Jeremy Leibler, president of the Zionist Federation of Australia, has called on both Australia and Israel to recognize the Armenian Genocide of a century ago, the Australian Jewish News (AJN) has reported. “It is our moral duty as Jews and as supporters of Israel to be tellers of truth in matters such as these,” he said.
Leibler’s comments come amid a raft of calls from the Australian-Jewish community for Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to recognize as genocide the massacre of Armenians and other Christians by the Ottoman Empire.
An AJN editorial published on April 30 stated, “The world recognises the tragedy and horrors of the Holocaust, as it should. But many nations – including Australia and Israel – have stopped short of officially recognising the Armenian genocide.”
The editorial adds, “One of the reasons we commemorate the Holocaust is to ensure such horrors never happen again – not just to Jews, but to anybody. We cannot insist the world remembers what happened to our people without insisting it also recognises what happened to others.”
Between 1893 and 1923, some 1.5 million Armenians were killed in the Ottoman Empire in a policy of extermination of Christian minorities. In addition, some 2.25 million Assyrian, Greek and Syriac Christians were also killed within Ottoman territories between 1914 and 1923, making a total of 3.75 million Christians killed.
The increased calls by the Australian-Jewish and Australian-Armenian communities for recognition began even before United States President Joe Biden became the first U.S. president to officially recognize the slaughter in a statement released to coincide with Armenian Remembrance Day on April 24.
We Must “Speak Out and Shine a Light”, Says Jewish Leader
Days earlier, on April 20, a plenum of the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies (JBOD) pledged its full support for a call by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) that all nations and governments “recognize the reality of these genocides.”
Peter Wertheim, co-CEO of the ECAJ, told the meeting that it was important to “speak out and shine a light … because silence is a form of complicity – the longer it goes on, the more these sorts of atrocities proliferate.”
Speaking later to the AJN, he added, “The mass killings of Armenians [and Assyrians and Greeks] by Ottoman forces was not merely a random [byproduct of World War I] – it was officially ordered, [organized] and systematic. The evidence produced by historians is overwhelming.”
He labeled threats of retaliation by Turkey to nations including Australia “if they dare to acknowledge the genocide” as “not the [behavior] of a government that is confident it has truth on its side.”
During the plenum, JBOD CEO Vic Alhadeff revealed he had received a letter from the Turkish Consulate-General in Sydney days earlier, which expressed “deep disappointment and sorrow” about the plenum’s agenda, and even included a claim that “challenged the definition of genocide.”
Genocide of Christians “Swept Under the Carpet”
Jewish Australian Member of Parliament (MP) Julian Lesser was one of the first MPs to sign the Joint Justice Alliance’s 2020 Memorandum of Understanding that calls on the Australian government to recognize the genocide against the Armenian, Greek and Assyrian people. In a video message screened at the plenum, he said that the slaughter witnessed by journalists and foreign officials had been swept under the carpet.
“As Jews, we have a particular responsibility to call this out – the first genocide of the 20th century – because it is to be remembered that the man that orchestrated the greatest genocide, against our people – Adolf Hitler – justified his actions by saying, and I quote: ‘Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?’”
MP Joe Burns, whose maternal grandmother arrived in Australia as a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany, told AJN, “The time for justice is now.” He welcomed Biden’s recognition, adding, “They’ve acknowledged true history and shown global leadership.”
Assyrian-Australian activist and lawyer Suzy David – who has many extended family members who are generational survivors of the genocide – thanked Australian Jewry for its vital support.
Addressing the plenum, she said, “By urging Australia to formally recognize this genocide, I extend, by pleading with our Jewish brothers and sisters, to endorse this demand – not only upon Australia, but also upon the State of Israel.”
The Armenian National Committee of Australia (ANC-AU) has also called on Prime Minister Morrison to recognize the slaughter.
Armenian Genocide “One of the Greatest Crimes Against Humanity”
In an open letter, it urges Morrison to uphold his beliefs expressed in a speech to Parliament in May 2011, when he stated, “Today, as a member of this House, I join others in this place, and in parliaments around the world, to place on record that I believe the Armenian Genocide was one of the greatest crimes against humanity … it is important that we recognize the Armenian Genocide for what it was.”
The committee said this is in stark contrast to Morrison’s most recent statements as Prime Minister, which have excluded the use of the word “genocide.”
Barnabas Aid is running a petition calling on the governments of Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom to officially recognize the Armenian Genocide. Among the countries that officially recognize the genocide are the U.S., Chile, France, Germany and Russia. To sign our petition, go to barnabasaid.org/armenian-genocide/
Dr. Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Aid, who wrote to President Biden in February 2021 urging him to officially recognize the genocide, also wrote to U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson in March asking the U.K. government to recognize the Armenian Genocide.