Knesset members from the left and right on Tuesday called for Israel to recognize the Armenian genocide, a topic which has been avoided for years for fear of hurting diplomatic relations with Turkey.
“I’m aware of the sensitivity, but I’m not blaming modern-day Turkey. The government that committed these acts was overturned by Turkey itself,” former Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud) said during a special session on the topic, marking 98 years since the series of massacres took place. This issue cannot be turned into a political one, he emphasized.
Rivlin also addressed the efforts to mend Jerusalem’s ties with Ankara, which were all but severed following the deaths of nine Turkish nationals in the 2010 IDF raid of the Mavi Marmara as it attempted to break a naval blockade and reach the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
“I’m sure Turkey will be an ally. I think a solution needs to be found for this crisis, but it’s unthinkable that the Knesset ignore this tragedy,” Rivlin stated. “We demand that people don’t deny the Holocaust, and we can’t ignore the tragedy of another nation.”
Between 1 million and 1.5 million Armenians are estimated to have been killed by Ottoman forces in 1915. Turkey vehemently denies it carried out a genocide; recognition of the killings would likely damage Israel’s relations with Ankara at a time when the two countries are trying to patch up ties after several years of strain.
There are huge differences between the Holocaust and the murder of the Armenians, Rivlin told Army Radio. Without blurring those differences, Israel must find a way to “fulfill its moral obligation of remembering wrongs done to others.”
“Reconciliation with Turkey is an important strategic move, but it shouldn’t affect recognition [of the Armenian genocide],” said Meretz head Zahava Gal-on, who initiated the discussion. It’s time for Israel to join 27 other countries and acknowledge the mass murder, she added.
Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home) was also of the opinion that Israel need to officially recognize the genocide. “The silence of the world in face of the [Armenian] genocide influenced Hitler when he planned the Final Solution,” the legislator said, adding that Israel cannot afford to encourage forgetfulness.
“When a nation is in danger, no one cares. No one cared about the genocide in Rwanda,” Shaked said. “The fate of every nation is in its own hands.”
Also Tuesday, Hebrew University Professor Israel Charny, a world expert on genocide, donated his library to the Armenian Genocide Museum Institute; the collection includes hundreds of volumes on the Holocaust and the Armenian genocide, as well as other events in history.