In response to “Not an Armenian Genocide, but a Genocide of Christians.”
The title and opening line of our May 5 op-ed about the genocide in Turkey were misleading. There is no doubt that the Turks (and the Ottomans before them) committed genocide against the Armenians in three stages during the years 1894-1924. But during those years they also murdered hundreds of thousands of Greeks and hundreds of thousands of Assyrians – perhaps a million in total. And the main motivating force for all these killings was religious zeal. During the years of World War I and the first years of Ataturk’s rule, Turkish nationalist zeal was also an important component, but religion was still an important motivator for the massacres and the mass deportations. Perhaps the most precise definition for what happened during those years in Turkey is genocidal ethnic-religious cleansing.
Prof. (emeritus) Benny Morris and Prof.Dror Ze’evi
The genocide conference that was
Thank you Ofer Aderet and Haaretz for your meaningful article. It definitely succeeds in painting the picture of government – in this case Israel’s Foreign Ministry – lying blatantly, manipulating, abusing academic freedom, putting out fake news and more. In this instance the subject was efforts to close down an international scholarly conference on the Holocaust and genocide because the subject of the Armenian Genocide was included among all the cases of genocide under discussion, and Israel was out to cater to Turkey’s demands to stop that discussion. However, it is obvious that such behavior may very well be found in various government agencies, and that the challenge to all of us is to stand up against them.
However, “a funny thing happened on the way” to this article, especially in its original publication in the Hebrew edition of Haaretz on April 30. It announced that “in the summer of 1982 the government succeeded in closing down a conference on the subject of genocide, out of a concern about a confrontation with Turkey,” and the headline over the article’s continuation on another page declared, “Thus did the Foreign Ministry close down a conference in Israel on the subject of the Armenian Genocide.”
What may well have happened is that the reporter, who I know was checking the formerly secret Foreign Ministry cables (that I report in my new book, “Israel’s Failed Response to the Armenian Genocide”), came across the Foreign Ministry’s lies about the attendance at the conference, which they had dispatched to Turkey to comfort and console them that the conference had been reduced to virtually nothing. Here is what I write in my book:
“For the humor of it all, now the newly discovered Foreign Ministry documents also show that once the conference nonetheless was underway, Israel lied to the Turks repeatedly that there were absurdly small numbers of attendees at the conference. In one memorandum to Ankara – apparently when we held five pre-conference seminars, each with twenty participants – they reported a participation of four people; and when the larger, full conference assembled with 300 participants, they reported to Ankara in one communication about twenty-three participants and in another memo about a hundred participants. What do you know? Liars (Turkey) can’t even trust fellow liars (Israel)”
Writing in Haaretz, best-selling author Amos Elon strongly objected “that Jews should comply with the Turks in denying the Armenian Genocide,” and applauded the conference for being “faithful to principles.” In the Yale Review, Terrence des Pres, author of “The Survivor: An Anatomy of Life in the Death Camps,” applauded the conference’s “intellectual courage” and celebrated “the kind of men and women who, against some very ugly pressure, went ahead with the Tel Aviv conference …”
Prof. Israel W. Charny
Director, Institute on the Holocaust and Genocide