MKs defiant in face of Turkish threats over Armenian Genocide recognition

“Just think how we would feel if the reactions to the Holocaust would also be measured on a diplomatic scale: Is it worth recognizing or not? We would shout that this is immoral.”

May 25, 2018 18:06
2 minute read.
Tamar Zandberg speaks at Knesset

Tamar Zandberg speaks at Knesset. (photo credit: YITZHAK HARARI)


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Lawmakers across the political spectrum called on the government not to heed Ankara’s threats over the possibility that the Knesset will recognize the Armenian Genocide.

Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said on Friday, according to AFP, that “the fact that Israel is putting the events of 1915 at the same level as the Holocaust in World War II will lead it to hurt itself.”

The comment came two days after the Knesset voted to add a motion to its agenda to discuss recognizing the Armenian Genocide during World War I, in which the Ottoman Empire killed an estimated 1.5 million Armenians.

The Knesset is expected to vote on recognition on Tuesday.

In addition, Zionist Union MK Itzik Shmuli and Likud MK Amir Ohana submitted a bill to a similar effect.

Contrary to Aksoy’s statement, the major proponents of recognition in the Knesset did not use the term “holocaust” in their related speeches and legislation; they called it a “genocide,” instead.

Ohana accused Turkey’s Foreign Ministry of “cynically and transparently using the word Holocaust to try to cheapen the severity and uniqueness of the Holocaust of the Jewish people.

“I and my friend MK Shmuli intentionally avoided using that term.”

Ohana added that “the Armenian Genocide, the term we chose to use, is a catastrophe in and of itself. It’s clear that recognizing history is uncomfortable for Turkey, but just because it doesn’t like the past doesn’t mean it can be erased or twisted.”

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein released a clarification after Wednesday’s vote saying that he does not use the word “holocaust” to describe the Armenian Genocide, and the doesn’t think comparing the two are appropriate.

Responding to Aksoy, Shmuli said: “1.5 million Armenians were slaughtered by the Turkish in death marches, with gas and in concentration camps, and if we deny history, it can repeat itself over and over again. The Jewish people especially cannot do this.”

Shmuli added that he “hopes Netanyahu and his government have no intention to fold before [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan, who bombs innocent civilians and dares to preach morals.”

Meretz chairwoman Tamar Zandberg called on MKs from the coalition and opposition to “do the right thing.”

“Recognizing the genocide is the moral and basic thing and cannot be dependent on politics.

There are things that are above politics, and this is one of them,” she said.

Ohana told Ankara to “stop the hysterics,” pointing out that 29 countries have already recognized the Armenian Genocide, and saying Turkey should take responsibility for what it did.

The move to recognize the Armenian Genocide comes at a time of heightened tensions between Israel and Turkey, after Ankara withdrew its ambassador from Israel to protest the IDF’s response to riots on the Gaza border, and Jerusalem then recalled its ambassador to Turkey.

Zandberg and Edelstein both said on Wednesday that they do not think recognition should depend on Turkey-Israel relations.

Zandberg proposed her motion before the latest diplomatic row, and Meretz has proposed a similar motion annually since 1989.

Edelstein said earlier last week: “Just think how we would feel if the reactions to the Holocaust would also be measured on a diplomatic scale: Is it worth recognizing or not? We would shout that this is immoral.”

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