Shortly before the one year anniversary of the Free Gaza Flotilla that marked a low point in Israel-Turkey relations, the Knesset made history Wednesday afternoon when it held its first open discussion on recognition of the Armenian genocide.

With a number of Armenian religious and lay leaders watching in the visitors’ gallery, MKs ranging from Shas to Meretz took the stand to speak in favor of officially recognizing the series of massacres and deportations that killed an estimated 1.5 million Armenians in the years during and shortly after World War I.

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For years, consecutive governments had blocked attempts by MKs to raise the subject of recognizing the genocide out of concern that such recognition could damage relations with Ankara. This year, however, the government did not block the hearing.

MKs voted by a unanimous vote of 20-0 following the hearing to refer the subject for a further hearing to the Knesset’s Education Committee, a hearing that will also be broadcast, at least via Internet. In contrast, any previous discussions concerning the genocide had been held exclusively behind the closed doors of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

“I am certain that as Israelis, who have heard so many times people attempting to deny the horror that was brought upon our people, it is impossible for the Knesset to ignore this tragedy,” said Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin.

“The historical facts supporting it are solid and well-based. There is still an argument between the Turkish nation and the Armenian nation, but this argument cannot justify even a sliver of denial regarding the Armenian people’s tragedy. We find it difficult to forgive other nations who ignore our tragedy, and thus we cannot ignore another nation’s tragedy. It is our moral obligation as human beings and as Jews.”

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