BY HARUT SASSOUNIAN
While Armenians criticize Turkey for genocide denial and other massive violations of human rights, it is just as important to blame all non-Turks who conduct business as usual with Turkey, thereby encouraging Turkish officials to continue their outrageous behavior.
For example, right now, leaders of many countries are shamelessly preparing to go to Gallipoli on April 24, to commemorate the Turkish victory a Century ago, knowing full well that they would be participating in a ceremony on a fake date designed to undermine the commemoration in Yerevan of the Armenian Genocide Centennial.
Armenians should build a “Wall of Shame” and inscribe on it the names of all world leaders who are in Gallipoli on April 24! Who is more to blame? Pres. Erdogan who has shown repeatedly that he has no qualms about violating human rights, or foreign officials who participate in his orchestrated charades?
One would think that after Erdogan’s objectionable actions, such as supporting ISIS, money laundering, jailing journalists, ordering the shooting of peaceful demonstrators in Istanbul’s Gezi Park, and myriad other abuses, he would be considered a pariah and shunned by the international community!
Unfortunately, there are many foreign leaders who maintain warm relations with Turkey and are willing to jump in bed with ‘the devil’ in the pursuit of their misperceived interests. While countless nations have their share of the blame, most puzzling is the behavior of Israeli leaders toward Turkey, given Erdogan’s virulent anti-Semitic statements and anti-Israeli actions! Yet, we hardly hear a single word of criticism of the Turkish leader from Israel’s outspoken Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. No one should be surprised if Netanyahu ends up sending a high-ranking Israeli official to Gallipoli!
For several decades, Israeli leaders have tolerated racist statements in the Turkish media and even supported Turkey’s denials of the Armenian Genocide, not wishing to antagonize Turkey and endanger the lives of Jews in Istanbul. We were told that Israel had to tolerate Turkey’s misbehavior because it allowed Jews escaping from Iran to cross its border, and that saving the life of a single Jew was more important than acknowledging the Armenian Genocide. Until a decade ago, Israeli officials were cautious not to take any steps that would undermine their country’s strategic alliance with Turkey. Now that Turkey has become outright hostile, Israel’s leaders have adopted a completely irrational position: let’s not do anything that would further damage ‘the fragile’ relationship with Turkey!
Last month, the L.A. Jewish Journal dispatched Simone Wilson to Turkey to report on the situation of Jews there. She described the hopeless condition of remnants of the once thriving Jewish community: “Jews and other ethnic and religious minorities have been subject to waves of severe discrimination — in terms of property rights, freedom of language and education, upward mobility and more.” The Jewish population has decreased from 500,000 to a mere 17,000, and continues to shrink. In 2003, many Jews realized that they could no longer remain in Turkey, after terrorists attacked Istanbul’s Neve Shalom and Bet Israel synagogues, killing 27 and injuring hundreds. “Pervasive anti-Semitism in the public sphere also has played an undeniable role” in Jewish emigration, reported Wilson. According to a poll commissioned by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), “around 70% of Turks harbor anti-Semitic attitudes.”
In Turkey, the situation of the Jewish minority is becoming more intolerable. Last September, “a cellphone store in downtown Istanbul hung up a sign in its window that read, ‘The Jew dogs cannot come in here,’” Wilson reported. Mois Gabay, editor of the local Jewish newspaper Salom, wrote: “We face threats, attacks and harassment every day.” Last July, Erdogan expressed his utter hatred of Jews by telling the Turkish public during a campaign stop: “They [Jews] curse Hitler day and night, but they have surpassed Hitler in barbarism.” Ankara’s Mayor, Melih Gokcek, member of Erdogan’s ruling party, praised a Turkish singer who had declared: “May God bless Hitler.” During a Holocaust Memorial Day event in Ankara on January 27, Parliament Speaker Cemil Cicek was quoted as scolding Israel for committing a modern Holocaust in Gaza.
The silence of Israel, the United States, and the international community in the face of such outrageous Turkish behavior has created an out of control monster. All those who have spoiled Erdogan are obligated to restrain him before he becomes a true menace to the region and the world.