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Israel still promotes myth of Jewish monopoly on Holocaust

Armenians in Israel remember the other 'holocaust'

Karekin Tchekmeyan was five years old in 1921, before his family was deported for the second time. But the sprightly old Armenian can remember all too vividly the day in the south-eastern Turkish city of Marash, when, clothed by his mother in a zubun, a long dress chosen to make him look Turkish, he saw a crowd of people beating drums and playing flutes.

"I slipped into the crowd," Mr Tchekmeyan, 89, said yesterday. "And I asked them what was happening. Someone said: "They are going to hang some Armenians. I saw the wooden gallows and the rope. I could see three boys, 19 or 20, with black hoods over their faces."

A fourth boy, around 14 years old, was allowed to go because even a Turkish neighbour protested. The other three were hanged. "I didn't stay to see it. I was frightened and I ran home and my mother beat for me going into the crowd."

To this day he can remember the name of the Turkish gendarme who raped a girl of around nine or 10, because the victim's distraught mother shrieked an unforgettable curse within earshot of the five-year-old Karekin: "May God blind you, Karahbekir."

The mother had blackened the girl's face in the hope of preventing just such a violation. "But this man took her off somewhere and did dirty things to her. When she came back she couldn't walk properly."

An old man's indelible memory of two scenes - by no means, of course, the worst - in the ethnic cleansing and slaughter from 1915 to 1923 in which 1.5 million Armenians, not to mention Assyrians and Greeks, were eliminated. Incredibly, many modern countries - Britain included - still find impossible formally to recognise it as genocide.

Yesterday, to commemorate the 90th anniversary of when the massacres began, Mr Tchekmeyan joined a procession of clerics and lay Armenians in Jerusalem which wound through the Old City from the Armenian Orthodox convent of St James to the cemetery. Because they represent the 3,000 Armenians in Israel and the West Bank, and because they continue to hope for Jews to have a special affinity with their cause, the Jerusalem Armenians have pressed Israel to recognise the genocide - so far in vain.

Indeed a leaflet distributed in the Old City yesterday quoted recent Turkish media reports that the Israeli Foreign Minister, Sylvan Shalom, has appealed to Jewish US organisations to help fight against a US Congressional resolution which would deplore the genocide. Mr Shalom warns that it would damage the special relationship between the US, Israel and Turkey.

Not all Israelis agree with the official position. Among those at the commemoration was Yair Auron, an Israel Open University professor, whose book The Banality of Denial has just been translated into Hebrew.

Professor Auron says it is "incredible" that the Armenians still have to press for recognition - including from Israel - and adds of Turkey's position:"It's as if Germany still denied the Holocaust took place."

And Yossi Sarid, who worked for recognition as Israeli education minister in the 1990s, has accused Israel of being "among the Holocaust deniers" because of its refusal, under Turkish pressure, to recognise the Armenian genocide. Most Armenians in the Old City yesterday agreed with Mr Sarid's view that Israel's view stems both from its desire to preserve relations with Turkey - and its fear of losing the "uniqueness" of the Holocaust by recognising another genocide. Dr Georgette Avakian of the Armenian Case Committee said she would be writing to Mr Shalom, just as in the past she had written to the Deputy Prime Minister, Shimon Peres, when he was PM. "I asked him how he would feel if an Armenian denied the Jewish Holocaust," she said.


The Independent, "Armenians in Israel remember the other 'holocaust'", 26 April 2005.

"The Insider" mailing list article, 29 April 2005.

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Tags: Israel, Holocaust, denial, Armenians, Russians, Jews, Gypsies, Polish, other, victims, not, just, Jews, , conspiracy theories.

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