The following opinion piece was submitted anonymously to The Armenite.
The ANCA-Western Region is hosting its annual gala on November 12 at the Omni Hotel in Los Angeles. As part of its annual celebration, it is honoring Edward Djerejian with its Lifetime Achievement Award. But why?
Edward Djerejian is a retired U.S. diplomat whose father Bedros survived the Armenian Genocide. Like so many Armenians in the early 20th century, his father was marched from his hometown in Hadjin to the scorching desert of Der-Zor in Syria. Left to die, Bedros survived the Armenian Genocide. Later, having arrived in America and settling in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Bedros would meet Mary Yazujdian and have a son, Edward Djerejian.
It is then richly ironic that Djerejian accepted the “Moral Statesman Award” in 1994 from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). At the time, the ADL was among the most prominent deniers of the Armenian Genocide. As Djerejian was well aware of before accepting his award, the ADL’s leader – Abraham Foxman – was often used as a front man on Capitol Hill to deny the Armenian Genocide. As Foxman would notoriously remark to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, “The Jewish community shouldn’t be the arbiter of that history, nor should the U.S. Congress.”
Despite the ADL’s position on the Armenian Genocide, Djerejian proudly accepted their Moral Statesman Award in 1994.
Perhaps even more ironic, and some might conclude disturbing, are details of a 2015 interaction in the White House that Djerejian had with a senior official of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
On April 23, 2015, ANCA leaders had gathered for a secret meeting at the White House to exhort President Barack Obama to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide – as the 100th anniversary of this crime was about to be marked around the world. This meeting with ANCA leaders, held in the West Wing of the White House – just steps away from the Oval Office – included the participation of the President’s then Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and Charles Kupchan, a Special Assistant to President Obama and a senior director for European affairs on the staff of the National Security Council (NSC).
As White House records confirm, Djerejian himself was in the West Wing of the White House on April 23, 2015.
Seeing one top ANCA official, Djerejian would ask what business the organization had in the white House that day. Learning that the ANCA delegation was pressing for official U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide by President Obama – Djerejian derisively replied, “you guys are still on that issue.”
At the time, the ANCA official ignored Djerejian’s insult and carried on with their meeting with the President’s Chief of Staff and top NSC officials. While the ANCA did not succeed on that day to convince President Obama to speak the truth – years later the ANCA would lead national efforts in 2019 to successfully get both the House and Senate to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide – a development that would force the White House to end its complicity in genocide denial in April of 2020.
What Edward Djerejian meant by his remark – “you guys are still on that issue” is a matter for him to clarify and, at the end of the day, for him to reconcile with the memory of his parents.
What Djerejian is responsible for is his silence on the Armenian Genocide – as he rose in power and prestige within the ranks of the Department of State.
Djerejian’s silence on the Armenian Genocide for decades certainly served the foreign policy establishment in Washington, DC. But his silence on the Armenian Genocide did not serve the truth and that is his shame to live with as he enters the sunset of his life.
As Artsakh is facing a modern genocide, Djerejian’s casual remark in 2015 at the White House to an ANCA official – “you guys are still on that issue,”- takes on a new and added relevance.
Such a remark is indicative of a corrupt American foreign policy establishment that Djerejian belonged to since the 1960s, and corrupt officials who bury the truth about genocide in the name of national security. It is these very policies that led America today to lay in bed with Azerbaijan – and remain silent – as Artsakh was being starved.
Edward Djerejian would have done well to follow a genuine Armenian-American Profile in Courage: Ken Khachigian.
Khachigian, while serving as President Reagan’s speechwriter famously worked to include mention of the Armenian Genocide in a proclamation the President would issue on April 22, 1981.
That took courage on the part of Ken Khachigian.
Perhaps one day Edward Djerejian will summon the courage of Ken Khachigian and on behalf of his parents – both Armenian Genocide survivors – apologize to the Armenian-American community for his lack of courage as a State Department official to confront the truth of the Armenian Genocide.
As for the ANCA – yes, Edward Djerejian – they are “still on that issue” – this time for Artsakh.
But the question remains why the ANCA-Western Region has decided to put this cowardly man center stage at its premier annual event. Perhaps one of its organizers will be able to answer between cocktails – or from that same stage – during the gala.