Last Update: 07/05/2003 03:59

'Armenian holocaust' stays out of Independence Day ceremony
By Dalia Shehori

Following pressure from the Turkish government, no mention of the Armenian holocaust was made at Tuesday night's Independence Day torch-lighting ceremony.

The Prime Minister's Office, the ministerial committee for symbols and ceremonies, the Foreign Ministry and the Knesset speaker decided to shelve the original brochures published for guests of the ceremony. In place, 2,000 new brochures were printed and distributed to every other of the 4,000 attendees of the ceremony.

The original brochure included a sentence relating to the family history of Naomi Nalbandian, one of the 12 torchbearers. It refers to Nalbandian as a "third generation survivor of the Armenian holocaust, which took place in 1915" and that her "grandfather and grandmother fled Armenia and settled in 1920, after a nomad's trek via Lebanon and Syria, in a village near Haifa."

Even though Turkey was not mentioned in the document, a report on the publication elicited a harsh response from the Turkish ambassador to Israel, Feridun Sinirlioglu.

Following pressure from the Turkish ambassador on the Israeli government, Nalbandian agreed two days ago to changes in the text. Sinirlioglu on Monday expressed his satisfaction with the changes.

There is no reference in the revised text to the Armenian holocaust nor to the massacre of Armenians at the hands of the Turks between 1915 and 1918. Nalbandian is described in the new text as a "daughter of the long-suffering Armenian nation" and that her "grandfather and grandmother are survivors of historical Armenia, 1915, who arrived and settled in a village next to Haifa."

Sinirlioglu met Monday with the deputy director-general of the European section of the Foreign Ministry, Victor Harel, and with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's diplomatic advisor, Shalom Turjeman.

Nalbandian, a deputy chief nurse in Hadassah Hospital, Mount Scopus, is being recognized for her work in the rehabilitation of terror victims.

Nalbandian said she agreed to the changes because "my goal is not to create confusion and not to make problems for the government, nor to lose sight of the main idea: that I was chosen to light a torch as a nurse who treats wounded people. I agreed to the changes in order to show them I have good intentions."

She expressed disappointment that people "change everything because of politics," even though being a third generation survivor of the Armenian holocaust is a part of her identity. "Everything that is happening now shows that an individual has no freedom to express his identity if he is not a Jew," Nalbandian added.

"I, as an Armenian, have no right to say what is my identity. They don't say to second and third generations of Holocaust survivors `don't say that,' do they?"

Ambassador Sinirlioglu was furious over the decision to have an Armenian woman light a torch, telling the government that Turkey views it as a change in the Jewish state's traditional policy over the Armenian holocaust. Israeli officials went to great lengths to ensure that the envoy understood that there had been no change in Israel's policy over the genocide.


Für eine zuverlässige und gut lesbare Übersetzung ins Deutsche wäre ich dankbar!  ML 2003-05-08