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KINDRED GROUPS URGING FIGHT AGAINST GENOCIDE.

Byline: BRAD A. GREENBERG Staff Writer

Before Adolph Hitler began to wipe out Europe's Jews, gays and Gypsies, he argued that Nazi Germany's brutality would escape global condemnation.

``Who still talks nowadays of the extermination of the Armenians?'' Hitler asked his commanding generals in 1939, The New York Times reported at the end of World War II.

The first genocide of the 20th century -- the killing of 1 million to 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Turks in 1915 -- is viewed by scholars as a precursor to the Holocaust that erased 6 million Jews.

In Los Angeles, which has among the world's largest Armenian and Jewish populations, members of the two communities gathered in Encino late Monday to share their kinship of suffering and motivate their youths to fight the forces that lead to genocide.

``The question is: Can we teach our young persons something true so there will be no genocide in their generation?'' said Rabbi Ed Feinstein of Valley Beth Shalom. ``Can we acknowledge that there is something evil in human nature?''

His audience was the 700 who filled his synagogue to watch ``Screamers,'' a documentary that will open nationwide Friday about System of a Down and the band's campaign to have the Armenian Genocide recognized by the U.S. and British governments.

Director Carla Garapedian, a North Hollywood High School graduate, and System bassist Shavo Odadjian spoke after the screening.

``A screamer is somebody whose defenses and whose alibis somehow melt away, and they actually process what a genocide is without defense, without guile,'' Samantha Power, a professor at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government and author of the Pulitzer-Prize winning book ``A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide,'' says in an opening scene.

``And when you do that, when you actually allow it all in, there is no other alternative but to go up to people and to scream and say, `You know, the sky is falling! The sky is falling! People are being systematically butchered! We can stop it!'''

Ethnic victims of genocide, humanitarian activists and scholars say the continued refusal by some countries to use the ``g'' word when referring to the Armenian massacre is a reason why genocides occurred with increasing frequency at the end of the 20th century and the early part of this century -- in Cambodia, Rwanda, Kosovo, Darfur.

Genocide recognition

Turkey has branded the killing of Armenians by the collapsing Ottoman Empire a consequence of war between ethnic groups; monuments in Turkey memorialize Turks killed by Armenians. But the European Union has stated that Turkey must acknowledge that the act was genocide before it can join.

There have been U.S. efforts to recognize the genocide -- resolutions passed the House in 1974 and 1985 -- but each has failed because the government fears offending a military ally.

``Jews have held onto this phrase, `never again.' I remind people that `never again' first appeared in the book of Genesis when God says to Noah that he will never again flood the Earth,'' Stephen Feinstein, director of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the University of Minnesota, said in an interview.

``When God speaks, we can believe it. When men speak, it's a little harder. `Never again' is just a cliche. Intervention always depends on national interest. That is as simple as it is.''

Band makes you ask

In ``Screamers,'' the four members of System of a Down, who are Armenian and grew up in Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley, talk about their missing family trees and protest outside the Illinois office of former House Speaker Dennis J. Hastert, who has opposed genocide resolutions.

Wherever the band appears, their fans speak of what happened to the Armenians -- something barely taught in American public schools.

``This band didn't start to change the world. This band didn't start to change your mind,'' singer Serj Tankian says in a performance at the Greek Theatre. ``This band started to make you ask questions.''

Adam Braun, who is Jewish and a freshman at Harvard-Westlake School, said the band's music taught him about a genocide he'd never heard of. ``The next step is having the courage to stand against these things.''

Interwoven with concert performances are expert interviews, including one with Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink, who was assassinated in Istanbul last week and whose funeral took place Tuesday; Turkish protest footage; and photos and footage of genocides from Armenia to Sudan.

``Why do genocides continue to occur in the 21st century?'' says Salih Booker, executive director of Global Rights. ``Because those that committed it in the 20th century got away with it.''

brad.greenberg(at)dailynews.com

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 24, 2007
Words:778
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