Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Israel / Armenian Genocide

State of Denial
By Peter Balakian
Tablet Magazine, October 19, 2010
"There has been speculation about Turkey’s shifting international ties ever since the election of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, of the Islamist AKP party, in 2003, and the Gaza flotilla incident of May created a new breach in the long-standing alliance between Turkey and Israel. Among the many issues that have emerged in post-flotilla relations between the two countries is the Armenian Genocide of 1915. The flotilla episode is fraught with complexities and ironies on both sides. While the Turkish-led mission focused on a grave human rights crisis -- Israel's oppressive treatment of Gaza's Palestinians -- Turkey's righteous indignation toward Israel both oversimplifies Israel's distress about Hamas and seems glaringly hypocritical in view of its own human-rights problems. Those problems, which include Turkey's repressive and violent treatment of its large Kurdish population, some 15 million or more, and its record of legal detention, imprisonment, and torture of Turkish intellectuals, journalists, and political activists, constitutes one of the world's worst human rights records, as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch reports repeatedly show, over the past 20 years. Add to that Turkey's occupation of Northern Cyprus in violation of international law and its international campaign to falsify the history of its genocide of the Armenians in 1915, and the ironies multiply.
While there remains a narrative among opinion-makers like New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman that frames Turkey as an exemplary friend and a real democracy, Jews should wrestle with some truths about past and present realities. Jews, like Christians, lived as designated infidels under the Ottomans, often under harsh and repressive laws; Zionists were jailed and killed outright by the Turkish government through the end of World War I (Palestine was under Ottoman rule then). The U.S. ambassador to Turkey from 1913 to 1916, an American Jew, Henry Morgenthau, said more than once that he feared that the fate of the Armenians at the hands of the Turks awaited the Jews next. It remains uncomfortable for Jews to recall that Turkey supplied the Nazis with large amounts of chromium during World War II, a mineral that was used, among other things, for killing in concentration camps. And today a virulent anti-Semitism has spread throughout Turkey so that recently a banner of the Islamic Saadet Party read: 'Legendary leader Hitler, our patience is running out, we need your spirit.' [...]"

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