People mourn at the Tsitsernakaberd Armenian Genocide Memorial Museum in Yerevan.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel can no longer hesitate in recognizing the Armenian Genocide, MK Nachman Shai (Zionist Union) said Friday, after leading the Knesset delegation to the ceremony in Yerevan marking the centennial of the massacres.
“The time has come to recognize the Armenian Genocide.
That is our basic obligation,” Shai said following the event.
Israel does not officially call the massacre over a million Armenians by the Ottomans “genocide,” due to foreign policy interests in Turkey and Azerbaijan, which have fraught relations with Armenia.
Only 22 states, including Armenia, call the events a genocide, including Canada, France and Germany, but not the US.
Representatives of more than 60 states attended the memorial, including France, Serbia, Russia and Cyprus.
Shai put a wreath on the monument to the Armenian civilians killed in 1915-1918 during the ceremony.
He was joined by MK Anat Berko (Likud) at the event, which took place on the 100th anniversary of when the Ottomans arrested 250 Armenian intellectuals, marking the beginning of the genocide.
“The ceremony was impressive and sad and included a film reviewing the Armenian tragedy, along with the Jewish Holocaust and the genocide in Rwanda,” Berko said. “The pictures were difficult to see and gut-wrenching.”
She added: “Presidents and representatives of countries, including [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, who was met with raucous applause, said ‘Never again.’ The feeling, unfortunately, is that not much has changed since that massacre, and today people are still indifferent to harm and murder of civilians.”
Speaking with Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, Shai said he was “proud to represent the State of Israel and the Jewish People at this historic event.
“We may understand more than other nations the pain and suffering of the Armenian people and the terrible tragedy that happened to your people,” Shai continued.
Also on Friday, Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On spoke at the ceremony in the Armenian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem marking the genocide.
“The Israeli government continues to be a partner in denying the Armenian Genocide,” she said. “The Foreign Ministry instructed the delegation to call the genocide a human tragedy and not call it genocide.”
Israel is sacrificing its values for narrow foreign policy interests, Gal-On said.
“As Jewish people, who went through the Holocaust and know what Holocaust denial means and fight it to this day, we have the moral imperative to show sensitivity to the tragedies of other nations and not deny that genocide took place in the past and continues to happen today.
We must understand the implications of ignoring [other genocides] and recognize the suffering... just as the pope and European Parliament did by recognizing the Armenian Genocide,” Gal-On said.