenians and the Jewish people.
The city of Yerevan was established during the time of king Ahab and the prophet Elijah, of the first temple period, a period of growth and prosperity. Several hundred years later, the ancient Armenian Kingdom was established during the time when the Jewish people returned to their homeland following the Babylonian Exile. Following the Second temple period was characterized by Roman occupation, resulted in the Jewish people found them scattered amongst the nations. Who better than you, the Armenians can understand such a history of exile and occupation? Despite your constant loss of independence did not end your existence, instead through the intentional instilment of education and religious values to your people, you have continued to exist.
When the Turks began to perpetrate heinous crimes against you, my people were amongst those who chose to speak out against the atrocities. On July 16th 1915, Henry Morgenthau, the American ambassador to the Ottoman Empire wrote: “Deportation of and excesses against peaceful Armenians is increasing and from harrowing reports of eye witnesses it appears that a campaign of race extermination is in progress under a pretext of reprisal against rebellion. Protests as well as threats are unavailing and probably incite the Ottoman government to more drastic measures as they are determined to disclaim responsibility for their absolute disregard of Capitulations and I believe nothing short of actual force which obviously United States are not in a position to exert would adequately meet the situation. Suggest you inform belligerent nations and mission boards of this.”
Aaron Aaronson, a prominent Zionist leader who travelled extensively throughout the ottoman Empire submitted a memorandum to the British Defense Ministry titled “pro- Armenia” he wrote: “wholesale massacre of the Jews ordered by the Roman General Titus is the only record in history that parallels the wholesale massacre of the Armenians.
Sadly, the then leaders of the nations decided to ignore the pleas of Morgenthau and Aaronson. Amongst those who spoke against the crimes of the Turks was Raphael Lemkin, who understood that ignoring such crimes would lead humanity to create to a hell on earth. Lemkin was outraged upon hearing the sentence of Soghomon Tehlirian who assassinated Talaat Pasha in 1920 and said, “Why is a man punished when he kills another man? Why is the killing of a million a lesser crime than the killing of a single individual?””
Lemkin protested fervently against state sanctioned evils committed by the government against persecuted minorities, and was instrumental in the proposition of International law in 1933, which prohibited the destruction of peoples, nations and tribes. Lemkin recognized that genocide cannot happen in secret and requires the consent of the general population. Lemkin also believed in taking strong and decisive action against the Nazi regime in Germany who had already began its incitement against Europe’s Jews. Lawmakers rejected Lemkin’s petition fell on deaf ears. This refusal will undoubtedly live in infamy.
The legacy of resistance Athos Musa Dagh was apparent during the Holocaust. Mordechai Tenenbaum, (a member of the Dror youth movement and leader of the Warsaw, Vilna and Bialystok undergrounds) said: “Only one thing remains for us: to organize collective resistance in the ghetto, at any cost, to let the ghetto be our Musa Dagh, to write a proud chapter on Jewish Bialystok and on our Movement.”
Musa made sure that we had a symbol and as brother nations, these are symbols we share. The Jewish people worked tirelessly to build homeland for many years before the holocaust, and sadly, it was not until after the death of 6 million that we won our independence. I grew up on a kibbutz called Mishmar HaNegev, which was founded by members of the Worker’s Youth Workers movement, and Dror Israel. I was raised on the values of work, protection and peace, values undoubtedly you can relate to. Our independence is an enormous privilege, and we celebrate together with your 22 years of independence. The lack of recognition of the genocide the Armenian people have suffered by many nations has continues to challenge the rehabilitation of the Armenian people. Not all who have suffered genocide have received international recognition as we have.
Tragically, what followed our Holocaust was the implementation of a policy of genocide for regimes around the world. I In Biafra, over 2 million Igbo people were starved and murdered by the Nigerian Army. in Bangladesh, the Pakistani army murdered more than 2million Bengalis. In Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge lead to the deaths of over 2 million Cambodians, this 20th century horror repeats itself in Guatemala, Burundi Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Sudan and elsewhere. I cannot help but wonder, if the international community had been more aggressive in punishing the perpetrators of the Armenian genocide- how would the history of the 20th century been different? As Jews and Armenians, we can understand this better than most, and therefore have a responsibility to not ignore or deny genocides that are happening today. As we stand here today, a decade-long genocide is happening in Darfur-we must not ignore this. We cannot live in peace until Turkey formally takes responsibility for their actions. The denial of the Armenian genocide is a mark of Cain that bleeds from every human being’s forehead. This denial not only gives a green light to other genocide perpetrators but also seeks to humiliate you, our brothers.
I would like to end with a verse from the book of Psalms that reminds me of you, Armenians “Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.”
Dror – Israel