Los Angeles, CA – As a result of a massive grassroots campaign led by the Armenian National Committee of America Western Region (ANCA-WR) and the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF), the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles is set to debut a major exhibit on the Armenian Genocide by July 1, 2003. The grassroots campaign led by the ANCA-WR and the AYF included calls and ANCA WebFaxes from thousands of Armenian Americans nationwide, a major story in The Los Angeles Times, and growing interest on the part of local, state, and federal lawmakers, all of whom expressed concern that the Museum had not taken demonstrable steps to establish a permanent exhibit on the Armenian Genocide.
The Armenian American community’s disappointment with the Museum of Tolerance’s past failure to properly address the Armenian Genocide culminated in April of this year when members of the Armenian Youth Federation held a dramatic six day hunger strike in front of the Museum. That protest drew local and national media attention.
“We have very high hopes that the Museum of Tolerance has used the past several months to address the morally unacceptable situation of not having a serious and extensive exhibit regarding the Armenian Genocide,” read a joint statement released by the ANCA-WR and AYF on June 18th. “We are glad that, apparently, the Museum’s Director Liebe Geft has decided to improve her institution’s poor record of highlighting the slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians in 1915,” the statement emphasized.
In March of 2003 Museum Director Liebe Geft sent an email form letter to many ANCA WebFaxers that fell short of addressing the Armenian American community’s concerns about the Museum. Most insulting was that the letter she issued avoided the direct use of the proper term- the Armenian Genocide – to describe Turkey’s systematic destruction of its Armenian population between 1915 and 1923. In her correspondence, Ms. Geft also failed to respond to the request for a full explanation as to why the Armenian Genocide is absent from the Museum.
In an article that appeared in The Los Angeles Times earlier this year, the issue of the absence of the Armenian Genocide in the Museum was raised. In the article, written by Times staff writer Christopher Reynolds, the point was made that “The museum has backed away from its own pledges to include the first genocide of the 20th century — the Armenian genocide of 1915 — as a part of its permanent exhibition. That genocide is effectively absent, some of those critics suggest, because of a 21st century political alliance between Jewish leaders and the Turkish government whose predecessors carried out that genocide.” The Times quoted Ardashes Kassakhian, ANCA-WR’s director of governmental relations as saying, “It’s kind of ludicrous, if you’re going to talk about the 20th century, not to mention it. It’s like teaching U.S. history and beginning with the Civil War.”
The ANCA- WR and the AYF encourage Armenian Americans to visit the Museum of Tolerance by July 1st to view the Museum’s new exhibit on the Armenian Genocide and learn whether the Museum of Tolerance has truly honored its pledge to establish a proper exhibit covering the first genocide of the 20th century. Individuals who would like more information on the Museum or directions are encouraged to call the ANCA-WR at (818) 500-1918.