The Hypocrisy of Israel’s Denial of the Armenian Genocide

Members of the Armenian community march with flags and torches on April 23, 2015, in Jerusalem’s Old City, on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the mass killings of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire in 1915. (photo credit: AFP/Gali Tibbon)

By Danielle Mikaelian

A top Israeli diplomat is raising eyebrows after a recent visit to the Armenian Genocide Memorial Complex—Dzidzernagapert.

“The tragedy of the Armenian nation has never been questioned,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Ben-Zvi late last month. “There is a historical question of what to call it, but what has happened is a fact that everyone accepts. It’s not a matter of political discussion. Let historians decide what to call the tragedy.”


The systematic persecution of 1.5 million Armenians at the ruthless hands of the Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1918 should be referred to as something far more descriptive than “IT.”

Israel, a Jewish country, had its own genocide—the Holocaust. It was the second genocide of the twentieth century. This is a historical fact, and we all accept it. But Israel has chosen to advance politically and economically over the years and has failed to return the gesture. It has since maintained rather strong political and military relations with Turkey, and therefore refuses time and time again to acknowledge another ethnic group’s similar plight, that of the Armenians.

The systematic persecution of 1.5 million Armenians at the ruthless hands of the Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1918 should be referred to as something far more descriptive than “IT.”

One of history’s most infamous dictators strategically used the denial of the genocide as his main defense. To justify his actions, Adolf Hitler once stated that no one would remember the massacre of the Jews during the Holocaust because no one speaks of the annihilation of the Armenians. Hitler believed he would be able to kill millions of Jews and take away their land without consequences as these tactics had already been “successful” with the Armenians.

During the genocide, America’s ambassador to Turkey—a Jewish man named Henry Morgenthau— confirmed the atrocities. Morgenthau witnessed the murders of our ancestors. He believed the tragedies that befell the Armenians in 1915 were the worst in the history of the human race. He argued that Turkish authorities had given a death warrant to an entire people.

Furthermore, the creator of the Genocide Convention, a Jewish lawyer named Raphael Lemkin, came up with the word “genocide” as a result of the massacres of the Armenians. He followed the Armenian Genocide closely and grieved years later with the death of his own family during the Holocaust. In response to these tragedies, he coined the term “genocide” to represent acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group. What’s critical here is that Lemkin labeled the plight of the Armenians as a genocide.

In 2016, the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament, affirmed that it recognized the “Armenian Holocaust” as a genocide. In the same year, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), America’s main Jewish human rights group, did the same, condemning Turkey’s denial of the event. However, despite these rulings by the country’s main legislature and the ADL, the country of Israel itself still has not acknowledged the genocide of the Armenians.

At this moment, twenty eight countries have officially recognized the Armenian Genocide including Canada, France, Italy, and Russia. Despite aiding and abetting the Ottoman Empire during the massacres, Turkey’s former partner in crime, Germany, has also confirmed the inhumane nature of the event. As for Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu keeps delaying a debate on legislation about the Armenian Genocide.

I am sure you share in my disappointment that Israel has failed to take the appropriate and long overdue steps to recognize this dark chapter in our history. With so many organizations and others in the Jewish community recognizing the event, it is extremely troubling that the country itself has yet to do so.

Although I am a fourth generation American, I have always maintained an intimate connection to my Armenian roots. My great-grandparents were orphaned by the Armenian Genocide. It is a disservice and an injustice to my ancestors and yours that their deaths are not appropriately commemorated and acknowledged.

The only way to end the perpetual cycle of genocide is through education and dialogue. If we don’t speak up and speak out, we are allowing more genocides to happen. Just look at Darfur. Look at Syria. It is high time for Israel to call this what “IT” is—a genocide.


Danielle Mikaelian is in her sophomore year at Columbia University. She is majoring in English.

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