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For Israel, It’s Time to Recognize the Armenian Genocide

by Hugh Fitzgerald

The recognition by the United States of the Armenian Genocide now puts more pressure on those nations that have yet to do so, and especially on Israel, that has until now refused, for reasons of misplaced — and increasingly nonsensical — realpolitik. A report on why Israel has for so long refused to recognize the first genocide of the 20th century, and the moral cost of that refusal, is here: “Why has Israel not yet recognized the Armenian Genocide?,” by Jeremy Sharon, Jerusalem Post, April 25, 2021.

The mass murder of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians from 1915 to 1917 by the regime of the Young Turks in Turkey is widely seen as the first genocide of the 20th century.

It is also an event that has for long pricked at the conscience of the Jewish people, which suffered the horrors of the Holocaust, the worst genocide of the 20th century and of modern times.

Despite the mutual experience of genocide, the State of Israel, ever since its founding, has shied away from recognizing the Armenian experience, a state of affairs that activists decry but others assert has been and continues to be a necessary aspect of the Jewish state’s delicate diplomatic and security position….

A few hours after this report was published at the Jerusalem Post, Joe Biden did recognize the genocide, which the U.S., and Israel, too, ought to have recognized many years ago.

ONE MAN who has struggled for decades to advance this cause is Prof. Israel Charny, whose new book, Israel’s Failed Response to the Armenian Genocide, details how and why the Jewish state has refrained from acknowledging the atrocities as genocide.

The genocide itself was preceded by a failed Turkish assault during the First World War against Russian forces to its east, and Turkey’s attempts to capture the Azeri city of Baku.

The Young Turk regime subsequently blamed Armenians in eastern Anatolia for betraying Turkey and accused them of being a fifth column in the country seeking independence.

As a result, Armenian soldiers in the Turkish army were disarmed and then systematically murdered by Turkish troops, and irregular forces then began committing massacres of Armenian civilians.

The proximate cause of the Armenian genocide from 1915 to 1917 was Turkish fury at having failed to prevail over the Russians in World War I, and the scapegoat was easy to find: the Ottoman Empire’s Armenian minority. But it did not take a defeat in a war to let loose the hatred of the Muslim Turks for the Christian Armenians. Already, between 1894 and 1896, there were the Hamidian massacres of up to 300,000 Armenians, who were killed because some of them had dared to protest their treatment by the government of Abdul Hamid II. Other Christians, too, were the victims of the Turks at the same time, for no other reason than that they were Christians: at Diyarbakir, 25,000 Assyrians were slaughtered along with Armenians. The Turks did not need much of a reason in 1894, or in 1915, to start mass-murdering Armenians, and what we carelessly describe as a “cause” of the Armenian genocide ought to be called more accurately an “excuse” for those killings.

In May 1915 the Turkish parliament authorized mass deportations of Armenians from eastern Turkey to the south, alleging their presence was a national security threat, and under the oversight of civil and military officials, hundreds of thousands of Armenian citizens were then marched to desert concentration camps.

Many were massacred along the way while others died from starvation and dehydration in the Syrian desert….

More than a century has passed since that genocide of 1915-1917, and Turkey continues its policy of denying it, claiming that the numbers of dead have been greatly inflated, that many of the Armenians who died were killed by typhus and other diseases, that others died in pitched battles between Armenian and Turkish soldiers. Turkey has threatened to reduce cooperation, and to downgrade or cut altogether diplomatic relations with, any country that recognizes the genocide. It has been quite successful in that effort: only in 2001 did France, despite its large Armenian population, recognize the genocide, nor did the Soviet Union, despite having Armenian SSR as one of its constituent republics, until the Russian Duma did so in 1995, nor did the United States, with a large and politically active Armenian population, until 2021. Now there are 32 countries that have recognized the genocide. Many of them, weighing the likely consequences of a worsening of relations with Turkey, took a long while to do so. But now, with the momentous American recognition, a diplomatic dam has burst and one can expect another dozen states to soon follow suit.

First published in Jihad Watch.

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