Many Jewish intellectuals recently harshly criticize the Israeli government for its official denial of the Armenian genocide. A newest article, “Denying the Undeniable,” appears in Haaretz’s 28 April 2006 issue.

“For interests of realpolitik, Israel is guilty of complicity in denying the Armenian genocide. Thus, how can we accuse other nations of debasing themselves by denying the Holocaust for reasons of realpolitik?” writes Yossi Sarid. He goes ahead to say that Israel not only has to change its sinister policy of denying the Armenian genocide, but also must champion establishing a United Nations day for commemorating the Armenian martyrs’ day.

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Yair Auron's famous book has been finally published in Hebrew

Israel has many times been labeled “Holocaust denier” by Israeli intellectuals, and lately it is becoming very popular in that country to confront the government about its double standard policy. And it is not only the Armenian genocide that is ignored in a country established as a result of the WWII genocide: Jewish high school students don’t even learn that Gypsies were also the victims of the Holocaust.

But it is not only some arrogant Jews and Israel denying and ignoring the Armenian genocide. Many arrogant Armenians have similar approach to the Holocaust, though not on official level. The essay that has won me America’s highest college award deals with the issue of genocide awareness within people who have witnessed genocide. I am posting it here with the expectation of receiving hate e-mails by some people who will not like the idea of me saying that many Armenians are ignorant toward the Holocaust (and I have known Holocaust deniers in Armenia…). This is the reality and we have to face it. We must learn how to learn about others.

Simon Maghakyan
Arapahoe Community College

The Worst Human Choice

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“Genocide is not an accident. It is a choice. It occurs because human beings make it happen and let it happen.” Professor Emeritus Roger Smith ended class with this final thought last August. Among twenty students attending a graduate course in Canada was I: a descendant of the Armenian people who had suffered this “worst human choice” during WWI. My heritage leads me to advocate preventing humans from making the worst choice.

Roots of my genocide awareness project go back to Armenia. I began by studying, then writing, then publishing articles. Moving to America in 2003, I found a greater need to speak and write, promoting awareness. Supported by ACC’s International Student Organization, I screened the notorious genocide film, Ararat. In April 2004, I attended a national conference in Washington, D.C. In workshops I learned lobbying, then visited Congress to advocate for genocide recognition. While I was in Washington, the Arapahoe Observer (college newspaper), Daily Targum (university newspaper in New Jersey) and Gorizont (Colorado-based Russian newspaper) published my columns on the Armenian genocide.

Initially, I imagined the Armenian genocide as unique. But a program I conceived and directed at ACC became a learning experience for me. I know now that genocide is not unique; it has happened in all the parts of the world, and it happens now. When Hitler mentioned Armenian massacres as examples of getting lebensraum in 1931, many were skeptical that genocide might ever occur in Germany. The same behavior can be seen today: many ignore the genocide in Sudan, thinking our society is safe from facing crimes against humanity.

How did I learn of the Parallel ignorance exists among people who have faced genocide, yet do not want to learn of others’ experiences. Both Armenian and Jewish communities generally think “their” experience unique. But on April 21, 2005, the Armenian and Jewish communities of Colorado were invited to learn of each other’s tragedies and donate money for the genocide survivors in Sudan.

The idea of having a remembrance event came to me early in 2005. What resulted is the most moving educational experience I have had at ACC. Supported by my Phi Theta Kappa chapter and Armenian and Jewish groups, I organized, coordinated, publicized, and hosted ACC’s first Genocide and Holocaust Commemoration. I spoke, a survivor of Auschwitz spoke, and an Armenian scholar spoke. Student attendees learned history; Armenians and Jews discovered that they were not alone in their tragedies. Everyone listened, cried and prayed together. A week after the event the Holocaust speaker wrote to me: “I want to include pictures of the Armenian genocide in my presentations. Let me know where to get them.”

A month later, our school screened Hotel Rwanda. We again collected donations for Sudan. Many of those who came knew of the Genocide and Holocaust Commemoration. Again, I spoke out: the genocide in Sudan is not over. To make “never again” reality, we need to work, work harder and work together, we: the Armenians, the Jews, the Rwandans and the rest of us. We are all human, and only we can prevent ourselves from again making the “worst human choice.”