Strange bedfellows

This development is worrisome for many reasons, and Israel should think twice before getting in bed with the likes of Erdogan.

May 1, 2016 21:16
3 minute read.

An Armenian protester holds a banner reading ‘1915 never again’ as she takes part in a demonstration near the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg in January. (photo credit: REUTERS)

‘The Armenian Genocide never happened, and anyone who claims it did is an enemy of Turkey.’ That’s what he said, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on the eve of the anniversary of the 1915 Armenian genocide.

On the same day, Swedish Channel 4 received an email addressed to its news desk from Arif Gülen, writing on the behalf of the Turkish Embassy in Sweden.

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Gülen asked the channel to “seriously rethink” airing its upcoming documentary Seyfo 1915 – The Assyrian Genocide, and ended his plea by offering to educate the staff at Channel 4 about the “events of 1915.”

There are currently 2,000 open investigations and court cases in Turkey against individuals suspected of and charged with having insulted President Erdogan, and after recently having a Dutch journalist arrested in her home after criticizing Erdogan on Twitter and demanding of Germany that a Turkish satirist be arrested and extradited (a demand that was granted by German Chancellor Angela Merkel) there is little doubt that the Turkish government is serious about playing offense against foreign media daring to stand up to the regime. This is happening on top of the ongoing and persistent violence toward and oppression of Kurds in Turkey, something that, much like the Armenian genocide, is vehemently denied by Erdogan and his henchmen.

At the same time, diplomatic relations between Israel and Turkey are reportedly on the mend, and after Israel actively participated in the aid and rescue after the 2016 Istanbul bombing what seem to have been a behind-the-scenes building of alliances took center stage. Earlier this month, news broke that Turkey and Israel will agree to build an independent port off the Gaza coast, and in another development that would have been unthinkable during and after the 2010 flotilla crisis, Israeli officials have made visits to Turkey in a surprisingly overt fashion, tentatively moving toward an alliance beyond avoiding outright hostility and giving emergency aid.

This development is worrisome for many reasons, and Israel should think twice before getting in bed with the likes of Erdogan. The 1915 genocide took the lives of 1.5 million Armenians, Yazidi Kurds, Syrians and Greeks, and these murders were not even committed in the most expedient fashion, but were deliberately brutal and horrific, making an example for others, enslaving children and women in a fashion reminiscent of both the Nazi Holocaust and what Islamic State (ISIS) is doing across the Levant today.

Israel has great friends in the Kurds, and standing with Erdogan and his AK Party means actively selling them out, and to a larger extent selling out the values that Israel alone champions in the region by not using its voice to condemn the anti-democratic Islamist regime in Ankara that goes beyond laws, borders and decency to oppress its people.

Thankfully, only a dark and despicable minority of the world’s nations deny the genocide of my people. I can only imagine the pain I would feel if I had to fight the world each year as I mourned and commemorated it, including the culprit nation itself. I feel a kinship with the Armenians and solidarity with their pain, and as I know that Israel stands for truth, honor and light in an otherwise dark region I expect that to be reflected in its foreign policy. Whatever short-term gains could come from not speaking truth to Erdogan’s power will surely be counteracted by the long-term harm of warming up relations that are better kept deep-frozen.

Israel befriending Erdogan’s Turkey is bad for business, and also bad for the soul. Bad business because it makes it that easier for the rest of the world to point to Israel and claim it is an undemocratic entity committing atrocities, because it actively abandons its true allies to choose to sit at the table of those who do. And it’s bad for the soul because we Jews share the wounds of the Armenians and the Kurds, we know that pain and have fought that fight. This is our people, this is our heart – not a regime that works with Hamas, preys on the weak and is using our credibility and access as a bridge into more fertile grounds.

The author is a political adviser and writer on the Middle East, religious affairs and global anti-Semitism. Follow her on Twitter @truthandfiction.

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