Knesset Speaker Calls for Recognition of Armenian Genocide

Marking 100th anniversary of the slaughter in Turkey, MK Yuli Edelstein says cannot yield to diplomatic pressure any longer.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Yuli Edelstein receiving the Knesset speaker's gavel from President Reuven Rivlin, March 30, 2015.
Yuli Edelstein receiving the Knesset speaker's gavel from President Reuven Rivlin, March 30, 2015.Credit: Knesset spokesman
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein called on Tuesday for Israel to officially recognize the Armenian genocide.

Edelstein was speaking at a special session marking the 100th anniversary of the slaughter in Turkey. He said Israel cannot yield any longer to diplomatic pressure or hide behind vague wording.

Edelstein described the killing of over a million Armenians during World War One as "one of the dramatic events and low points that transpired here at the beginning of the previous century." He noted that according to most estimates, some 1.5 million people were killed, "through acts of slaughter and expulsion, out of racism and xenophobia."

Edelstein remarked, "It is no secret that the State of Israel has taken an ambivalent stance until now regarding the Armenian genocide. A maze of constraints, diplomatic and otherwise, made Israel's official position too hesitant, too reserved, and as a result it plays down so to speak the value and power of this event."

As members of the Jewish nation, for whom the Holocaust is still etched in its memory many years later, "we cannot be silent," he said. "We are not permitted to turn a blind eye or minimize the value of the Armenian tragedy."

Edelstein later called for a rethinking of Israel's policy on the issue.

"The State of Israel must thoroughly reexamine its official position because none of us will change history," he said. "We cannot, and are not permitted to cover up the great disaster that gripped the Armenian people and the depth of the moral blow that humanity suffered with sleight of hand.

MK Zahava Gal-On, the chairwoman of Meretz, said similar things, blaming the government of being an accomplice in denying the Armenian genocide.

"The Israeli government's weak labeling of the Armenian genocide as a "tragedy" emphasizes how much the matter of recognizing the Armenian genocide still serves as a pawn in the hands of the State of Israel's foreign policy, and is determined by diplomatic, economic and political considerations," she said. "Israel chooses to sacrifice values of remembering, recognizing and memorializing the Armenian genocide on the later of narrow interests."

The issue of recognizing the Armenian genocide has stirred tempests time and again in Israeli political circles for years. The traditional government policy has been not to recognize the Armenian genocide out of fear of damaging its strategic alliance with Turkey. In recent years, in the wake of its diplomatic crisis with Turkey, the Foreign Ministry has asserted that any step toward recognizing the Armenian genocide would worsen the crisis.

Edelstein's predecessor as Knesset speaker, President Reuven Rivlin, spent years promoting the recognition of the Armenian genocide. However, when he held a ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of the slaughter, he avoided using the explicit word "genocide."

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