America’s government, for the first time in history, used the word “genocide” to describe the cruel massacres and deportations of hundreds of thousands of Armenians by Ottoman Empire powers in the early twentieth century.
The term has been ignored by White House successors for decades, out of fear of alienating Turkey.
Biden, however, did it to fulfill a campaign promise he made a year earlier on Saturday, on Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, to acknowledge that the events of 1915 to 1923 were a systematic attempt to perish Armenians.
Biden said “Each year on this day, we remember the lives of all those who died in the Ottoman-era Armenian genocide and recommit ourselves to preventing such an atrocity from ever again occurring. We affirm the history. We do this not to cast blame but to ensure that what happened is never repeated.”
However, Israel didn’t recognized it as genocide even after Biden did it. Israel’s Foreign Ministry acknowledged the Armenian people’s “terrible suffering and tragedy of the Armenian people,” but didn’t call the Ottoman Empire’s early twentieth-century massacres, a genocide.
Israel has repeatedly declined to accept that the Armenian people were the victims of genocide. In recent years, Israel was afraid of Turkey’s anger if it acknowledged the genocide. Turkey had been a close political ally of the Jewish state since the late 1950s, and one of its few Muslim friends. Turkey was a significant and profitable market for Israeli arms, and the two countries’ intelligence and security agencies had close relations.
The government has consistently thwarted attempts by Israeli parliamentarians, human rights groups, and historians to recognize the Armenian genocide. Regardless of their politics or political outlook, successive Israeli administrations prioritized commercial interests over universal ideals, recognizing that any change of heart or stance would enrage Turkey and jeopardize weapons sales.
Biden’s decision was praised by so many in Israel. Yair Lapid, an opposition leader, supported Biden’s move and said: it was “an important moral statement by Biden.” He also added “I will continue to fight for Israeli recognition of the Armenian Genocide, it is our moral responsibility as the Jewish state.”
Biden’s decision, which defied decades of Turkish agitation, was a landmark moment for the descendants of the hundreds of thousands of dead. A day earlier, Biden made the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan aware of his decision, during a telephone call.
“We remember the lives of all those who died in the Ottoman-era Armenian genocide and recommit ourselves to preventing such an atrocity from ever again occurring,” Biden said. “We affirm the history. We do this not to cast blame but to ensure that what happened is never repeated.”
The declaration is a huge win for Armenia and its large immigrant community. With Uruguay’s recognition of the genocide in 1965, countries such as France, Germany, Canada, and Russia have followed suit, but a US statement has remained elusive under previous presidents.
Erdogan, said debates “should be held by historians” and it’s not right to be “politicized by third parties.” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu tweeted after Biden’s statement “Words cannot change or rewrite history. We will not take lessons from anyone on our history.” Turkey’s foreign ministry summoned US Ambassador David Satterfield on Saturday night to condemn Biden’s use of the word.
To many people around the world, Israel’s approach is both morally and historically disgusting. It’s much more repulsive that it comes from a country that was founded on genocide and has since emerged from the ashes. It’s time for Israel to consider using evasive terms when it comes to Armenia in order to further its primitive economic interests. An act of genocide is an act of genocide. Israel has a legal duty to remember the Armenian genocide, much as it has acknowledged the Rwandan genocide, to mankind and to the memory of the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust.
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