Edy Cohen, a Middle East scholar, says “Israel is morally bound to recognize the Armenian Genocide. In an article published on i24news.tv he calls on the the President of Israel Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to take immediate steps to recognize the Armenian genocide, which was ignored by all their predecessors:
Fourty-four members of the US Congress recently submitted a bill calling on the Obama administration to recognize the Armenian holocaust as a “genocide”. It is unclear when it will be voted on, however it seems the US might soon join the list of 21 countries that formally recognize the first genocide of the 20th century.
As World War I broke out, the Ottoman Empire declared war on Russia. The Armenians, who sought to realize their national aspirations and to found an Armenian autonomy in the Empire, were perceived as traitors and collaborators with the Russians. The “young Turks”, the Turkish nationalist party, which deposed Sultan Abdul Hamid II, had other plans regarding the Armenians in its territory. The party acted for “Turkification” of the territories under its control, which meant ethnic cleansing of the Christian minority. Those responsible for the Armenian genocide were the top brass of the Young Turks, Interior Minister Talaat Pasha and Minister of War Enver Pasha. These senior officials ordered the founding of a paramilitary organization, the “Special Organization” – Techkilat-i Mahsoussé – in order to solve the “Armenian problem”. The organization was tasked with banishing and destroying the Armenians. Criminals and specially freed convicts were drafted into its ranks to execute the plan.
On the night between April 23rd and 24th, 1915, the Turkish army came to the homes of the Armenian minority leaders, cruelly killing hundreds. Therefore, April 24th symbolizes the beginning of the Armenian genocide and was set as its official Day of Remembrance. Investigators believe that from 1914 to 1918, between one to 1.5 million Armenian men, women and children were cruelly and systematically murdered. Modern Turkey vehemently refuses to admit its historic involvement in the murder of the Armenian people and invests great funds in propaganda denying the Armenian holocaust.
One of the Nuremberg trial documents reveals that the apathy of the international community toward the Turkish slaughter of Armenians during World War I and the lack of appropriate response from then-powers encouraged Adolf Hitler to conquer territories and annihilate Jews in Europe. “Who remembers those Armenians?” Hitler told his staff, informing them of his decision to invade Poland, adding that they shouldn’t fear an international response, using the slaughter of the Armenians as proof.
Israel never formally recognized the Armenian genocide. The policy of the Israeli foreign ministry was always “not to upset” the Turks. Hints were conveyed to the media not to publish articles on the subject and editors knowingly withheld from the Israeli public the right to know about the Armenian tragedy. Many Israelis are unaware of the issue despite its importance and influence on Jewish history.
Israel, in general, and the Jewish people, in particular, have a moral duty to recognize the Armenian genocide. A people that lost a third of its number in the Holocaust cannot deny the genocide of another people, which lost two thirds of its number. Any attempt in recent years to promote recognition of the Armenian genocide failed, mostly as a result of Israeli concern about the Turkish response. Today, when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan maintains a clear anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic line, the foreign ministry continues to ignore the Armenian holocaust and to be guided by petty politics based on wrong considerations.
There is a moral and historic justification to recognize the Armenian genocide. The Armenian holocaust must be taught in schools. In a month, on April 24, we will commemorate 100 years to the murder of 1.5 million Armenian people. On this opportunity, in addition to the Facebook page I have opened (“Recognize the Armenian Holocaust”), I call on the President of Israel Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to take immediate steps to recognize the Armenian genocide, which was ignored by all their predecessors.
Edy Cohen is a Middle East scholar and senior researcher at the department of Middle East studies of Bar-Ilan University.