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Armenian presents fragments of the article by Jonathan Kay published in the Canadian National Post.

This week, a Turkish court confirmed a criminal charge against four former Israeli military commanders for their alleged role in the deaths of nine Turkish activists who were trying to break Israel’s blockade of Hamas-run Gaza in 2010.

The charge foresees between 8,000 and 18,000 life sentences for each of the Israeli men. Imagine if the Israeli military had done something truly horrific for instance like what the Ottoman Turks did to the Armenians during World War I and the years that followed. How many life sentences would you give to the killers of over a million innocent people?

Alas, those WWI-era Ottoman killers have long since left this earthly vale of tears. Many died in their beds — unlike the Armenian men and women who perished from exposure or starvation, clutching their children’s bodies, during their forced marches through the Anatolian hinterlands. As it happens, a new book on this historical episode entitled The Young Turks’ Crime Against Humanity: The Armenian Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing in the Ottoman Empire, by Clark University professor Taner Akçam — landed in my mailbox a few months back.

Till now, Akçam’s work has been taboo in Turkey. But given the recent flotilla charges, it would seem the Turks are showing a newfound eagerness to condemn the crimes of the past. What better time to open up Akçam’s book? The first theme that jumps out from The Young Turks’ Crime Against Humanity is the obsessive eagerness with which the Turks of the early 20th-century sorted the Anatolian population by religion and ethnicity. Christians — Greek and Armenian alike — were singled out for special observation. But even non-Turk Muslims were seen as suspect. Millions of Kurds were ethnically cleansed from certain regions aiming to weaken their political claims.

The country’s formal position is that the Armenians endured a mere ‘relocation’ exercise during a period when they were suspected of comprising a pro-Russian fifth-column threat. Five years ago, Turkish PM Recep Erdogan asked his government officials to use the phrase ‘1915 Events’ instead of the Armenian Genocide — which is kind of like referring to the Jewish Holocaust as ‘that thing that happened in the early 1940s’. If Turkey presumes to read lectures on Israel or anyone else on these subjects, it could start with a frank admission of the horrors that the Turks themselves perpetrated against Armenians and other minorities.

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