Denialists Erdogan and Netanyahu shamefully exploit the term genocide to bash each other

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in New York, Sept. 2023 (X, Republic of Turkey Director of Communications)

For several decades, Israel and Turkey were in a honeymoon period, supporting each other politically and economically.

However, over the years, their relationship soured due to their opposing positions on Palestinian issues. On several occasions, Israel and Turkey withdrew their ambassadors from each other’s capitals due to such conflicts, only to reinstate them again. In other words, they kissed and made up repeatedly.

We all know the expression, “Politics makes strange bedfellows.” Israel and Turkey are one of those political odd couples. Initially, there was some basis in their partnership, more aptly described as mutual exploitation. Israel, surrounded by a large number of hostile Arab nations, needed Turkey as its political and economic ally, an Islamic nation that established diplomatic relations with Israel in 1949. Meanwhile, Turkey needed Israel for various reasons, including political support from the West, the purchase of advanced weapons and billions of dollars of trade.

Another aspect of this unholy union was that both countries denied the Armenian Genocide. Turkey used its relations with Israel to convince the powerful Jewish lobby in the United States to block the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the U.S. Congress. Turkey pressured Israel to block the International Conference on the Holocaust and Genocide in Tel Aviv in 1982, to prevent the broadcast of a documentary on the Armenian Genocide and its recognition by the Knesset. Turkey went as far as threatening its domestic Jewish community and demanding that the Chief Rabbi of Istanbul lobby American Jewish organizations on behalf of Turkey.

In 2009, Erdogan told Israeli President Shimon Peres during a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in front of the assembled world leaders: “When it comes to killing, you know very well how to kill. I know very well how you killed children on the beaches [of Gaza].”

Then the Mavi Marmara incident occurred in 2010, when the Israeli military attacked six Turkish civilian ships in the Mediterranean Sea trying to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza, killing nine Turkish passengers. The raid seriously deteriorated Israeli-Turkish relations. Turkey recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv and expelled Israel’s ambassador from Ankara. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized to Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and offered $20 million in compensation for the raid.

Shortly before Hamas attacked Israel in October 2023, Israeli customs officials intercepted 16 tons of explosive materials for making missiles hidden in a Turkish shipment of construction supplies for Gaza. Surprisingly, Israel took no action against Turkey. This was yet another example of Israel appeasing Turkey’s anti-Israeli actions. Rather than designating Turkey as a state sponsor of terrorism, Israeli leaders embraced Erdogan, encouraging him to continue his misdeeds.

Following the recent Hamas attack on Israel, Erdogan called Hamas “freedom fighters,” and likened Netanyahu to “Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin, today’s Nazis.”

In January 2024, Israel’s Foreign Minister tweeted: “The President of Turkey Erdogan, from a country with the Armenian Genocide in its past, now boasts of targeting Israel with unfounded claims. We remember the Armenians, the Kurds. Your history speaks for itself. Israel stands in defense, not destruction, against your barbarian allies.”

Last week, Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz summoned the Turkish envoy, Shakir Ozkan Torunlar, to complain about Erdogan’s statement that he will “send Netanyahu to Allah to take care of him, make him miserable and curse him.” Katz replied on X/Twitter: “You [Erdogan] who support the burning of babies, murderers, rapists and the mutilation of corpses by Hamas criminals, [are] the last one who can speak about God. There is no God who will listen to those who support the atrocities and crimes against humanity committed by your barbaric Hamas friends.” Katz then admonished Erdogan: “Be quiet and shame on you!”

The Turkish foreign ministry replied to Katz: Israel has been built upon ‘occupied’ Palestinian land since its creation. “Since the first day they occupied Palestinian lands, the Israeli authorities have made a great effort to keep the serious crimes they committed against the Palestinians secret, and have tried to create an armor of immunity for themselves. They have targeted our President, who screams the truth.”

The Turkish Foreign Ministry then accused Israel of committing ‘genocide,’ stating that the “entire world public opinion is eagerly awaiting the day when Israeli officials who committed crimes will be brought to justice.”

Earlier, Netanyahu, who himself does not recognize the Armenian Genocide, criticized Erdogan for denying the Genocide. Netanyahu tweeted: “Israel, which adheres to the laws of war, will not accept moral preaching from Erdogan, who supports murderers and rapists of the terrorist organization Hamas, denies the Armenian Holocaust, massacres Kurds in his own country and eliminates regime opponents and journalists.” However, Netanyahu keeps arming Turkey’s ally, Azerbaijan, with sophisticated weapons that were used to commit a new genocide against the Armenians in Artsakh.

In conclusion, both Erdogan and Netanyahu should be ashamed of using the Armenian Genocide and Holocaust as bargaining chips in their dispute.

Rather than using the term genocide as a cudgel to bash each other, both Israel and Turkey should have recognized the Armenian Genocide long ago, in order to be classified among the ranks of civilized nations!

Harut Sassounian

Harut Sassounian

California Courier Editor
Harut Sassounian is the publisher of The California Courier, a weekly newspaper based in Glendale, Calif. He is the president of the Armenia Artsakh Fund, a non-profit organization that has donated to Armenia and Artsakh one billion dollars of humanitarian aid, mostly medicines, since 1989 (including its predecessor, the United Armenian Fund). He has been decorated by the presidents of Armenia and Artsakh and the heads of the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic churches. He is also the recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.


  1. Turkey was never a “civilized nation” and never will be. Turkey’s acknowledgement and recognition of the Armenian Genocide, let alone an apology, is extremely unlikely, because Turkish nationalism and the Republic of Turkey were founded on the basis of creating a homogeneous ethnic state, which entailed the elimination of all the other indigenous ethnic groups living on the same territory for millennia: Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks, Georgians and Kurds, culminating in the Armenian Genocide, the Assyrian Genocide, the Greek Genocide and the ruthless oppression and assimilation of the Kurds, Georgians and other ethnic groups.

    Turkey’s little brother Azerbaijan and Azerbaijani nationalism were founded on the exact same lines, by creating a homogeneous ethnic state, which entailed the elimination of Armenians and the ruthless oppression and assimilation of other ethnic minorities. Azerbaijan can never be a “civilized nation” for the same reasons.

    • It’s ironic when two opponents accuse eachother of the same wrong. Nevertheless the description of Turkey as an Islamic nation is wrong when Turkey recognised Israel in 1949 it was very much a secular one and although has become more Islamist in its polity is still under secularist constitution of 1923 .

    • Charles, you focused on a side-issue, instead of addressing Steve’s fundamental statement. Whether Turkey is a secular nation or not doesn’t negate Turkey’s historic trend for the Turkification of Turkey’s national identity; by that measure, Armenian Christians (in Turkey) were not only decimated but also have been repressed, demonized and marginalized in that country, not to mention about other Christian People (in Turkey) whom have experienced similar distasteful things. If Turkey is as “secular” as it pretends to be, then I’m waiting to see when the minarets at Hagia Sophia will be removed, and crosses restored there; but, I’m not holding my breath, because I don’t want to turn blue.

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