Genocide: Holocaust that Israel would rather ignore

The Israelis are preparing to withdraw the name of their next proposed ambassador to Turkey. His fault is that he believes in the genocide of the Armenians. Patrick Cockburn in Jerusalem asks if Israel is ignoring obvious parallels between the Holocaust and the slaughter of the Armenians in the First World War to further its foreign policy goals.

In the next few weeks, Israel is expected to withdraw the name of Professor Ehud Toledano as its nominee to be Israel's next ambassador to Turkey. The Turkish government will not accept him because 15 years ago he appeared on an Israeli army radio programme about the Armenian genocide of 1915.

The Turkish government's position is that, contrary to the evidence of survivors, diplomats and missionaries present at the time, there was no genocide. It categorically denies one million Armenians died in massacres or on forced marches organised by the Turkish authorities of the day. The very fact that Professor Toledano, a specialist in Turkish studies, appeared on a programme entitled The Armenian Genocide is enough to disbar him from representing Israel in Ankara.

If Turks deny the genocide ever happened, for Armenians it is at the centre of their historic memory, the great slaughter in which one-third of all Armenians in the world were wiped out. Israel has a more ambivalent position. Israel has a political and military alliance with Turkey which the government does not want to endanger by drawing parallels between the Jewish Holocaust and the genocide of the Armenians.

For Dr Yair Auron, a specialist in the Armenian genocide, this is unacceptable. He says that by meekly looking for another nominee to replace Professor Toledano, Israel is transforming the genocide "into an open issue subject to negotiation". He compares, hypothetically, what has happened over the Toledano appointment to a European state which had appointed an ambassador to Germany and the Germans rejected it "claiming that 30 years ago he mentioned on the radio that Nazi Germany carried out a holocaust of the Jews".

Israel does have a lot at stake. In recent years, its alliance with Turkey, which has a common border with Iran, Iraq and Syria, all Israel's enemies, has become very close. This week General Amon Lipkin-Shahak, the Israeli chief of staff, paid an official visit to Turkey to persuade the army to buy Israeli Merkava 111 tanks. It also wants Turkey to adopt the Galil as its main assault rifle. Joint Israel-Turkey-US naval manoeuvres are scheduled for January. Ankara is now the third most important capital for Israel's diplomacy, coming only after Washington and Moscow. But, according to the Jerusalem weekly Kolha'ir, which carried out an investigation into the affair, there was no objection in the Israeli cabinet on 8 June when David Levy, the Foreign Minister, first put forward the name of Ehud Toledano, a professor of Ottoman history at Tel Aviv University, to be Israel's next ambassador to Turkey.

Turkish consent to the new appointment should have been automatic. But in August it became clear that there was a problem. There was no official announcement, but at the end of the month the state-owned Turkish news agency, citing sources in the Turkish Foreign ministry, said difficulties had arisen. It said "in 1981 Toledano accused Turkey of carrying out massacres during the First World War". An Israeli Foreign Ministry official, who went to Ankara to find out what was happening over the appointment, reported back that "Turkish opposition is adamant".

Bizarrely, Professor Toledano had appeared on an Israeli army radio programme on the Armenian genocide in 1981, but to defend the Turkish position. He was called in at the last minute because the Turkish embassy in Tel Aviv refused to send a representative. He says he gave the Turkish version of what happened in 1915 without offering his own opinion.

Professor Toledano has given a series of interviews to the Turkish press, seeking to persuade them of his pro-Turkish views. He says he "never expressed a pro-Armenian position in international conferences", adding that he is primarily an expert on the Ottoman empire from 16th to the 19th centuries. "I never researched or investigated the period of the First World War," he said. "I never questioned the Turkish version of events."

Professor Toledano is reported to believe that his academic colleagues at Tel Aviv university helped to sabotage his candidacy by suggesting to the Turks that he holds pro-Armenian views.

The Foreign Ministry may also be able to see a silver lining in the affair, in that the new Israeli ambassador is now likely to be a professional diplomat and not an academic friendly with David Levy.

But the overall issue is more important than diplomatic or academic intrigue. Yair Auron, a professor at the Kibbutzim college in Tel Aviv, says that a survey he conducted of 800 students at eight Israeli universities and colleges showed that "most of them said they knew nothing about the genocide of the Armenians or gypsies". Israel's Education Ministry is resisting pressure to treat the genocide more fully in the schools' curriculum.

Dr Auron says: "I accept the uniqueness of the Holocaust, but what happened to the Armenians was not a tragedy or a massacre but genocide. The Turkish government does not accept this. Not to admit there was a genocide is parallel to not admitting there was a Holocaust. Morally they are the same."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballThe more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
News
i100
News
business
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing & Sales Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee