Israel Should Mark April 24th as Armenian Memorial Day

by Gedalyah Reback
Armenian school girls hold signs as they demonstrate in front of the Israeli Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem in October, 2007.

Armenian school girls hold signs as they demonstrate in front of the Israeli Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem in October, 2007.

Last May, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin pledged he would recognize the Armenian Genocideon the floor of the parliament. Rivlin is a careful and moderate member of the Likud Party, but he’s been hawkish about the issue. Since 2008, the Knesset has been debating (in closed committee) whether or not to officially recognize the genocide. Last year, they opened the discussions to the public. Why such difficulty recognizing the genocide that Hitler supposedly used as a model for the Holocaust? One so important to World War I and the direction of the Middle East in the 20th century? Quite simply, it would piss off Turkey.

Turkey still refuses to recognize the magnitude or viciousness of the slaughter, arguing the numbers of those killed and the circumstances – battle as opposed to systematic murder.

Armenia's Colors and Coat of Arms

Armenia's Colors and Coat of Arms

But Turkey’s on the outs with Israel. So, here we go. He should have the opportunity to bring up the issue again after the current Passover break. With Shaul Mofaz looking to make an impact, he should be able to bring Kadima on board. The coalition should support it. Last year, in a committee vote of 20-0, the issue was referred to the Education Committee for further review. Last December, when France passed a bill criminalizing Armenian Genocide denial, Rivlin came out again in favor of Israel’s official recognition of the disaster.

While Israel’s ally Azerbaijan doesn’t recognize it either, Azerbaijan would have little to gain from protesting Israeli recognition. The recognition will also deepen Israel’s relationship with Christian countries like Greece and Cyprus. Turkey loses credibility whenever it speaks about the diplomatic consequences of countries’ official recognition of the crime. Without leverage on Israel, the Jewish voice on the matter will weigh heavy against Turkey in the court of international opinion. Whatever problems Israel has diplomatically, its authority on genocide issues and its intimate connection to the Holocaust make the Jewish point of view extremely important to advocates of genocide prevention and recognition (see Armenia, Rwanda, Darfur).

Rivlin will have his chance soon. So will the entire Knesset. it’s a disgrace it has taken so long. Perhaps this year there will be something different.

The Breadth of the Armenian Genocide

The Breadth of the Armenian Genocide

Further Reading: Turkey loses its genocide-denying pals in the Israel lobby

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