Small nations under siege across the Greater Middle East

Israel’s population is about 10 million. This represents almost 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, after the mass murder of 6 million Jews by Nazi Germany.

Yet 78 years after the Holocaust, anti-Israel protesters across the Middle East, major cities of the Western world, and iconic American universities are shouting death threats and “Palestine will be free from the river to the sea.”

Its signature slogan is shorthand for the elimination of the Jewish state and all its inhabitants.

Currently there would be no chance that Jews could live in peace under any current Middle Eastern government.

In the postwar era, nearly a million Jews were persecuted, ethnically cleansed, and forcibly expelled from all major Arab countries (Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Morocco, Syria, and Yemen) despite hundreds of years of residence.

Hatred against Israel remains a staple in much of the Arab world of nearly 500 million people and, in fact, is commonplace among the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims and their countries at the United Nations.

And Israel is just one of several small and vulnerable states. Most of them are found in the volatile eastern Mediterranean and Middle East. They are all 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 past.

Bitter proxy fights between allied forces of Armenia and Azerbaijan in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh corridor recently ended with the defeat of Armenian-backed forces.

As a result, shortly before the Hamas massacre of Jews on October 7, some 120,000 ethnic Armenian Christians were expelled from the region by Muslim and Turkic-speaking Azerbaijan.

This current ethnic cleansing in Nagorno-Karabakh comes just over a century after the Turkish genocide of Armenians that led to more than a million people being driven from their ancestral homes and massacred.

Christian Armenia, with only 3 million inhabitants, is even smaller than Israel.

And it is almost surrounded by hostile Muslim states.

As in the case of Israel, the world for the most part ignores or does not care about the old and familiar brutal scenario, now repeated with the same aggressive actors.

Christian Greece, a member of NATO and the European Union, also resembles Israel in that it is relatively small, with a population of 10.5 million.

For more than 400 years, Greece was occupied by Ottoman Turkey.

About a century ago, Turkish forces ethnically cleansed Greeks from ancient Ionia and its capital, Smyrna, homeland of the Greek peoples for millennia.

Like Armenia, it shares a border with its historical aggressor, Türkiye.

The Greek islands off the coast of Asia Minor are currently subject to constant overflights by Turkish military aircraft.

To the north of Greece lies the historically volatile Balkans.

Across the Mediterranean lie several often violent and unstable North African nations, a frequent source of massive and destabilizing illegal immigration to Greece.

Little Cyprus is another equally vulnerable nation.

Cypriot history is one of constant invasions and occupations.

More 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 the vulnerabilities of these small nations are not abstract theory or ancient history.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for example, has recently weighed in on the tensions currently plaguing them all.

As apprehensions grow over Turkish violations of Greek airspace in the Aegean, Erdogan has threatened to send a barrage of missiles to Athens: “We may suddenly fall one night when the time comes.”

Erdogan also recently intimidated Israel with almost the same warning of a nighttime preemptive strike with Turkish missiles, boasting that Turkey could “arrive unexpectedly any night.”

He has also weighed in ominously on the October 7 massacres and the Israeli response to them in Gaza: “We will tell the entire world that Israel is a war criminal. “We are making preparations for this.”

Of the recent expulsion of Armenians and the war in Nagorno-Karabakh, Erdogan also boasted: “We will continue to fulfill this mission that our grandfathers have carried out for centuries in the Caucasus region.”

Erdogan was apparently referring to both the Ottoman conquest of Armenia and subsequent Turkish efforts in the early 20th century to ethnically cleanse Armenia of Armenians.

In all of these cases, small, vulnerable countries hold transparent elections and guarantee individual rights, in stark contrast to their larger, more aggressive neighbors.

Its existence depends on Western alliances and support: the European Union, NATO and especially 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 expendable or irrelevant to their supposed allies and patrons in the West.

If we are not careful, what is supposed to never happen again will surely happen again.

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