KNESSET SPEAKER Yuli Edelstein addresses the Bundestag’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
(photo credit: BOAZ ARAD)
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and other MKs called for the government to recognize the Armenian Genocide on Tuesday, despite recently signing an agreement improving relations with Turkey.
“We cannot ignore, dwarf or deny this terrible genocide,” Edelstein stated. “We must disconnect current interests of this time and place from the difficult past.”
Edelstein quoted Nobel Prize-winning author, philosopher and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, who died on Saturday, as saying apathy to suffering helps the enemy.
“We cannot remain apathetic, even if it’s late, to the suffering the Armenians experienced,” said Edelstein. “Recognizing the Armenian genocide is important to us as human beings who carry the moral responsibility, and constantly hope to improve the world and society.”
Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal- On, who initiated the discussion, also quoted Wiesel, in an open letter his foundation published in 2007 calling for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
“Children and grandchildren of survivors must know what genocide looks like and how one tragedy turned into another giant one,” she said. “But here, in the Knesset, the elected parliament of the state in which the memory of the Holocaust is constant, and ‘never forget’ is a moral commandment, we haven’t heard about it.”
Gal-On said that despite the agreement with Turkey, Israel must recognize it.
“This is a decision Israel must make,” she stated. “Sometimes there is a price to doing the right thing, and sometimes the right choice is not the easy one. We are tested when we have to pay a price.”
Minister without portfolio Tzachi Hanegbi presented the government’s position, saying he understands the emotions behind the MKs’ speeches. But he did not use the Hebrew phrase for “genocide,” simply saying “tragic events.”
The MKs present approved Gal- On’s motion to the agenda, and the discussion will be moved to the Knesset Education Committee.
Meanwhile outside the Knesset, more than 50 people rallied for the same cause. Protesters lined the gate separating the Wohl Rose Park of Jerusalem from the Knesset holding placards reading “Recognize the Armenian Genocide,” and “Fight to stop the Turkish Denial Machine.”
Many countries have debated whether what happened in 1915 can qualify as a “genocide” – 29 countries and groups including the United Nations, the Catholic Church and the Anti-Defamation League say yes, Israel and Turkey say no.
Apo Sahagian, an Armenian Israeli whose family immigrated to Israel in 1921 following the genocide, was part of the group that planned the event. He was not optimistic that it would work.
“This is just to make sure that the people inside, the suits inside, are reminded that they still have a moral obligation, that they don’t simply avoid it or turn a blind eye to it,” he said.