April 21, 2003
For Immediate Release
Contact: Ardashes Kassakhian
tel: (818) 500-1918

DESPITE AYF HUNGER STRIKE AND ATTEMPTS AT DIALOGUE, MUSEUM OF TOLERANCE FAILS TO CREATE PERMANENT EXHIBIT ON ARMENIAN GENOCIDE

LOS ANGELES, CA – Representatives of the Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region joined today with hunger striking members of Armenian Youth Federation, in a meeting with the Liebe Geft, Director of the Los Angeles Museum of Tolerance, to protest the Museum’s ongoing, 10-year refusal to comply with their California state legislative mandate to include a permanent exhibit on the Armenian Genocide.

“The fact remains that, contrary to the very legislation which brought it into being, the Museum of Tolerance – after more than ten years – still does not have a permanent exhibit on the Armenian Genocide. By any standard, this is a shameful failing,” said an ANCA-WR spokesperson. “We remain particularly troubled by Ms. Geft’s refusal to accept responsibility for the Armenian Genocide’s exclusion, her unwillingness to apologize for this glaring omission, or to lay out a specific timetable for the creation of a permanent Armenian Genocide exhibit.”

The meeting took place against the backdrop of a six-day hunger-strike by fourteen Armenian Youth Federation members demanding that the Museum place a permanent exhibit on the Armenian Genocide. Prior to the meeting, the ANCA-WR representatives met with each of the hunger-strikers to express the community’s appreciation for their sacrifice, devotion to principle, and success in getting the attention of the Museum’s administration. In the weeks leading up to this meeting, several thousand Armenians from throughout the United States sent ANCA WebFaxes to urge the Museum to include a permanent Armenian Genocide exhibit.

The Armenian Assembly, in a press statement issued during the Armenian Youth Federation Hunger Strike, praised the Museum of Tolerance’s inclusion of a “permanent exhibit” on the Armenian Genocide and stressed that it is “proud of its strong working relationship with the Museum of Tolerance.”

“Sadly, through the Assembly, the Museum’s administrators were able to convey misinformation to the Armenian community and, even worse, create the false impression within the media that Armenian Americans are divided on the profound moral issue of the Armenian Genocide’s absence from the Museum’s permanent exhibit,” said Vicken Sosikian, A.Y.F. Central Executive Member. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

The following facts are provided to set the record straight regarding the Museum of Tolerance’s record of excluding the Armenian Genocide:

The California state legislation creating the Museum of Tolerance in 1985 mandated that the Armenian Genocide be permanently displayed in the Museum. This legislation specifically called for education on the hatred 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.”

Despite this specific legislative mandate, repeated assurance from the Museum’s administrators, and the fact that the Museum continues to receive state funding, the Museum does not contain a permanent exhibit on the Armenian Genocide.

* In a February 3, 2003 Los Angeles Times article (Armenians Seek Place in Museum), Times Staff Writer Christopher Reynolds reported that, “Museum director Liebe Geft acknowledged that the Armenian genocide, once featured in an introductory film, hasn’t been part of the museum’s permanent display or introductory film presentation for five years.”

* The same Los Angeles Times article reported the following reaction from Samantha Power, the Pulitzer Prize winning author of “A Problem from Hell: America in the Age of Genocide,” and the former executive director of the Carr Center for Human Rights at Harvard.

“It’s a mistake” to leave the Armenian deaths out of any serious look at 20th century genocide, she said. Because of Turkey’s campaigning, the Armenian genocide is “the only hard one [for curators] that’s out there, and it’s conspicuous that the hard one is missing.”

A minor mention of the Armenian Genocide had, until late 1997, been included in a two-minute segment in an introductory film. This film is no longer shown to visitors, unless they specifically ask for it by name at the video counter at the Museum’s “Wosk” Theater.

There is no mention of the Armenian Genocide in the Multi-Media Lab.

A search for the term “Armenian Genocide” on the Museum’s search engine, www.museumoftolerance.com, does not produce any results.

The only mention of the Armenian Genocide on the Museum’s entire website is the following statement in the Teachers’ Guide describing comparisons of the Armenian Genocide to the Holocaust as “demeaning.”

“Be cautious when comparing the Holocaust to other events. Easy comparisons to other events, such as the mass murders of Armenians in the early 20th century or the contemporary issue of abortion, without historical reference, are demeaning to both the victims and opponents of Nazism.” (Source: COMING TO GRIPS WITH TEACHING THE HOLOCAUST, by Mark Weitzman, Adapted from Momentum: Journal of the National Catholic Educational Association, February, 1988.)

The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) is the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots political organization. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the United States and affiliated organizations around the world, the ANCA actively advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.

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