Knesset to Hold Session on Armenian Genocide

Foreign affairs committee chairman Tzachi Hanegbi likely to schedule debate for two weeks' time.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Despite the diplomatic tensions between Israel and Turkey aroused by last month's botched raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla, the Knesset is scheduled to hold a session later this month on the Armenian genocide of 1915, which is attributed to the Ottoman Turks.

Knesset session, May 3, 2010Credit: Archive

But due to an agreement between the government and the Knesset, the discussion will be held not in the plenum, but in a Knesset committee - most likely the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

Committee chairman Tzachi Hanegbi said yesterday that if, as expected, the Knesset House Committee selects the panel he heads to host the session, he will probably schedule the hearing for two weeks from now.

On Wednesday, several U.S. congressmen from both parties announced that they were reconsidering their own positions on whether Turkey's treatment of the Armenians during World War I should be labeled genocide. At a press conference, the congressmen expressed concern over Ankara's deepening ties with Iran at the expense of those with its traditional ally Israel.

The Knesset session is the brainchild of Meretz chairman Haim Oron, who first suggested a debate be held on the matter a year ago. Oron said he does not intend to turn the discussion into a "settling of accounts" with Turkey over the flotilla incident, and plans to ensure that other lawmakers conduct themselves in a similar vein.

"I think this issue is deeply significant, and that's why I don't want it to turn into a denigration of our ties with Turkey at the hands of those who previously didn't even want to hold this debate," Oron said.

In an address to the Knesset plenum a month ago, Oron used unusually harsh language to denounce Turkey's wartime conduct toward the Armenians. But he took pains to qualify his remarks, lest he be accused of making a false historical analogy.

"We must not be part of this denial, because we, the Jewish people, are hurt by this kind of thinking all the time," he said. "I want to say this completely clearly: I am not making an analogy between the Holocaust of the Jewish people and the massacre of the Armenian nation, as tragic as the latter was. As a Jew, I can of course say that the Holocaust was unique. And that's why I don't use the same term in reference to the Armenians."

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