Knesset to mark Armenian genocide on eve of publication of Gaza flotilla report

Recognition of Armenian genocide perpetrated by Turkey comes alongside Turkish lawsuit against senior Israeli officials involved in IDF raid on the Gaza-bound ship, the Mavi Marmara.

On the eve of the publication of the State Comptroller’s report regarding the 2009 Gaza flotilla, the Knesset is expected to hold a public discussion about the genocide of the Armenian people, as requested by MK Zahava Gal-On (Meretz).

Knesset chairperson Reuven Rivlin decided to permit the debate for Tuesday, following the Turkish decision to try senior Israeli officials in court for their involvement in the IDF raid on the Gaza-bound ship the Mavi Marmara, and the publication of the State Comptroller’s report on the affair on Wednesday.

Protesters in Istanbul - AP - June 2012

Protesters commemorating the second anniversary of the Mavi Marmara incident in Istanbul. - Photo by AP


The Knesset will mark the anniversary of the genocide with its first discussion of the matter on Tuesday, and a second public discussion will be planned, to be held by one of the Knesset committees.

Throughout the years, the government and the Knesset have refrained from discussing the subject in fear of harming relations between Israel and Turkey.

Over the last three years, determination has developed to discuss the murder of roughly one and a half million Armenians by Turkey 97 years ago, mostly because of the deteriorating relations between Israel and Turkey.

This is not the first time the Knesset has mentioned the subject. Last December, the Knesset Education Committee held an open discussion of the matter, the first of its kind. A representative of the Foreign Ministry relayed the ministry’s position. “This subject, given the current atmosphere, could deteriorate our ties with Turkey. Our relationship with Turkey is very fragile and sensitive right now, and we cannot cross the line – we must approach the subject intelligently. Such a decision could have very serious strategic consequences,” said the representative.

Rivlin also commented during the discussion in December.  “The subject doesn’t come up in the Knesset because of events that take place between Israel and Turkey, nor because we are trying to take advantage of the political situation to get even. I first entered the Knesset in ’88, and a year later we made a suggestion for a day concerning the Armenian tragedy. We were prevented from speaking about it as a ‘holocaust,’ though we most definitely felt that as humans, as Jews, as citizens of Israel that aren’t Jews, we must bring this subject up, and flood the public with the questions that arise, because we are obligated to prevent denial of the tragedy,” said Rivlin.

“We are standing in front of all the peoples of the world, and saying that denial of a holocaust is something that Humanity cannot agree with. We didn’t come to discuss something political, rather moral,” continued Rivlin.

MK  and Meretz chairperson Zahava Gal-On, who initiated the discussion set to take place, said  then, “this is an exciting moment, in my opinion, that the Education Committee is holding an open discussion, with a great deal of participation. For years, Israel always considered relations with Turkey. That is the central issue in terms of recognition of the murder of the Armenian people, which has yet to take place in Israel’s Knesset.”

“Unfortunately, relations with Turkey are very tense, and I think that it is in our interest not to make them worse. Israel’s government must advance relations regardless of the Armenian issue; it is a historic and moral obligation,” said Gal-On.

Kadima MK Otniel Schneller, also among the upcoming discussion’s sponsors, was the only one who expressed outright opposition to an official recognition by Israel of the Armenian genocide in December. “We cannot disconnect the discussion from the fact that we must rehabilitate our ties with Turkey – it’s an existential necessity,” he said. “We need to fit in the Middle East even if it is difficult,” said Schneller, in December.

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