Knesset Education Committee recognizes Armenian genocide
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Knesset Education Committee recognizes Armenian genocide

Chair Yakov Margi urges house speaker to declare that Israel’s parliament considers 1915 mass killing a genocide

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

Chairman of the Education, Culture, and Sports Committee Yaakov Margi in the Knesset on February 24, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Chairman of the Education, Culture, and Sports Committee Yaakov Margi in the Knesset on February 24, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Knesset’s Education, Culture and Sports Committee on Monday announced it recognizes the Armenian genocide and urged the government to formally acknowledge the 1915 mass slaughter of 1.5 Armenians as such.

“It is our moral obligation to recognize the Armenian genocide,” said committee chair Yakov Margi (Shas) at a committee meeting.

Margi expressed regret that the State of Israel does not currently recognize the genocide by Ottoman Turks 101 years ago, and called on Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein to do so.

Israel’s refusal thus far to formally recognize the Armenian slaughter as genocide is based on geopolitical and strategic considerations, primary among them its relations with Turkey, which vehemently denies that Ottoman Turks committed genocide. Israel and Turkey signed a rapprochement deal in June, upgrading their diplomatic relationship after years of frosty ties worsened by a fatal melee between IDF soldiers and Turkish activists aboard a Gaza-bound ship in 2010.

During Monday’s meeting, Meretz MK Zehava Galon, Zionist Union MKs Zouheir Bahloul and Nahman Shai, and Joint (Arab) List MK Dov Khenin voiced support for the measure.

Members of the Jerusalem Armenian community protest outside the Knesset following the Israeli government's recent diplomatic agreement with Turkey, demanding that the State of Israel finally recognize the Armenian Genocide (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Members of the Jerusalem Armenian community protest outside the Knesset following the Israeli government’s recent diplomatic agreement with Turkey, demanding that the State of Israel finally recognize the Armenian Genocide (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Earlier this month, Edelstein (Likud) urged Israel to recognize the Armenian genocide, despite the friction it might cause with Turkey.

“We must not ignore, belittle or deny this terrible genocide,” Edelstein declared as the Knesset marked the 1915 mass killing. “We must disconnect the current interests, bound to this time and place, from the difficult past, of which this dark chapter is a part.”

Members of the Armenian community march with flags and torches on April 23, 2015, in Jerusalem's Old City, on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the mass killings of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire in 1915. (AFP/Gali Tibbon)
Members of the Armenian community march with flags and torches on April 23, 2015, in Jerusalem’s Old City, on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the mass killings of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire in 1915. (AFP/Gali Tibbon)

President Reuven Rivlin, who was one of the most outspoken advocates for recognition of the genocide during his time as Knesset speaker, eschewed using the term during the centenary commemoration last year, disappointing Armenian leaders. He used it, however, several weeks earlier at a different event.

Israel’s ongoing denial of the Armenian genocide has thus far survived several debates in the Knesset and even efforts by a former education minister to add the topic to school curricula.

Raphael Ahren and news agencies contributed to this report.

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