Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Tobin - Turkey, Israel and the Armenian Genocide

Jonathan S. Tobin..
28 December '11..

It goes without saying that had Turkey not spent the last few years doing everything it could to destroy its erstwhile alliance with Israel there would have been no debate in the Knesset yesterday about whether to commemorate the Turkish genocide of Armenians during World War I. But since the Turks have become the sponsors and perhaps even the financial backers of Hamas, the consensus within the Israel to stay away from anything touching the Armenian question has dissolved. Though there were some MKs who thought the commemoration should be shelved as part of a new effort to win back the affections of Turkey, most Israelis rightly understand the ship has sailed on good relations with its former ally.

The discussion will, it should be admitted, do nothing to ameliorate the now tense relationship, let alone revive the now shattered alliance between the two nations. With the Turks, as Max noted yesterday, willing to engage in name calling and accusations with France over the genocide issue, there can be no doubt that the Knesset’s session will only widen the breech between Ankara and Jerusalem. But rather than a mystery, the Turks’ decision to make a nearly century-old controversy a diplomatic litmus test can be understood in light of their history. Their unwillingness to bend even a little bit on the Armenians must be understood as something that speaks to their national identity and is unlikely to be dropped anytime soon.

Max is right that logically it makes no sense for the Turkish republic to be so uptight about criticism of the actions of the Ottoman Empire that it replaced. But the Turkish Army carried out the mass slaughter of Armenians. The army was the heart and soul of the Ataturk regime that succeeded the old empire. It was the same army, led by Ataturk, that defeated the Greeks in the aftermath of World War I and evicted the Greeks from Asia Minor.

Though we may see no connection between the Young Turk government that conducted the genocide and what followed, Ataturk’s modern republic is based on the idea of creating a Turkish national identity in which minorities such as the Greeks, the Kurds and, yes, the Armenians could play no real role. While the exodus of the Greeks from Turkey was more a matter of a mass ethnic cleansing than genocide, the intent was not dissimilar. So, too, was the decades-long Turkish campaign to eradicate the language, culture and political identity of the Kurds within their borders.

I agree that Turkish gestures toward the Armenians or just a decision to drop their perennial campaign to make other nations stop commemorating the genocide would objectively cost them nothing. But they can’t seem to do it because to admit that Turks were at fault with the Armenians might also mean they were at fault with the Greeks or the Kurds. Just as the political culture of the Palestinians is so obsessed with negating Zionism that it prevents them from doing the rational thing and making peace with Israel, so, too does Turkey’s history render them incapable of giving up the argument about the Armenians.

The one upside to the decision of Turkey’s Islamic government to betray their alliance with Israel and embrace Hamas is that it is no longer obligated to keep quiet about the Armenian genocide. The same goes for American Jews who understandably chose to make nice with the Turks for the sake of their backing of Israel. No longer need Israelis listen to lectures about the treatment of the Palestinians from a government that denies the Armenian genocide while oppressing Kurds in our own time.


If you enjoy "Love of the Land", please be a subscriber. Just put your email address in the "Subscribe" box on the upper right-hand corner of the page.

1 comment:

  1. Re: Turkey, Israel and the Armenian Genocide

    As long as the Knesset considers whether to commemorate the Turkish genocide of Armenians during World War I, a crime perpetrated by Turkey that will live in infamy, why is no one in the Knesset not raising the issue of simultaneously commemorationg the hand played by Turkey during WW II in the sinking of the Jewish refugee Ship, the SS Struma which Turkey had towed out to sea on February 23, 1942 and abandoned with no fuel, food or water, all its Jewish refugee passengers, left to die.

    And Turkey believes it has the moral highground to lecture the world about human rights.

    It is high time someone makes a full length documentary about the engrained historical genocidal tendencies of the nation of Turkey.

    While Turkey cannot handle the truth of its own past, the rest of the world needs to know Turkey's blood curdling history for what it was- and is, even to this very day.

    See: Wikipedia: The SS Struma

    The Struma was a ship chartered to carry Jewish refugees from Axis-allied Romania to British-controlled Palestine during World War II. On February 23, 1942, with its engine inoperable and its refugee passengers aboard, Turkish authorities towed the ship from Istanbul harbor through the Bosphorus out to the Black Sea, where they abandoned it without food, water, or fuel. Within hours, in the morning of February 24, it was torpedoed and sunk by the Soviet submarine Shch 213, killing 768 men, women and children, with only one survivor, a 19 year old man, making it the largest exclusively civilian naval disaster of the war.[1]

    The Struma sinking, along with the Patria disaster which preceded it, became a rallying point for the Irgun and LEHI Jewish underground movements, encouraging their violent revolt against the British presence in Palestine.[2][3]