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Armenian Youth's Hunger Strike 04/24/2003
Armenian Youth Go on Week-long Hunger Strike
in Front of Museum of Tolerance

By Harut Sassounian
Publisher The California Courier

A handful of young Armenians went on a hunger strike in Los Angeles during
the past week demanding that the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Museum of
Tolerance set up a permanent exhibit on the Armenian Genocide. Eating
nothing at all and drinking only water, they spent the past seven chilly
nights bundled up in sleeping bags in front of the museum. The stern-looking
security guards of the museum tried to scare them away, but the dedicated
youngsters did not budge.
A couple of days ago, when I stopped by to see how they were holding up, the
cold and hungry young men and women with blood-shot and bulging eyes told me
that they decided to resort to this action in order to publicize the
intolerance of the museum officials towards the victims of the Armenian
Genocide. The nine members of the Armenian Youth Federation said they were
demanding a permanent exhibit on the Armenian Genocide.
The museum officials not only failed to keep their own previous promises to
include such an exhibit, they also violated the intent of the 1985
California legislature which highlighted the significance of "the Armenian
Genocide" as it contributed $5,000,000 from state funds for the construction
of the museum.
The original legislation stated: "It is vital that the people of California
be informed and advised about the roots of hatred, bigotry, and prejudice,
which have so adversely affected the lives and well-being of so many human
beings, through such mass murder as the Armenian Genocide and the Nazi
Holocaust and other genocides, and the continuing discrimination against
racial minorities in our own country, all in order that inhumanities cease."
That legislation also mandated that "the Board of Trustees of the Simon
Wiesenthal Center of Los Angeles shall convene a broad-based Museum Advisory
Committee, representing business, community groups, educational
institutions, the Legislature, and the Governor. The Advisory committee
shall review the exhibits and activities of the museum and advise the board
thereon. One member of the advisory committee shall be appointed by the
Speaker of the Assembly, and one member of the advisory committee shall be
appointed by the Senate Rules Committee. One member of the advisory
committee shall be appointed by the Governor."
In line with the above legislation, California Armenians should contact
their Governor, Gray Davis, as well as their state legislators, requesting
that one or more members of their community be appointed to the Museum
Advisory Committee.
Fortunately, not all Jews are as intolerant as those running the Museum of
Tolerance. Yossi Sarid, the former Minister of Education of Israel, for
example, wrote in Ha'aretz last week: "The Germans are not the only nation
on earth capable of perpetrating a holocaust and the Jews are the not the
only nation capable of being its victims." On April 24, 2000, as Minister of
Education, Sarid attended the annual commemoration of the Armenian Genocide
in Jerusalem's Armenian Quarter and pledged to include the Armenian Genocide
in the curriculum of all schools in Israel. "We Jews, the chief victims of
murderous hatred, must show an exceptional level of sensitivity toward, and
must feel immense solidarity with, other victims," Sarid told the assembled
Armenians.
In his April 18, 2003 Ha'aretz article, Sarid boldly asserted: "It is
inhuman to ignore the murder of another nation, to assume that, if the
victims are not Jews, the murder cannot, by definition be termed the
holocaust of a nation. ... We ourselves, for example, deny the Armenian
holocaust that was perpetrated by the Turks, because we attach great
importance to our relations with Turkey, and because Israel's political,
security and economic interests force us to adopt a policy of denial - a
policy that will ultimately wreak its vengeance upon us when more and more
individuals begin to deny our Holocaust. Holocausts must never be denied -
irrespective of the reasons for the denial, irrespective of the identity of
the victims. Thus it was not surprising that, immediately after I finished
my delivery in the Armenian church, then-prime minister Ehud Barak and
cabinet minister Shimon Peres hastened to emphasize that the speech given by
the education minister did not represent the cabinet's position. Fear of the
Turks enveloped them because the Turkish reaction was one of great
displeasure and, indeed, profound indignation.  Peres even went so far as to
adopt, in a sadly inappropriate and obsequious statement, the official
Turkish position that no genocide was ever perpetrated against the
Armenians, I resigned from the cabinet and thus my plans for including in
the school curriculum a special and extensive chapter on genocide is
probably not being implemented. This not only unfortunate; it is
disgraceful."
Our only wish is that Rabbi Marvin Hier, the Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal
Center, would heed the advice of Israel's former minister of education and
emulate his sensitivity to all victims of genocide!
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