Squeezing the World’s Vulnerable Peoples

Victor Davis Hanson
American Greatness

The population of Israel is about 10 million. This represents about half of the world’s Jewish people.

The founding idea of modern Israel was to offer a sanctuary for Jews in their biblical home in the Middle East, in the aftermath of Nazi Germany’s mass murder of 6 million Jews. Yet currently, 78 years after the Holocaust, anti-Israel protestors throughout the Middle East, the great cities of the Western world, and iconic American universities chant death threats and “Palestine will be free from the river to the sea.” Their signature slogan is shorthand for the erasure of the Jewish state and everyone in it.

There would currently be zero chance that Jews could live peaceably under any current Middle Eastern government. In the postwar era, nearly a million Jews were persecuted, ethnically cleansed, and forcibly expelled from all the major Arab countries— Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Morocco, Syria, and Yemen—despite hundreds of years of residence.

Anti-Israel hatred still remains a staple in most of the nearly-500-million-person Arab world, and indeed is commonplace among the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims and their countries at the United Nations.

And Israel is only one of a number of small, vulnerable states. Most of them are in the volatile Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East. All are surrounded by hostile neighbors. The others have also suffered a long history of persecution and periodic genocide—catastrophes that are not necessarily permanently relegated to their ancient pasts.

Bitter proxy fighting between Armenian- and Azerbaijan-allied forces in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh corridor recently ended with the defeat of Armenian supported forces. As a result, shortly before the Hamas massacre of Jews on October 7, some 120,000 Christian ethnic Armenians were expelled from the region by Muslim and Turkish-speaking Azerbaijan.

This current ethnic cleansing in Nagorno-Karabakh comes a little more than a century after the Turkish genocide of Armenians that led to more than 1 million people being driven out of their ancestral homes and slaughtered.

Christian Armenia, with only 3 million inhabitants, is even smaller than Israel. And it is nearly surrounded by hostile Muslim states. As in the case of Israel, the world mostly either ignores the old, familiar brutal scenario, now recurring with the same aggressive players—or does not care.

Christian Greece—a NATO and European Union member—also is similar to Israel in being relatively small, with a population of 10.5 million. For more than 400 years, Greece was occupied by Ottoman Turkey. Roughly a century ago, Turkish forces ethnically cleansed Greeks from ancient Ionia and its capital of Smyrna–a homeland of Greek peoples for millennia.

Like Armenia, it shares a border with its historical aggressor Turkey. Greek islands off the coast of Asia minor are currently subject to constant overflights by Turkish military jets. To Greece’s north are the historically volatile Balkans. Across the Mediterranean lie a number of often violent and unstable North African nations, the frequent source of massive, destabilizing illegal immigration into Greece.

Tiny Cyprus is another equally vulnerable nation. Cypriot history is one of constant invasion and occupation. Most recently, Cyprus was forcibly divided into Greek and Turkish states in 1974, after Turkey invaded and expelled some 200,000 Greeks from their centuries-old homes in the north of the island.

And all these small nations’ vulnerabilities are neither abstract theory, nor ancient history. Turkish President Recep Erdogan, for example, has recently weighed in on the tensions currently buffeting them all.

With apprehensions rising over Turkish violations of Greek air space in the Aegean, Erdogan has threatened to send a shower of missiles into Athens: “We can come down suddenly one night when the time comes.”

Erdogan also recently bullied Israel with nearly the same warning of a preemptive nocturnal Turkish missile attack, bragging that Turkey could “come at any night unexpectedly.” He  also has ominously weighed in on the October 7 massacres and the Israeli response to it in Gaza: “We will tell the whole world that Israel is a war criminal. We are making preparations for this.”

Of the recent expulsion of the Armenians and the war in Nagorno-Karabakh, Erdogan also boasted, “We will continue to fulfill this mission which our grandfathers have carried out for centuries in the Caucasus region.” Apparently, Erdogan was referring both to the Ottoman conquest of Armenia and to the later Turkish efforts in the early 20th century to ethnically cleanse Armenia of Armenians.

In all these cases, small and vulnerable countries hold transparent elections and ensure individual rights—in stark contrast to their larger and more aggressive neighbors. Their very continued existences hinge on Western alliances and support–from the European Union, from NATO, and especially from the United States.

In the past, they all suffered catastrophes because they differed from their neighbors in ethnicity, religion, and history—and were seen as either expendable or irrelevant to their supposed allies and patrons in the West.

If we are not careful, what supposedly cannot happen again, most surely will.

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20 thoughts on “Squeezing the World’s Vulnerable Peoples”

  1. Erdogan is a fascist and as long as he is in charge, NATO should expel Turkey. His threats to peaceful neighbors are unacceptable. Let’s reengage the Bush doctrine.

  2. “Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it”. Most Americans have no knowledge of the vital history of which you speak. If not on MTV it didn’t happen… Sad…

  3. Dr. Hanson

    You need to post your X article from today about Obama here. This article is profound and needs very wide attention from your following.

    I am concerned that Hussein is driving us into WWWIII, obama’s war. He supports the arab movement to conquer the world despite his wealth and position.

  4. Does anyone else notice that the aggressors in every case are not the Christians nor the Jews? Do they threaten and persecute their neighbors with whom they may disagree? I think putting the blame on Israel for the latest bloodletting is getting it ass backwards. How can you hate someone you don’t even know and who has not threatened you, just because they’re Jewish?

  5. Excellent points Dr. Hansen. Also, the 1.5M people genocide of the Armenians in the early 20th century by the Turks as the the world stood silent, may have gave Hitler the confidence to commit 6M people genocide on the Jews.

  6. Olivier Knowles

    VDH’s synopsis of the dangers faced by small democratic and free nations by large threatening neighbors and the imperative of NATO support reminded me of Ben Franklin’s saying at the Continental Congress in 1776:

    “We must indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”

    His words are still ring true.

  7. The illogical hatred, in the 21st century for God’s sake, continues, for what reason? Is it just ‘leaders’ power grab? Religiously generated? Are there no citizens who disagree with these actions?
    If there is little internal resistance to the leaders/actions, it is inherent that sympathetic neighbors eliminate those leaders, stop the actions and perpetrators, and suffer annihilation.

  8. Over the years, I’ve often heard people use the expression ‘history repeats itself.’ to explain events that are similar to what happened in the past. I have come to the realisation that it’s more of people make the same mistakes and won’t take responsibility for their action/s or inaction/s.
    Good to have this as a point of reference to the costs of making the same mistakes.

  9. Thanks once again professor for aprising me, if not most of your readers, with information unavailable elsewhere. I wonder which atrocity the naive college students would protest if they had a choice of the several you presented here.

    On another note, loved the Scholars and Sense podcast today with Bill Bennett and Conrad Black. I only wish you 3 could meet up every week rather than monthly. But I will take what I can get, thanks again.

  10. Dear Dr. Hanson,

    Thank you very much for making it clear how recent horrific assault on Israel fits into a broader pattern. The small nations, all in or nearby Eastern Mediterranean, are, in fact, canaries in a coal mine. The same dark forces threatening them threaten us all.

    Let us hope that Western societies will find it within themselves to stand up to these threats, despite the precipitous moral decline we are seeing all around us.

    Across the Western world, we are seeing mass demonstrations and other expressions of support for the murderous gang of Hamas. Can one imagine similar manifestations following the Ottoman massacre of Greeks on Chios, just short of 200 years ago?

  11. Arnold Ray Bottoms

    One can only hope our State Department is as inform and caring as Dr. Hanson regarding these incorrigibles wrongs. Why does our current administration remind me of Don Quixote?

    Dr ,

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