How Do We Remember the Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust,
PRIF Report 6/20, Frankfurt
by Eldad Ben Aharon. 2020
Reviewed by Jan Peczkis
This work, focusing on the Armenian Genocide, provides valuable lessons. It shows how non-Jewish genocides can try to be heard in our Holocaust-saturated world.
Throughout this work, Aharon overemphasizes the role of Turkey in preventing greater appreciation of the Armenian Genocide. In actuality, Israel has a deeply-rooted antipathy towards giving equal credit to non-Jewish genocides. For a frank admission of this fact, see:
CONFRONTING THE REALITY OF GENOCIDE-RECOGNITION INEQUALITY
Eldad Ben Aharon gets right to the point, “Over the last forty years, the memorialization of the Holocaust has become a distinct aspect of Western culture, encompassing reparations, museums, memorials and documentaries, and even legislation criminalizing its denial. Education about the Holocaust, and its continued memorialization is led by, among others, powerful transnational organizations such as The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), and by national research institutions such as Yad Vashem in Jerusalem and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM). However, there is no comparable culture of memorialization of the Armenian genocide.” (p. 1. Emphasis added).
That’s just it. And neither is there a “culture of memorialization” in existence for any other non-Jewish genocide. Only the Jews’ Holocaust enjoys this expansive privilege. No one can even imagine the Polokaust assuming the status of “a distinct aspect of Western culture”.
VICTIM COMPETITION: THE ZERO-SUM GAME
Ben Aharon writes, “For example, since the 1980s, parliaments in Israel, the Netherlands and Germany have tended to see the relationship between Holocaust memory and the Armenian genocide as a ‘zero-sum game’: in other words, the more the Armenian genocide is recognized, the less ‘unique’ the Holocaust will become.” (p. 18).
Notice the fact that the European Parliaments do not care if the Holocaust infringes on the Armenian genocide: Their only concern is that the Armenian genocide (and all other non-Jewish genocides) may infringe upon the presumed specialness of the Holocaust!
The author then brings up Michael Rothberg (pp. 19-20) and his so-called “multidirectional memory” as a means of ending victimhood competition. It does no such thing: It merely pretends that the zero-sum game does not exist, and creates a disguise for continued Holocaust supremacy. See the link.
NOT ONLY THE JEWS’ HOLOCAUST HAS THE INFERRED PROPERTY OF PREVENTING FUTURE GENOCIDES
A canned rationalization for emphasizing the Holocaust is that it is necessary to prevent a repetition of genocides, to “fight extremism”, to “promote tolerance”, etc. If so, this is equally true of the teaching of all genocides. Eldad Ben Aharon comments, “…recognition of the Armenian genocide could also help to reduce competition among victims’ groups, specifically the assertion that the Holocaust is ‘unique’ in human history, and to underpin the universal lesson of the Holocaust by affirming protection of minority rights.” (p. 2).
What exactly is a “minority”? Ironically, Holocaust supremacism infringes upon all the non-Jewish minorities. Aren’t the Armenians a minority? Frankly speaking, aren’t the Poles also a minority–at less than 1% of the world’s population?
USHMM WAS STEEPED IN HOLOCAUST SUPREMACISM FROM THE VERY START
President Jimmy Carter got a report from the Presidential Commission on the Holocaust, and this led to the construction of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum right in the U. S. capital. The author thus evaluates the report:
“The report issued by the commission was greatly influenced by the concept of the uniqueness of the Holocaust. This led to recommendations for special days of remembrance for the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, a dedicated education program, and the establishment of the USHMM as a national memorial.” (p. 7).
Needless to say, there was no Presidential Commission for any other genocide. And if, as Ben Aharon suggests, we are moving away from the “uniqueness of the Holocaust” (in favor of the “Holocaust unprecedented” vague rhetorical construct: p. 10), it is clear that the USHMM was built on false pretenses. So shouldn’t all the more the USHMM be torn down, or transformed into a museum of all genocides (on an equal footing with each other)?
LIP SERVICE TO NON-JEWISH GENOCIDES DOES NOT REMEDIATE HOLOCAUST SUPREMACY, MUCH LESS DO JUSTICE TO NON-JEWISH GENOCIDES!
We often hear the line that the over-attention to the Jews’ Holocaust is not a problem because, after all, Holocaust museums usually mention other genocides, and the non-Jewish genocides (occasionally) make an appearance in the American classroom. And of course American students can always learn about non-Jewish genocides on their own time (assuming that they ever will). This is far, far from genocide-recognition equality.
Even if the Armenian genocide was everywhere recognized as a bona fide genocide this, by itself, would not redress the grotesque imbalance of the memories of different genocides. Aharon shows the many steps that would need to be taken in order to make the Armenian genocide equal to the Holocaust, and the same steps would have to be completed by all other non-Jewish genocides:
“Parliamentary recognition of the Armenian genocide could also be critically important to what next steps could follow because there is a ‘spectrum of acts’ of recognition. This concept should also be clarified: on that spectrum, the above recognition is the first step. But it could be extended at a later period to further action and measures. For example establishing a special commission of experts as with the ‘Presidential Commission on the Holocaust’ instituted by President Carter. This future commission could possibly recommend that the country hold official commemoration days, build local memorials and museums and set up educational programs. Moving further along the spectrum, the Armenian genocide could be included in national curricula which, after implementing the above practices, could be more easily grasped and assimilated by educators and minorities as well as immigrant communities. All in all, the measures that go beyond symbolic recognition, however, are quite advanced steps which could take some time (years) and come at a later time or not at all.” (p. 21. Emphasis added).
Will all or most of this ever happen? Not very likely, certainly not as long as the Holocaust sits on the throne.