Author Hans-Lukas Kieser says a desperate Zionist press praised the empire even during the slaughter of its minority population, a murder which Israel continues to gloss over today
This past June, a scheduled Knesset vote to recognize the World War I killings of Armenians as genocide was canceled due to a lack of government support.
Because of Israel’s complicated on-again, off-again diplomatic relationswith regional powerhouse Turkey, “it hasn’t been able to do what many Israelis have ethically wanted to do — publicly recognize the Armenian genocide in the Knesset,” Prof. Hans-Lukas Kieser tells The Times of Israel from his office at the University of Newcastle, Australia.
Last year Kieser was awarded the President of the Republic of Armenia Prize for his significant contribution to the history of the Armenian genocide. He has also recently published the book, “Talaat Pasha: Father of Modern Turkey, Architect of Genocide.”
The political biography explores how Mehmed Talaat, more commonly known as Talaat Pasha, almost single-handedly masterminded the Armenian genocide.
Armenian intellectuals in Constantinople (today’s Istanbul) were rounded up on April 24, 1915, followed by the systematic extermination of 1.5 million people, primarily because of their Armenian ethnicity.
The ideologically motivated genocide took place under the supervision of the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), led by three de facto leaders of the Ottoman Empire at the time: Ismail Enver, Ahmed Djemal, and Talaat. Collectively all three were known by their military titles as the “Three Pashas.”
Even though Turkey continues to officially deny the Armenian genocide, historians unanimously agree that it is a historical reality.
Laying foundations for a Turkish state
Kieser’s book claims Talaat operated a new messianic form of nationalism that sought to “dilute” non-Muslim identities in his attempt at new nation building in Turkey in 1915. Talaat was the “mastermind of his genocidal universe,” Kieser claims.
The historian also says it was Talaat — rather than Kemal Ataturk — who laid the foundations for the modern Turkish nation state, which began in 1923.
“Of course the Turkish Republic [itself] came about under Kemal Ataturk,” Kieser says. “Talaat did not plan a republic — he was a son of the empire, after all. But he made a number of important steps so that Ataturk could then establish the Turkish nation state.”
Talaat led the Ottoman Empire into World War I “in jihad,” says the historian, transforming Asia Minor into a Turkish national home and creating a “Turkey for the Turks,” as per the slogan at the time.