Israel Mustn't Politicize the Armenian Genocide

The approximately 1.5 million Armenians who were murdered or driven out in death marches in 1915 deserve international recognition of the holocaust they suffered.

Haaretz Editorial
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Haaretz Editorial

The possibility of officially recognizing the Armenian genocide was for years weighed in terms of Israel's foreign-policy interests in Turkey, on the one hand, and fear over the loss of the concept of "Holocaust" as an exclusive Jewish "property" on the other. Morality or identification with the Armenian holocaust were secondary issues that occasionally made their way into the public debate.

Now, too, the Prime Minister's Office has interfered with the deliberations of the Knesset Education, Culture and Sports Committee on the issue, on the grounds that the session's outcome could sabotage Israel-Turkey relations.

In this context, it is worth recalling that after the Turkish flotilla incident, a number of Knesset members and cabinet ministers threatened to put the Armenian genocide on the Israeli agenda, to avenge the verbal attacks against Israel by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Indeed, the MKs who hitched a ride on the coattails of the new French law that makes denial of the Armenian genocide a criminal offense appear to be motivated more by political vindictiveness than a genuine desire to right a historical wrong. Israel had plenty of opportunities to demonstrate its solidarity with the Armenian people when Jerusalem-Ankara relations were good. But at the time, Israel chose moral silence, and even used its friends in the U.S. Congress to keep it from recognizing the Armenian genocide.

Israel, one of the last countries in the world to occupy another nation and to deny the memory of the Palestinian Nakba, cannot wrap itself in the flag of morality now, while the embers of political account-settling burn beneath it. No special Knesset deliberations are needed in order to teach the Armenian genocide - or the Nakba - in Israel's schools; the education minister has the authority to make these decision without creating a circus of hollow morality.

The approximately 1.5 million Armenians who were murdered or driven out in death marches in 1915 deserve international recognition of the holocaust they suffered. Above all, they deserve Turkey's recognition of this terrible chapter of history.

But for Israel to make this recognition at a time that is politically convenient to it, as part of a tit-for-tat and as a means to provoke Turkey, is light years away from the recognition the Armenian people deserve.

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