On April 19th, we had the responsibility to remember one of the most shameful episodes of human history: the Holocaust. For those who have forgotten the painful past, approximately 11,000,000 were slaughtered between 1933 and 1945; 6,000,000 were Jews.
A lesser known commemoration of yet another atrocity occurs on April 24th, on which the martyrs of the Turkish and Kurdish genocide against the Armenians and other Christian minorities in the Ottoman Empire began. Like the Holocaust, the Armenian Genocide occurred over a period of years. April 24, 1915, “Red Sunday,” is the day that the Armenian’s were arrested and deported from what is now Istanbul. This began the persecution of Ottoman Armenians and “Greeks” (Christians born in what is now Turkey).
Death marches claimed the life of many. Women and girls were tied to men with rope; the group was placed at the edge of a bridge or a cliff and the men were shot, saving Turkish bullets; deprivation of food resulted in starvations and children were killed with morphine overdoses and toxic gases.
The murders were not the only infliction placed upon Armenians and other Christians. If someone lived through the death march, the starvation, and attacks by Kurdish cavalry, which was allowed by Ottoman “guards,” they were then loaded into trains and deported to modern Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq where many of their descendants remain today. Some scholars have concluded that the German military advisors assigned to the Ottomans took the lessons of the Armenian Genocide back to Europe and employed them more effectively decades later.
The Armenian Genocide resulted in at least 600,000 deaths (though other estimates place the death toll closer to 1,500,000). Like many other Americans, you probably were not aware of it. Hopefully, unlike the Turks, you do not deny its happening. It is of utmost importance today in the United States that we look back on these events as we experience waves of anti-Semitism and the targeting of religious minorities, especially in the Middle East.
Anti-Semitism is still present in our world. In fact, it is a part of many governments’ stated policies. HAMAS, the ruling party of the Gaza Strip, includes anti-Semitism in it’s charter (no, it’s not anti-Zionist — it refers specifically to Jews, not Israelis). Hezbollah, founded in Lebanon in opposition to the Israeli invasion, has continued offensive operations against Israel firing rockets into the Galilee. Iranian President Ahmadinejad has made numerous unequivocal statements against Israel, the Jewish people, and has denied the Holocaust’s occurrence.
The problem is also closer to home. It reared it’s ugly head when the various “Occupy” movements began. Last Fall, Los Angeles substitute teacher Patricia McCallister appeared on video at Occupy Los Angeles and stated: “I think that the Zionist Jews… need to be run out of this country.” Ms. McCallister was not the only “Occupier” to rail against the Jews who supposedly run all finances in the United States. She was joined by a glaucoma patient who promotes Occupy like Don King promotes boxing matches, a Palestinian-sympathizing Occupier in Zucotti Park, a zombie in D.C. who is “pro-goyim,” and of course, “The Lotion Man.” Though the statements of five idiots is not likely indicative of every single person involved with the Occupy movement, it does show anti-Semitic tendencies in multiple segments of our society. Academics are actually in Iran right now discussing Occupy. Probably because the Iranians want their students and youth to take to the street, right?
As Americans, we have the right to free speech, even if that speech is ignorant, racist, and false. It is when those statements translate into action that we must become intolerant of their hatred. It is not likely that you heard of Emerson Winfield Begolly. I had not either. On August 9th, 2011 he pleaded guilty to soliciting attackers to carry out violent actions against Jewish schools and children’s centers in the Pittsburgh area. Individuals are not the only ones who can carry out attacks on U.S. Jews. In February, Israel warned U.S. Jews that Iran could attack U.S. Israeli and Jewish targets in response to Israeli-Iranian tension over the Iranian nuclear program. While many American news outlets were overflowing with coverage of the Trayvon Martin shooting, a Muslim radical murdered a Rabbi and three children outside a Jewish school in Toulouse, France.
Hatred is not limited to Jews in America, Europe, and Israel, but has expanded to Middle Eastern Christians as well, especially in Iraq following the U.S. invasion, and in Egypt following the ousting of Hosni Mubarak. Though Saddam and Mubarak had their faults and were far from saints, at least they were secular and allowed Christians to practice somewhat freely and without fear.
Iraq has seen a large segment of the Christian population (which stood at approximately 3% in 2003) vanish, either fleeing to the West or to other Arab countries, become internally displaced heading for family homelands in northern villages, or murdered by battling Sunni and Shia militias.
Copts in Egypt fared marginally better as they are a larger segment of the Egyptian population (approximately 10% before Mubarak’s resignation) and are concentrated in Alexandria and Coptic Cairo. Like their brethren in Iraq, they have seen their churches burned, their brothers and fathers killed, and their mothers and sisters raped — not because of politics, wealth, or other factors, but because of their religion.
Unlike the Jews and Israel and Armenians and Armenia, the Christians of the Middle East do not have their own nation, they are not on the “world stage,” so there is ignorance to their plight. As we commemorate the horrors perpetrated upon a group of people by all-powerful, sadistic, and tyrannical governments, we should also realize the potential we have to not allow the same outcome for a different contemporary minority population.