By Moran Azulay
The Knesset on Tuesday devoted a session to mark the 98-year anniversary of the Armenian Genocide at the behest of MeretzMK Zehava Gal-On, sparking a discussion of Israel’s policy regarding the events.
“It is time that Israel recognizes the genocide of the Armenian people, as did 27 other countries,” said Gal-On. The proposal toward formulating a law on the issue was approved on a preliminary vote and forwarded to a Knesset committee tasked with deciding how to proceed with the legislation.
The Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day is marked annually on April 24. Historians estimate that up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks around the time of World War I. Turkey denies that the deaths constituted genocide, saying that the toll has been inflated and taht those killed were victims of civil war and unrest.
For years, Israel has refrained from commenting on the matter for fear of angering Turkey, which was its closest ally in the Muslim world until the Mavi Marmara incident in 2010. Though an Obama-brokered rapprochement with Turkey is on the cards, Gal-On stressed it was no reason to deny the genocide.
“Reconciliation with Turkey is an important and strategic move,” she said, “but it should not affect the recognition.”
MK Ayelet Shaked also spoke in support of official recognition, saying “How many of us really know much about the Armenian genocide? Why do we accept Turkey’s refusal to take responsibility for the heinous crimes? We must act against our and the world’s silence on such atrocities. No nation stood with the Armenians, just as no one took interest in the genocide in Rwanda.”
Former Knesset speaker, LikudMK Reuven Rivlin, said that “Turkey has always been and will be an ally of Israel. Talks with Turkey at this time are understandable and necessary strategically and politically, but these circumstances can not justify the Knesset’s denial of another nation’s misfortunes.”
Rivlin added it was “inconceivable that the Knesset would ignore this tragedy, the historical facts of which are so well established. We find it hard to forgive the disregard of other peoples and unfortunately for us we should not ignore other people’s misfortunes.”