JERUSALEM—The Education and Culture Committee of the Israeli parliament—the Knesset—held a three-hour session Monday to discuss a bill, which if passed, would recognize the Armenian Genocide. The committee postponed approval of the measure.
The resolution, which was introduced by Zehava Gal-On of the left-wing Meretz party and Ariyeh Eldad of the right-wing National Union party would recognize the Armenian Genocide and designate a national day of remembrance.
The session, which was televised live on Israeli television, was presided over by the chairman of the committee, Alex Miller, and was attended by the Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, which unprecedented in such hearings.
During his remarks, Speaker Rivlin said that Israel has a moral and historic obligation to recognize the Armenian Genocide.
“It is my duty as a Jew and Israeli to recognize the tragedies of other peoples,” Rivlin said according to Haaretz newspaper. “Diplomatic considerations, important as they may be, should not deter us from recognizing a tragedy experienced by another people.”
Coalition government representative Zen Elkin also spoke in favor of adopting the bill, as did numerous Knesset members in attendance. Also speaking in favor of the bill was noted historian Israel Charney.
The Turkish and Azerbaijani communities were also present at the meeting. When two Azeri speakers insisted that the adoption of the bill would gravely impact relations with both Turkey and Azerbaijan, Miller, who was chairing the session, interrupted their statements saying that they were out of order.
On behalf of the Armenian National Committee of Jerusalem, Georgette Avakian addressed the session. She was accompanied at the hearing by other members of the Jerusalem ANC, Archbishop Aris Sirvanian of the Patriarchate and honorary Consul General of Armenia Tsolag Momdjian.
Hagop Sevan of the Armenian National Committee in Jerusalem called this fact a “small victory” for the local Armenians, reported RFE/RL.
“I can say that at this time, recognition of this type can have very grave strategic implications,” Irit Lillian, a representative of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, told the hearing on what the Knesset committee defined as the possibility of “the Jewish people’s recognition of the Armenian genocide,” reported RFE/RL.
“Our relations with Turkey today are so fragile and so delicate that there is no place to take them over the red line,” she said.
Eldar, the co-author of the resolution, dismissed the government’s objections by saying, “In the past it was wrong to bring up the issue because our ties with Turkey were good; now it is wrong because our ties with them are bad. When will the time be right?”
Gal-On spoke of Israel’s “moral and historical obligation” to recognize the genocide “especially when we are still struggling against Holocaust denial.” She cited in that regard the adoption by the French parliament of a bill criminalizing Armenian genocide denial, reported RFE/RL.
In an editorial entitled “Armenian Memorial,” the Jerusalem Post advocates for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by Israel. The editorial also cites recent hostility by Turkey, and its prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in relations to last week’s passage by the French parliament of a bill that criminalizes the denial of the Armenian Genocide.
“Erdogan’s ruffian demeanor isn’t Israel-specific. There’s no plausible reason not to answer his hectoring defamations with incontrovertible historical truths. Why, for starters, not quit our unsavory habit of resisting Knesset resolutions on Turkey’s infamous atrocities against the Armenians? We could elaborate on Turkey’s first Armenian massacre of 1890 (100,000-200,000 dead); Turkey’s subsequent mega-massacres of 1915 in which over a million Armenians perished in a series of bloodbaths and forced marches of uprooted civilians in Syria’s direction; the WWI slaughter of tens of thousands of Assyrians in Turkey’s southeast; the ethnic cleansing, aerial bombardments and other operations that cost Kurds untold thousands of lives throughout the 20th century and beyond and still deny them the sovereignty they deserve; and finally, the 1974 invasion and continued occupation of northern Cyprus (which fails to bother the international community),” concluded the Jerusalem Post editorial.