PASADENA–California–Approximately 20 Armenian Youth Federation and Armenian National Committee activists and supporters gathered in front of the Pasadena Civic Auditorium on Wednesday October 15 to protest a speaking engagement by former Israeli prime minister Shimon Peres–a denier of the Armenian Genocide. The activists responded to an ANCA-WR Action Alert that encouraged community members to protest his visit to Southern California. Nobel Laureate prize winner Peres–was the keynote speaker at the Distinguished Speaker Series of Southern California.
As the audience of almost 3,000 made their way into the Auditorium–they were greeted with fliers handed out by the Armenian demonstrators. The fliers laid out quotes and examples of Shimon Peres’s disregard for the historical record of the Armenian Genocide and his denialist statemen’s made to the Turkish press.
While serving as Israel’s Foreign Minister–Peres told the Turkish press that he does not believe the events of 1915 could be categorized as genocide or that there is any comparison between the Armenian Genocide and the Jewish Holocaust. Despite Israel’s close ties to the Republic of Turkey–Peres’s statemen’s on the Armenian Genocide have spurred international outrage including criticism from Genocide and Holocaust scholars in Israel.
During the lecture on Wednesday night Peres was confronted with his denial of the Armenian Genocide during the question-and-answer session of the program. According to a member of the audience–Peres was asked why he did not consider what happened to the Christian Armenian population of Turkey at the turn of the Twentieth Century a Genocide. Peres claimed that he never said that the genocide never happened–rather that there were no gas chambers–directly contradicting an April 2001 statement when he said: "It is a tragedy what the Armenia’s went through–but not a genocide."
Asked about Peres’s outright denial–ANCA-WR Government Relations Director Ardashes Kassakhian said–"The ANCA’s mission is to confront Genocide denial in whatever shape or form it is manifested. There are no euphemisms for Genocide and we intend to make that point very clear," and continued–"It is unfortunate that Mr. Peres has chosen to succumb to Turkey’s coercive tactics rather than encourage Turkey to face the facts of the historical events of 1915-1923."