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The Importance of Consistency

by Yair Auron

On January 31st, just a few hours before I was to board a plane for Paris to attend the Pro Armenia International Conference, to which I had been officially invited in November, I received a phone call from the organizers asking me not to come. I was astonished. Then they told me the reason, and I was outraged and deeply disappointed.

The reason I was told not to come to the conference was that citizens from Lebanon and other Arab countries, regardless of their ethnic belonging, are under an injunction from their governments against attending any event with an Israeli organization or entity present.

I sent a letter protesting this behavior, which was read by Yves Ternon during the first session, where I was to speak, with the full agreement of the conference organizers. Ternon subsequently wrote an article, published in Haratch, an Armenian daily in Paris, on February 6, in which he expressed his personal indignation. On the same date, the Zoryan Institute, of which I am a member of the board, also issued a strong statement condemning the withdrawal of my invitation and asking the conference organizers to give a full explanation of how and why this had happened, and accordingly requesting them to publicly acknowledge their error.

The conference organizers did give an explanation, that, considering the instability of the Middle East generally, the fragility of the Armenian communities there, and the shadow of imminent war, they considered it prudent to avoid confrontation and eliminate the presence of an Israeli. To their credit, they admitted their mistake and the questionableness of their rationale right away, and quickly expressed their "profound regret" for the "unjustified actions taken." They advised me that the paper I was to have delivered will be included on the conference web site, when it is ready, and even offered to arrange for me to give lectures in Armenia, as a way to make amends.

I am grateful to Yves Ternon, Israel Charny, and the Zoryan Institute for raising awareness of this issue publicly. I am touched by the support and strong show of solidarity I have received from concerned scholars and individuals and by my colleagues at the Zoryan Institute. I am satisfied that what happened to me was an error of judgement, an aberration, and not intended as an attack by the Armenian organizers against me personally, or racially.

However, I must express my deep concern at what I see resulting from the unfortunate incident that happened to me. The overreaction initially taken by the conference organizers, and quickly regretted by them, has caused an overreaction in the other direction. I now see letters and editorials from Armenians and Jews alike condemning anti-Semitism among the Armenians, as if they were a monolithic people, and that every member of their nation is guilty of this curse against humanity. In their zeal to defend Israelis and Jews, such people are committing blatant racism, themselves.

People are human and prone to error. We should condemn serious mistakes when they occur, but be ready to forgive when contrition is apparent. The scourge of anti-Semitism and racism generally, is pervasive throughout the world, in every society. No nation is free of this blight. There are certainly anti-Semites and racists among Armenians and Jews themselves. We have all seen them. We must be consistent, however, in our approach to this very important issue. We can not condemn racism in one group while practicing it against another.

I am firm in my commitment to struggle against denial of the Armenian Genocide wherever it occurs, because it is my obligation as a human being, as a Jew, and as a citizen of Israel, which was created out of the Holocaust. This is a large human rights issue that goes beyond just the Armenians. If someone denies the Genocide of the Armenians, he is creating an environment in the world in which it can be acceptable to deny the Jewish Holocaust. Genocide denial is an assault on truth, and on human dignity. As a human being, an Israeli, and a Jew, I must be consistent. We must all be consistent.

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