Knesset committee recognizes Armenian genocide

Not for the first time, Israeli lawmakers voted to formally recognize the Armenian genocide.

The Education, Culture and Sports Committee of the Knesset – the Israeli parliament – voted Monday to recognize the Armenian genocide, in which an estimated 1.5-million Armenians were massacred by the Ottoman Turks during the First World War.

“It is our moral obligation to recognize the holocaust of the Armenian nation,” said committee chairwoman and Member of Knesset (MK) Zehava Galon in a joint statement with MK Yaakov Margi.

The official position of the State of Israel is to neither recognize nor deny the Armenian genocide in light of sensitive relations with Turkey and Azerbaijan. This decision has generated considerable debate in Israel, including condemnation by President Reuven Rivlin.

“Each year we instill false hope in the people sitting here,” said Galon, head of the ultra-left Meretz party, who initiated the meeting. “It is a disservice to the Knesset to continue going on and on about this issue, year after year, without reaching a decision that the State of Israel and the Knesset recognize the genocide of the Armenian people.”

Lawmakers Nachman Shai (Zionist Camp), Dov Khenin (Joint List) and Zouheir Bahloul (Zionist Camp) expressed similar sentiments.

Margi, of the ultra-orthodox Shas party, urged Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein to follow through on his commitment made in July 2015 to push the issue of formal recognition of the Armenian genocide in parliament.

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“I will try to promote the issue and I hope that MKs will know the right way to vote at the moment of truth,” Edelstein had stated. “I visited one of the Armenian memorial sites and it is very hard to ignore what I saw there. I expect that I, and the Knesset, act appropriately so that we can make decisions according to the moral standards of a democratic state.”

“The Knesset and the president of the State of Israel must recognize the genocide of our people,” declared Georgette Avakian, chairwoman of the Armenian National Committee in Jerusalem, explaining that after 101 years since the massacre, the time has come for the Knesset to join parliaments around the world and the 31 countries who have already recognized the Armenian genocide.

In April 2015, which marked the centennial year of the slaughter, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon rejected the Pope’s categorization as genocide, instead using the term “atrocity crimes.”

By: Atara Beck, World Israel News