Excuse and pressure: Israel makes use of the Armenian Genocide issue

18.05.2018 | 18:51 | Foreign Policy

The issue of recognition of the Armenian Genocide is again being speculated in the context of the Turkish-Israeli relations deteriorating in the face of recent developments in Gaza Strip.

A bill recognizing the Armenian Genocide has again been introduced at the Israeli parliament, which has received the approval of the majority despite the fact that only 14 months ago (on February 14) the Israeli Knesset overthrew the bill on commemorating the Armenian Genocide Day with 41 votes against 28.

It is noteworthy, however, that this time the speculations about the Armenian Genocide are somewhat different, since they actually attempt to conceal another tragedy that is taking place in Gaza Strip these days.

What is happening there?

Starting in March, when it was already known that the United States is going to move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, mass protests started on the line of contact with Israel in the Gaza Strip controlled by the HAMAS group. Another impetus for the protests was the Independence Day of Israel celebrated on May 14. And on the next day (May 15) the Arab world commemorates Nakba Day, the “Day of the Catastrophe.”

Around 60 Palestinians were killed during the clashes in Gaza on May 14, and more than 2,700 were injured. In fact, the Israeli army opened fire on the Palestinian citizens approaching their positions.

The international community reacted negatively to the Israeli actions, noting that they were not proportionate. In particular, the European Union came up with such a position. In its turn, the US called the death of so many people a tragedy, at the same time putting the blame on HAMAS. A number of countries, such as the South African Republic, Ireland and Belgium, summoned Israeli ambassadors in their countries to the Foreign Ministry.

A number of Islamic countries reacted strongly to these events, and first of all Turkey which traditionally defends the interests of the Palestinians. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Israel of committing a genocide. In addition, Turkey also deported the Israeli ambassador and called back its ambassadors from Israel and the United States for consultations.

How did they remember about the Armenian Genocide?

In the face of the tragedy in Gaza, when Turkey accused Israel of committing genocide against the Palestinians, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s son Yair made a statement in which he reminded the Turkish side that the latter was responsible for the Armenian Genocide and the atrocities against the people of Cyprus and Greece. Recalling that the Turks had come from Central Asia and occupied the lands of Christian nations in Asia Minor, Yair urged Turkey to “shut up”.

It was also followed by a bill on recognizing the Armenian Genocide introduced to the the Knesset despite the fact that a similar initiative had  failed in February, and justified by the attempt not to damage Israel’s foreign policy.

There have been a number of such situations. The issue of the Armenian Genocide has been discussed in Knesset a number of times. For instance, the Knesset discussed the issue of recognizing the Armenian Genocide in 2014, voicing opinions that the crime should be condemned. However, the Israeli Parliament agenda did not include the bill at the time though the occasion was more than symbolic: 2015 marked the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. During the same period of time, a certain rapprochement was observed in Turkish-Israeli relations that had been tense since 2010, when Israeli commandos had raided the Turkish Mavi Marmara ship that was part of an aid flotilla attempting to breach the blockade of Gaza on 31 May 2010. Ten Turkish activists on board the ship were killed as a result of the operation. After the Turkish-Israeli negotiations in summer of 2016, Israel and Turkey announced about the normalization of bilateral relations, and the issue of the Armenian Genocide remained frozen until 2017, when US President Donald Trump announced about US Embassy’s transfer to Jerusalem which was followed by Turkey’s tough stance. That is when Israel began circulating the issue of the recognition of the Genocide again.

No doubt, the Armenian Genocide should be recognized by Israel, but the developments taking place at this stage are probably yet another phase of the Turkish-Israeli diplomatic trade and pressures. It is even more unfortunate that the issue of the Armenian Genocide is being used to justify Israel’s actions that have received controversial assessments by the international community.

Vahe Ghukasyan
“Union of Informed Citizens”


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