Israel refuses to recognize Armenian Genocide, but why


And doesn’t self-interest include a nation’s sense of itself? Now with Israel as one of the few holdouts among the countries of the West, in refusing still to recognize the Armenian Genocide, aren’t Israelis likely to suffer from the sense that they are betraying their own principles of justice? What will that do to Israeli morale? Writes Hugh Fitzgerald

One country, Israel, whose people are intimately familiar, as victims, with genocide – with the greatest of all genocides, the Holocaust — refuses until today to recognize the Armenian Genocide. Now that America has done so, it’s even more important for Israel to follow suit. “Why has Israel not yet recognized the Armenian Genocide?,” by Jeremy Sharon, Jerusalem Post, April 25, 2021:

…In 1949, Turkey became the first Muslim-majority country to recognize Israel and establish diplomatic relations with it.

For a long time since, the country was regarded as a strategic asset for Israel. Not only was it the one friend and ally Israel had in a region of unbridled enmity toward the Jewish state, it was also a regional power with strategic geopolitical importance.

It provided Israeli with an air corridor to the Far East, as well as trade, tourism and military cooperation.

All of that is true. In its Kemalist phase, Turkey was a friend – Israel’s only friend in the entire Muslim world. Israeli tourists flocked to Turkey, which became a favorite destination, and the only one in the whole Middle East where Israelis felt both safe and welcome. Particularly important for Israel were the close defense ties that developed between the two countries.

Turkey bought Israeli-made weapons. Turkish and Israeli officers exchanged cordial visits. But that was before Erdogan. With the appearance of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, those close ties to Israel not only came to an end, but Turkey became an enemy of the Jewish state. Turkey adopted the Palestinian cause as its own. When Turks aboard the Mavi Marmara in 2010 tried to break the Israeli blockade of weapons and other war materiel to Gaza, it resulted in a battle between IDF soldiers who rappelled down from helicopters onto the Turkish vessel in order to stop it from reaching Gaza; the Turks on board violently resisted, and nine of them died in the resulting battle. Erdogan raged against the Israelis, cutting off diplomatic relations with the Jewish state. In 2009 Erdogan famously walked off the stage when Shimon Peres was trying to get a word in edgewise at Davos. During the 2014 Gaza war – Operation Protective Edge — the Turkish government took the side of Hamas, accusing the Israelis of deliberately massacring Palestinian civilians, and ignoring Hamas’ policy of placing weapons among civilians in schools, apartment buildings, hospitals. In 2021, Erdogan granted Turkish citizenship to a dozen Hamas leaders, who with their Turkish passports are free to travel through Europe, propagandizing and fundraising for the terror group. And Hamas has been given a safe haven in Turkey, where they are free to plot against the Jewish state. And most malevolent of all, in 2018 Erdogan had published in his mouthpiece, the newspaper Kayhan, a plan to create a pan-Islamic army, pooling the military resources of several dozen countries, that would, presumably under Turkish leadership, be able to destroy the Jewish state.

Given all that, why should Israeli continue to refuse to recognize the Armenian Genocide? Turkey has become, and is likely to remain as long as Erdogan stays in power, an enemy of Israel. What is now the point to being so solicitous of Turkish sensibilities?

But as a nation that experienced the Holocaust, many have argued that Israel has a particular moral necessity to recognize what is widely considered to be the first genocide of the 20th century.

Indeed, Adolf Hitler infamously recalled the massacres of the Armenians and the global failure to stop them or punish the perpetrators as a reason that the Nazis themselves should not shy away from similar actions.

At the conclusion of his Obersaltzberg speech in 1939, Hitler said “who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”

Charny [Israel Charny, an Israeli] is one such person who has argued for decades that Israel, as the nation-state of a people that was a victim to genocide, and as part of Jewish values and tradition itself, has a moral obligation to recognize the genocide perpetrated against the Armenians.

From the early 1970s when he first learned of the atrocities, into the 1980s when a conference he organized in Israel on genocide – including discussion about the mass murder of Armenians – generated opposition from the Israeli government, and until today, Charny has worked passionately to bring public awareness to this dark historical chapter and for Israel to recognize it as genocide.

Just this month, Charny, who made aliyah in 1973, published a book detailing Israel’s history of refusing to recognize the genocide, including the fierce opposition to the 1982 conference he organized which dealt with the Armenian Genocide….

At the end of the 1970s, Charny began organizing what he would call the First International Conference on Holocaust and Genocide which would eventually take three years for him to bring to fruition.

It was the first international conference to connect the Holocaust to other genocides, and also the first to include Armenian scholars….

But when the Israeli government got wind of the conference, according to Charny following publication about the event in The Jerusalem Post, intense pressure began to be exerted against Charny and his initiative….

The ministry even claimed at one point that should the conference go ahead, Turkey might close its borders to Jews seeking to leave Iran and Syria at the time, a step that would trap them in those countries….

“I realized that Israel had concocted the threats to justify its behavior to try and close the conference down to please Turkey,” Charny told the Post.

He said that, at the time, he contacted the US State Department to ask if there was any threat to Jewish lives, which it said there was not, and therefore proceeded with the conference.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry, desperate to derail Israel Charny’s conference on genocide which would include Armenian scholars, simply made up a story about Turkish threats to close its borders to Jews fleeing from Iran and Syria. There were no such threats. In 1982, of course, long before Erdogan appeared on the scene, relations between the two states were still close, and Israel had something to lose if it antagonized the Turks. That is no longer the case; relations between Turkey and Israel have deteriorated to such an extent that recognizing the Armenian Genocide cannot make relations worse.

Charny is forthright in his diagnosis of the reasons behind Israel’s refusal to recognize the Armenian Genocide, asserting that it is Israel’s diplomatic, military and economic concerns that have trumped what he sees as its moral imperative.

“We are out for our own self-interest, which is the first value we should be concerned about, but it is coming at the expense of doing what is central to Jewish tradition, ‘Justice, justice, you shall pursue,’” he asserts, quoting from Bible.

And doesn’t self-interest include a nation’s sense of itself? Now with Israel as one of the few holdouts among the countries of the West, in refusing still to recognize the Armenian Genocide, aren’t Israelis likely to suffer from the sense that they are betraying their own principles of justice? What will that do to Israeli morale?

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