Armenia optimistic Israel will recognize massacre as genocide

The government of Armenia is "very hopeful" that Israel will soon recognize the World War I-era massacre of Armenians by Turks as an "act of genocide," a senior Armenian official told The Jerusalem Post last week. "The Armenian and Israeli people are united in the suffering that each endured, and no one but the Jewish people can better understand our situation," Sergo Yeritsyan, a former education minister who now serves as a senior adviser to President Robert Kocharian, said. "The world has recognized and accepted the Holocaust as an historical event, and the world is now acknowledging the genocide of Armenians," Yeritsyan said in an interview in his office in the Armenian capital of Yerevan. "I am very hopeful that Israel, step by step, will recognize it as well... We are very hopeful and we are waiting for it," Yeritsyan said. Contacted by the Post, a spokesman for Israel's Foreign Ministry declined to comment. Historians estimate that as many as 1.5 million Armenian Christians were killed by Ottoman Turks in a massacre that began in 1915, in what some scholars have declared to be the first systematic act of genocide in the 20th century. Turkey, however, denies the deaths constituted genocide, saying the toll has been grossly inflated and that those killed were victims of civil war and unrest. Israel has thus far tried to distance itself from the issue, not wanting to offend Ankara and souring relations. Yeritsyan insisted that the killings constituted genocide and stressed that it was essential for the international community to recognize it as such. "One must be honest about history," the former professor, who holds a PhD in philology, said, adding that "failure to do so only increases the chances of such a thing happening again." Yeritsyan welcomed the recent decision by American Jewish organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League, which in August reversed its traditional position and declared the killing of the Armenians was "tantamount to genocide," saying this was "of course a positive development." "We, the Armenians, are very emotionally connected with this issue, as you can understand," Yeritsyan said. "But I believe that Jews all over the world can help us to cure the pain." "We must work together towards greater respect and cooperation between Armenia and Jewish people all over the world," Yeritsyan said. "It is our responsibility to history."