Knesset committee recognizes Armenian genocide

August 3, 2016 03:48

“It is our moral obligation to recognize the Holocaust of the Armenian nation,” committee chairman MK Ya’acov Margi (Shas) said.

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People mourn at the Tsitsernakaberd Armenian Genocide Memorial Museum in Yerevan. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The Knesset Education, Culture and Sports Committee announced on Monday that it recognizes the Armenian Genocide, in which an estimated 1.5 million Armenians were murdered by Ottoman Turks during WWI.

“It is our moral obligation to recognize the Holocaust of the Armenian nation,” committee chairman MK Ya’acov Margi (Shas) said.

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Margi expressed regret that the Knesset had yet to recognize the genocide and called on Knesset Speaker MK Yuli Edelstein to declare that the Israeli parliament recognizes the Armenian Genocide.

Last year Edelstein told the education committee that he would try to promote the issue and said he hopes that “MKs will know the right way to vote in the moment of truth.”

“I visited one of the Armenian memorial sites and it is very hard to ignore what I saw there,” Edelstein recounted. “I expect that I and the Knesset behave appropriately so that we can make decisions according to the moral standards of a democratic state.”

Georgette Avakian, chairwoman of the Armenian National Committee in Jerusalem, told the Knesset committee that after 101 years, the time had come for the Knesset to join parliaments around the world and the 31 countries who have already recognized the Armenian Genocide.

“The Knesset and the president of the state must recognize the genocide of our nation,” she said.

As Israel waits to normalize ties with Turkey, following an agreement reached last month, it is highly unlikely the government will pass a resolution describing the Turkish massacre of Armenians as genocide.

Such a move would immediately poison the ties between the two countries.

Turkey recalled its ambassador to Germany in June after the German parliament passed a resolution on the matter.

Israel, it should be noted, refrained from such a move even during the six years following the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident when relations between the two countries were at their lowest point. It is unlikely, therefore, to imagine that it would do so now, as ties are improving.

MK Zehava Gal-On (Meretz) who initiated the committee meeting said that “each year we instill false hope in the people who are sitting here.”

“It dishonors the Knesset to continue to go on and on about this issue, year after year, without reaching a decision that the State of Israel and the Israeli legislature recognize the genocide of the Armenian people.”

While Israel made no move toward recognizing the Armenian Genocide during the breakdown of ties with Turkey, some Jewish groups in the US – which hesitated in the past, partly because of concern about how this would impact Israeli-Turkish ties – started to do so.

In 2007 ADL head Abe Foxman fired the organization’s regional director in Boston for telling a newspaper he opposed the ADL’s long-standing refusal to recognize the massacres of the Armenians as genocide. Foxman came under a harsh criticism for the move, and backtracked, but then came under fire from some in Israel concerned that this would negatively affect Israel-Turkey ties.

Turkey’s ambassador to Israel at the time, Namik Tan, told The Jerusalem Post that Ankara expected Israel to “deliver” the American Jewish community, and ensure that the US Congress does not pass a resolution on the matter.

Seven years later, in 2014, the ADL recognized the genocide, and the American Jewish Committee did the same a short time later. In 2015 the Jewish Council for Public Affairs adopted a resolution on Armenian Genocide that called on the US Congress and the president to recognize the genocide.

Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.

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