A conflict conveniently forgotten and a holocaust deliberately denied
The Independent, UK.
31 August 2002
by Robert Fisk
In the years that followed the Second World War, Lord Beaverbrook's
old Sunday Express would regale its readers with the secret history of
the 1939-45 conflict: "What Hitler would have done if England was
under Nazi occupation"; "How Ike almost cancelled D-Day"; "Churchill's
plans for using gas on Nazi invaders." Often though not always the
stories were true. After war come the facts. It's not so long ago,
after all, that we discovered that Nato's mighty 1999 blitz on
Serbia's army netted a total of just 10 tanks.
But it took Eric Lowe of Hayling Island in Hampshire to remind me of
the inversion of history, the way in which historically proven facts,
clearly established, come to be questioned decades later or even
deleted from the record for reasons of political or moral weakness.
Eric runs a magazine called Palestine Scrapbook, a journal for the old
British soldiers who fought in Palestine against both Arabs and Jews
until the ignominious collapse of the British mandate in 1948. In Mr
Lowe's magazine, there are personal memories of the bombing of British
headquarters at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem a "terrorist"
bombing, of course, except that it was carried out by a man who was
later to become Prime Minister of Israel, Menachem Begin.
Dennis Shelton of the King's Royal Rifle Corps writes a letter,
recalling an Arab attack on a British Army lorry in Gaza. "We opened
up on them, the ones who could still run away. We found two [British]
army bods under the wagon, both badly wounded. I went in the ambulance
with them to Rafah hospital. I was holding the side of one's head to
keep his brains in. I often wondered if indeed they recovered." Mr
Lowe has asked for information about the soldier whom Dennis Shelton
tried to save.
But he's probably wasting his time, because the British Army's first
post-World War Two war the 1945-48 conflict in Palestine has been
"disappeared", sidelined as something that no one wants to remember.
According to Mr Lowe, many of the British campaign medals for
Palestine were never issued. Dennis Peck, of the Sherwood Foresters,
only realised he'd been awarded one in 1998. Until two years ago, the
campaign was never mentioned at the Armistice parade in London. There's
not even a definitive figure for the British troops who died around
400 were killed or died of wounds. And it took over 50 years for
British veterans to get a memorial for the dead: in the end, the
veterans had to pay for it from their own pockets.
But in the late Forties, all Britain was seized by the war in Palestine.
When Jewish gunmen hanged two British sergeants, booby-trapping their
bodies into the bargain, Britons were outraged. The British, it must
be added, had just hanged Jewish militants in Palestine. But now
nothing. Our dead soldiers in Palestine, far from being remembered at
the going down of the sun, are largely not remembered at all.
So who are we frightened of here? The Arabs? The Israelis? And isn't
this just a small example of the suppression of historical truth which
continues over the 20th century's first holocaust? I raise this
question because of a recent and deeply offensive article by Stephen
Kinzer of The New York Times. Back in 1915, his paper then an
honourable journal of record broke one of the great and most terrible
stories of the First World War: the planned slaughter of 1.5 million
Christian Armenians by the Turkish Ottoman government. The paper's
headlines, based in many cases on US diplomats in Turkey, alerted the
world to this genocide. By 16 September, a New York Times
correspondent had spoken of "a campaign of extermination, involving
the murdering of 800,000 to 1,000,000 persons".
It was all true. Save for the Turkish government, a few American
academics holding professorships funded by Turkey and the shameful
denials of the Israeli government, there is today not a soul who
doubts the nature or the extent of this genocide. Even in the 1920s,
Winston Churchill himself called it a "holocaust". But not Mr
Kinzer. Over the course of the past few years, he's done everything he
can to destroy the integrity of his paper's brilliant, horrifying,
exclusive reports of 1915. Constantly recalling Turkey's fraudulent
claim that the Armenians died in the civil unrest in Asia Minor at the
time, he has referred to the genocide as "ethnic cleansing" and
treated the figure of 1.5 million dead as a claim something he would
surely never do in reference to the 6 million Jews later murdered by
Recently, Mr Kinzer has written about the new Armenian Genocide museum
in Washington, commenting artfully that there's "a growing recognition
by advocacy groups that museums can be powerful tools to advance
political causes". In other words, unlike the Jewish Holocaust museum
and the Jewish Holocaust itself, which would never be used by Israel
to silence criticism of its cruel behaviour in the occupied
territories there might be something a bit dodgy about the Armenian
version. Then comes the killer. "Washington already has one major
institution, the United States Holocaust Museum, that documents an
effort to destroy an entire people," Mr Kinzer wrote. "The story it
presents is beyond dispute. But the events of 1915 are still a matter
of intense debate." Are they hell, Mr Kinzer.
But why should we be surprised at this classic piece of historical
revisionism? Israel's own ambassador to present-day Armenia, Rivka
Cohen, has been peddling more or less the same rubbish, refusing to
draw any parallels with the Jewish Holocaust and describing the
Armenian Holocaust as a mere "tragedy". She is, in fact, following the
official Israeli Foreign Office line that "this [Armenian Holocaust]
should not be described as genocide".Israel's top Holocaust scholar,
Israel Charney, has most courageously campaigned against those who lie
about the Armenian genocide I advise readers to buy his stunning
Encyclopaedia of Genocide and he has been joined by many other Jewish
scholars. But with Turkey's alliance with Israel, its membership of
Nato, its possible EU entry, and its massive arms purchases from the
United States, the growing power of its well-paid lobby groups has
smothered even their efforts.
Which raises one last question. Armenian academics have been
investigating the identity of those young German officers who were
training the Ottoman army in 1915 and who in some cases actually
witnessed the Armenian Holocaust whose victims were, in some cases,
transported to their deaths in railway cattle-cars. Several of those
German soldiers' names, it now transpires, crop up again just over a
quarter of a century later as senior Wehrmacht officers in Russia,
helping Hitler to carry out the Jewish Holocaust. Even the dimmest of
us might think there was a frightening connection here. But not, I
guess, Mr Kinzer. Nor the modern-day New York Times, which is so keen
to trash its own historic exclusives for fear of what Turkey or Israel
might say. Personally, I'd call it all a form of Holocaust denial. And
I know what Eric Lowe would call it: cowardice under fire.
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