Yesterday marked the centenary of ‘the first holocaust,’ the arrest in Constantinople of Armenian academics and political leaders that led to the eventual deportation, and systematic murder of over one million Christian Armenians by the Ottoman Turks. During the 1915 Turkish-Russian war the Armenians, who were already suffering state persecution as a religious minority in the Ottoman Empire, looked to Orthodox Russia as a liberator and so sided with it against Turkey. Mustafa Atatürk, the first president of the Turkish Republic, described the murder of the Armenians as a shameful act in Turkey’s history, but to this day – in the face of overwhelming evidence – Turkey has denied that this ‘massacre’ was genocide. What is known is that through 1915 and 1916 innocent Armenian men, women, and children were rounded up through Anatolia and sent on forced marches to the east where they we subject to starvation, privation, abuse, rape, and murder. Ottoman Turkey saw the removal and extermination of the Armenian Christians as a national priority, and the result was an unleashing of centuries of bitter hatred against this ancient Christian ethnic community. Turkey continues to deny these events, and so too does the US and Israel.
Genocide is denied by the United States, an empire built on the perpetration of genocide against millions of First Peoples on the North American continent, because it is an ally of Turkey’s, but we have learned to expect little from the US. Israel is the shocker. Israel was a state established as a result of genocide, and Armenians have, since the year 638, made up a sizeable minority in the city of Jerusalem. In fact the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem predates the Jewish Quarter by centuries; Armenians are Israeli citizens, and they serve in the Israeli Armed Forces. We would expect some level of recognition of the suffering of the Armenians from Israel, but no, Israel staunchly denies the facts. This holocaust denial is not a crime in Israel – it is policy. Israel, like the United States, is an ally of Turkey’s, and also has a powerful relationship with Azerbaijan; a modern enemy of Armenia’s. As far as historical twists go this one has to be one of the saddest. For the sake of military and commercial expedience both the US and Israel are willing to deny the facts of history and deny the victims of the Armenian Genocide justice.