Israel’s Recognition Of Armenian Genocide Is Political

By Alon Idan


June 1 2011

Using the mantra of moral duty ‘as a Jew and as an Israeli’ is a
guise to hide some shame the cliche’ is meant to cover up.

“This is my duty as a Jew and as an Israeli” is cliche that is
meant to revive anyone from their dogmatic coma. Each time this
religious-nationalist conjunction is used, accompanied by a certain
obligation, usually moral, the listener must assume that behind
the pomposity and the drama hides some shame that is seeking to be
retroactively erased.

So as not to remain in the theoretical sphere, let’s examine the
full statement made by Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin on Monday after
he decided to hold an annual Knesset session to mark the Armenian
genocide by the Turks. “It is my duty as a Jew and as an Israeli,”
he said, “to recognize the tragedies of other peoples. Diplomatic
considerations, important as they may be, do not allow us to deny
the disaster of another people.”

Rivlin made the statement about a week after the Knesset allowed its
Education Committee to discuss the issue for the first time publicly,
and about a year after former Meretz chairman and MK Haim Oron was
authorized to hold a secret meeting about it in the Knesset Foreign
Affairs and Defense Committee. That, more or less, is how under
the pretense “my duty as a Jew and an Israeli,” 63 years of Jewish
disregard for and denial of the slaughter of between 1 million to
1.5 million human beings just melts away.

And so, Rivlin decided that: “Diplomatic considerations, important as
they may be, do not allow us to deny the disaster of another people.”

He’s right, and every molecule of that rightness conceals a nucleus of
the ridiculous. After all, diplomatic considerations, as important as
they may be, did indeed allow us, that is, the government of Israel,
to deny the disaster of another people for 63 years. Diplomatic
considerations, important as they may be, for 63 years, prevented the
state’s leaders, from the indicted Ehud Olmert to the television star
Shimon Peres – from discussing the matter, not to mention officially
marking the genocide.

Rivlin needed a cliche precisely because as Jews and Israelis, we were
partners to a moral injustice of historic proportions. He inflated
the words to cover up a spindly moral reality. After all, Rivlin also
knows that if we have to sum up in one phrase the reason for this moral
redress, it would be a small and trivial one: the unraveling of our
ties with Turkey. We are now able to discuss the murder of 1.5 million
people because of political-diplomatic circumstances, and not because
1.5 million people were murdered. What common sense and dictates of
conscience did not do, was accomplished by a ship by the name of the
Mavi Marmara and statements by a politician named Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Discussion of the Armenian genocide permits scrutiny of the
relationship between morality and diplomacy in Israel. Instead of
ethical considerations trumping political ones as the foundation
for policy, it turns out that morality is nothing but a derivative of
politics, an appendage of narrow national interests. The dictate of the
national conscience is the outcome of whatever we can get in exchange.

Moral flexibility is not a one-time position having to do only with
the Armenian genocide. One and a half million people are never a
one-time matter and silence over their murder cannot be perceived
as coincidental.

In fact, the change in attitude toward the Armenian genocide should be
seen as an indication of an overriding Israeli principle that says:
Good is what is worthwhile, bad is what is not worthwhile. A codicil
to this principle is: Good can always become bad; bad can always
become good. A moral calculation as a derivative of cost-efficiency
is, in fact, the true duty of every “Jew and Israeli.”