An Armenian protester holds a banner reading ‘1915 never again’ as she takes part in a demonstration near the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg in January.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel stands with Armenia in sorrow over the massacre of its people in 1915, even though it has not formally recognized that act as a genocide, MK Nachman Shai (Zionist Union) said on Tuesday in advance of his trip to Yerevan next week.
Shai and MK Anat Berko (Likud) will attend the official 100th anniversary memorial scheduled for April 24, the starting date of the genocide, in which the Ottoman government murdered more than a million Armenians.
“This is an event of deep historic significance,” said Shai. “For the first time in 100 years, the international community is finally recognizing the great injustice...Nationally, and for humanitarian reasons, it is the right thing to stand with a nation that suffered from such torment and a massacre that the world was careful not to admit took place.”
Shai called the event “the Armenian Holocaust,” pointing out that “the Jewish people sometimes don’t like it when other nations use the word holocaust, but it certainly was one.”
“It’s just like what the Nazis did to the Jews,” he continued.
“One nation massacred another nation based only on their national and religious identity. [Ottoman] Turks were Muslim, Armenians were Christian. The Christians wanted their own state, and the Turks wouldn’t allow it.”
The Armenian government invited Israel to send an official delegation to the ceremony, and the Foreign Ministry asked the Knesset to have two members attend.
This does not, however, mark a change in the government’s policy to not officially recognize the genocide, said Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon.
“But of course it is a gesture of friendship and solidarity with Armenia,” he said.
To date only 22 states including Armenia officially recognize the 1915 massacres as a genocide, including Canada, France and Germany – but not the US.
Shai explained that the government is walking a diplomatic tightrope since it has not lost hope that relations with Turkey could be repaired. In addition, he pointed out, Azerbaijan – which has good ties with Israel – has fraught relations with Armenia.
As such, sending MKs to the ceremony “is a compromise, and that is OK,” he said. “Some people say that a nation that suffered a Holocaust cannot close its eyes to another nation’s holocaust. But there’s also realpolitik. We’re a small country and can’t fight with everyone all the time.”
Shai described the decision as a mature one by Israel, a realization that “nothing bad will happen if we make a gesture to the Armenians...The Turks may be mad, but we can’t close our eyes after 100 years. Israel and the Jewish people can’t ignore the holocaust of the Armenian people.”
Berko declined to comment on the ceremony until she receives an official briefing from the Knesset on the topic on Thursday.