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The Other Israel
A newspaper editorial about the Armenian genocide – perhaps holocaust is a better word – shows just how contradictory a place Israel can be.
Eamonn McCann, 18 Jan 2012
An editorial last month in the English-language Tel Aviv daily Ha’aretz commented on Israeli reaction to a French parliamentary vote giving the Armenian genocide the same status as the Holocaust, to the extent of making denial of the atrocity a criminal offence.
Armenians have long pleaded for recognition of the 1915 slaughter of a million and a half by Turkish troops as a crime against humanity. In response, Turkish governments have insisted that the allegation is a foul libel and determined its foreign relations according to other States’ attitude on the issue.
Relations with Turkey have been high on Israel’s foreign policy agenda. Turkey is the most populous country in the region, the only majority-Muslim member of NATO, and an ally of the United States. Plus, there’s the Zionist claim that the Holocaust gives Israel a unique moral status, entitling it to see any condemnation of its treatment of the Palestinians as synonymous with hatred of Jews.
For these reasons, Israel has traditionally denied the Armenian genocide.
The Ha’aretz editorial focused on a shift in the Israeli attitude in response to the reaction of the Turkish government to the May 2010 killing of nine Turkish citizens by Israeli commandos who boarded the Mavi Marmara, part of the Gaza flotilla, in the Mediterranean. Israeli politicians, including members of the cabinet, now urged that Israel, too, should declare it a crime to deny the Armenian genocide.
Said Ha’aretz: “Israel had plenty of opportunities to demonstrate its solidarity with the Armenian people when Jerusalem-Ankara relations were good. But at the time, Israel chose moral silence, and even used its friends in the US Congress to keep it from recognising the Armenian genocide.
“Israel, one of the last countries in the world to occupy another nation and to deny the memory of the Palestinian Nakba [the ‘Disaster’] cannot wrap itself in the flag of morality now, while the embers of political account-settling burn beneath it. No special Knesset deliberations are needed in order to teach the Armenian genocide – or the Nakba – in Israel’s schools; the education minister has the authority to make these decisions without creating a circus of hollow morality.