“I was shocked,” expressed Raphael Lemkin, the architect of the term “genocide”. “Why is a man punished when he kills another man? Why is the killing of a million a lesser crime than the killing of a single individual?”
As a teen, Lemkin had heard news reports of the mass slaughter of Armenians by Ottoman soldiers, and was astonished at the scale of the horror he heard about. Lemkin would later lose 49 members of his family during the Holocaust, and coined the word “genocide” to describe the attempt to exterminate the Jews as a people, drawing on his knowledge of what happened to the Armenians beforehand.
Hitler himself infamously retorted “Who remembers the Armenians?” before he launched his plan to exterminate Europe’s Jews.
From 1915 until 1917, Ottoman authorities committed massacre upon massacre against ethnic Armenians within their crumbling empire. Armenians were variously tortured, raped, drowned, drugged, burned alive and taken on death marches into the Syrian desert, as 1.5 million Armenians perished.
Since then, the successor to the Ottoman Empire, the Republic of Turkey, has embarked upon a cynical campaign of denying the Ottomans ever committed genocide. Turkey is a NATO member state, as well as a prospective EU member nation. The West views Turkey as vital for security in the Middle East; a fact which Turkey exploits ruthlessly, to blackmail its allies never to recognise the Armenian Genocide for what it was.
Israel too has been paralysed by Turkish threats, so that it too refuses to refer to the Armenian Holocaust by its proper name. As a Likud politician, Reuven Rivlin called for Israeli recognition of the genocide, but when he became President of the state, Rivlin quietly dropped this stance. Something is rotten when the closer you get to the top in Israel, the less you can speak about the Armenian Medz Yeghern that preceded the Jewish Shoah.
Article II of the Genocide Convention of 1948 defines genocide as; killing, causing harm, inflicting harsh conditions, preventing births within that ethnic group, and forcibly moving the group – all of which were well documented in sources from the time. Diplomats, journalists and missionaries attested to Ottoman crimes against the Armenians.
When Western officials pleaded with the Ottomans to stop their ongoing brutality, the Grand Vizier Talaat Pisha told the American Ambassador Henry Mortgentheau: “Let us do to these Christians as we please.”
Today in Israel, the Christian Empowerment Council is calling for the Jewish State to finally recognise the Armenian Genocide. Father Gabriel Naddaf says that Israel should do so urgently:
“What happened to the Armenians has many similarities to what happened to the Jews under the Nazis. Armenians and Jews must stand together, on the right side of history, as voices of evil try to deny the crimes of the past.”
Father Naddaf also stated “Before the Armenian genocide, the Ottomans committed genocide against the Greeks and against the Assyrians too. What did the Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians have in common? They were all hated as Christians by the Ottomans. But Israel is a beacon of hope for Christians today, so we should acknowledge where anti-Christian hatred has led to in the past.”
Father Naddaf added a word of warning: “Turkey is no friend to Israel. Hamas arranged to murder 3 teenagers last summer from their office in Turkey. Not Armenia! We must do justice to the Armenian people and to the indigenous Christians of the Jewish state. This way, we stop a future Hitler asking “Who remembers the Armenians?”