Israel Has One Good Reason For Recognizing Armenian Genocide

Harut Sassounian


Israel’s Parliament — the Knesset — held “an historic session” on June 12, during which “seven different political parties overwhelmingly endorsed recognition of the Armenian Genocide,” according to Dr. Israel Charny, Executive Director of the Institute on the Holocaust and Genocide in Jerusalem. He cautiously predicted that the Knesset would complete its legislative procedures leading to recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

While acknowledging the Armenian Genocide would be salutary, Israel should have done so long ago. In fact, the Jewish State should have been the first country to recognize the genocide, in view of the awesome legacy of the Holocaust — Shoah. Who should empathize more with the victims of genocide than those who have suffered a similar fate themselves? As Knesset member Nino Abesadze pointed out during the hearing: “It is precisely because we have been a victim people that we do not dare fail to identify with another victim people.” Another influential Knesset member, Zeev Elkin, Chair of the Likud Caucus stated: “We are one of the last nations in the world that has still not recognized the Armenian Genocide. It is our moral responsibility that we have still not met.”

During the June 12 hearing, Knesset Chairman Reuven Rivlin spoke “firmly and inspiringly” with “profound feeling of both a Jewish and an Israeli imperative to extend a long overdue recognition,” Dr. Charny reported. Chairman Rivlin announced that there was no need for a new vote to recognize the Armenian Genocide since the Knesset had already voted unanimously for its recognition last year. Dr. Charny explained that unlike the US Congress, Knesset resolutions first go to the plenary session before being considered by one of its committees. The next step for the Armenian Genocide resolution is the Education Committee, after which it would be sent back to the Knesset for a final vote. Only then it could be said that the Knesset has officially recognized the Armenian Genocide.

One of the unexpected developments at the June 12 hearing was a statement by Minister of Environmental Affairs Gilad Erdan who announced that he was speaking officially on behalf of the government. He stated unambiguously that Israel had decided to recognize the Armenian Genocide. Furthermore, Minister Erdan claimed that “the State of Israel has never denied it, on the contrary, we deplore the [Armenian] genocide.” This was a surprising statement, since it is well known that, under Turkish pressure, Israel has persistently opposed recognition of the Armenian Genocide. Nevertheless, in defiance of Israeli state denialism, on April 24, 2000, Minister of Justice Yossi Beilin and Minister of Education Yossi Sarid acknowledged the Armenian Genocide, prompting the government to repudiate their statements. Beilin had also recognized the genocide in 1994, while serving as Deputy Foreign Minister.

The fact that serious discussions on the Armenian Genocide are now taking place at a time of deteriorating relations between Turkey and Israel raises troubling questions about the motives of the Israeli government. It would be morally repugnant to see the mass murder of a nation being exploited for crass political calculations. Yet, one has to realize that international relations are rarely based on moral principles. Were it not for economic and political considerations, the whole world would have long ago recognized the Armenian Genocide.

While critics may be displeased that Israel is considering recognition of the Armenian Genocide at a time of discord with Turkey, the greater wrong, in my view, was not doing the right thing for all these years. Even now, despite efforts to rectify the past and uphold the truth, some Israeli officials are concerned that raising the Armenian Genocide issue would further exacerbate relations with Turkey. Knesset member Arieh Eldad dismissed such objections by pointing out the illogical stance of the naysayers: “A few years ago, people said we couldn’t talk about it because of our good relations with Turkey. Now people say we can’t talk about it because of our bad relations with Turkey.” Eldad added that when people are reluctant to address moral and ethical issues there is always a claim that the timing of such a discussion is wrong.

There is, however, one red line that no Armenian should cross. Israeli officials have sought to obtain political concessions from Armenia and Armenians in return for genocide recognition. Such demands should be rejected outright since Armenians do not owe anything to Israel for recognizing the genocide — a universally acknowledged historical fact. Israel should recognize the Armenian Genocide simply because it is the right thing to do, reflecting the sentiments of all righteous Jews worldwide.

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  1. ARA said:

    Concessions for recognition-y say ho -wait till we hear what they want- Many good Jewish friends and people support us-the politics are different-ALWAYS- the tuks and nazis ate from the same rear ends of all donkeys-and why would we let alone a Jewish person of any order sit with them- They liek u have people there and need to protect them-lets give them the card-it can not hurt us- they may have had some historic mistakes against us-so did we with many enemies today of our country here- lets talk-then decide-what r the concessions spoken of? we need to give in order to receive-we are culture and justice is there

  2. Serop Mardirossian said:

    We should stop worrying about Israel recognizing or not recognizing the Armenian Genocide. If they want to live in the “moral mud” of their creation, so be it! By attaching too much importance to their “endorsement” we make ourselves liable for negotiations. When Armenians recognize the Jewish Holocaust they do so out of genuine concern for the victims, not because of expected “rewards” or “political gains or considerations”. In the long run it does not make any difference. We are making the situation worse by attaching importance to their “moral standing” in this case. Frankly, I do not care.

    • Ani said:

      Wholeheartedly agree with you Serop. We need to stop waiting and holding our breaths everytime Israel brings up the Genocide in Turkey’s face. Who are they anyway to have our attention? They are oppressors, occupiers, terrorists(at state level), human rights violators, in violation of many, many UN resolutions etc…. and we care or want a country like this to recognize our Genocide?? NO THANKS!!!

    • Edward Demian said:

      OK. So we don’t care. But we care that in the US, the Jewish lobbies are strangling us at every turn. We need them to at least be neutral, but not anti Armenian.

  3. Hratch said:

    Israel was created with the full support and backing of Turkey. The Turkish government was rewarded handsomely by the West for its cooperation. The world was told that Turkey was a key ally in the cold war and must be supported politically, militarily and economically. But the true role of Turkey was to suppress a 70+ million Muslim population that could have cause major problems in the region. Turkey was also given a free-hand in dealing with its minorities and genocide denial campaign.

  4. George said:

    Israel should hurry in recognizing the Genocide, History will remember in the future, When they did it, Why they took so long to recognize, a shame that may haunt them for the rest of the History.

  5. Hamasdegh said:

    We, as indidvidual Armenians or as a community, recognized the Jewish Holocaust on the basis of our convictions , not on the basis of “commercial or political” benefits or advantages. We did so because we thought this to be one of the most heinous crimes against humanity. The fact that Israel has dragged its feet on this issue for political considerations eliminates the notion of its being considered a “moral authority” on this issue or any other similar issue, hence we should not consider its decision to recognize the Armenian Genocide as a momentous decision. No it is not and can not be no matter how some of us seem to have bestowed this attribute on the State of Israel. They know what has happened and they can not claim ignorance. Either you bear witness or shut up !

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  8. Vasken said:

    Those Israeli Officials` with their Conditions they can Go to Hell…

  9. Avo said:

    Will Israel REALLY go against Turkey? Turkey is a key access point for any possible attack on Iran. An attack on Iran should be of concern to it’s neighbor Armenia. Connect your own dots.

  10. Robert H. Ajamian said:

    Isreal’s recognition of the Armenian Genocide is way overdue.Isreal is a nation completely dependent on Turkey for its existance.The way to solve this problem is for Greece,Armenia,and Assyria to attack Turkey and return lands confiscated from them during World War I .Turkey was created in 1923 as a Republic there was no such thing as Turkey before that.America supported Turkey from 1923 to stop the spread of communism and during the cold war.America uses Turkish military bases and is blind to the rights of Greeks,Assyrians,and Armenians.Armenia,Greece,and Assyria need to sue America,and Turkey from robbing them out of use of thier land for 97 years.

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