JERUSALEM—Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, in commenting on the French bill criminalizing the denial of the Armenian Genocide, said he was opposed to recognizing that crime.
“Since its establishment, Israel has opposed the application of the term Holocaust to another war or tragedy. The tragedy of the Jewish people during the World War II is beyond comparison with any other tragedy,” said Lieberman.
“Attempts to turn conflicts and massacres in Africa, Asia and Balkans into another Holocaust are unacceptable. No country other than France has recognized Armenian Genocide by law. Today historical incidents have turned into political disputes. That’s why I don’t consider it right for Israel to face this problem,” the Azerbaijan Press Agency quoted Lieberman as saying.
In December, the Education and Culture Committee of the Israeli parliament—the Knesset—held a three-hour session to discuss a bill, which if passed, would recognize the Armenian Genocide.
The resolution, which was introduced by Zehava Gal-On of the left-wing Meretz party and Ariyeh Eldad of the right-wing National Union party would recognize the Armenian Genocide and designate a national day of remembrance.
The session, which was televised live on Israeli television, was presided over by the chairman of the committee, Alex Miller, and was attended by the Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, which unprecedented in such hearings.
During his remarks, Speaker Rivlin said that Israel has a moral and historic obligation to recognize the Armenian Genocide.
“It is my duty as a Jew and Israeli to recognize the tragedies of other peoples,” Rivlin said according to Haaretz newspaper. “Diplomatic considerations, important as they may be, should not deter us from recognizing a tragedy experienced by another people.”
Coalition government representative Zen Elkin also spoke in favor of adopting the bill, as did numerous Knesset members in attendance. Also speaking in favor of the bill was noted historian Israel Charney.
“I can say that at this time, recognition of this type can have very grave strategic implications,” Irit Lillian, a representative of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, told the hearing on what the Knesset committee defined as the possibility of “the Jewish people’s recognition of the Armenian genocide.”
“Our relations with Turkey today are so fragile and so delicate that there is no place to take them over the red line,” she said.
Eldar, the co-author of the resolution, dismissed the government’s objections by saying, “In the past it was wrong to bring up the issue because our ties with Turkey were good; now it is wrong because our ties with them are bad. When will the time be right?”
Gal-On spoke of Israel’s “moral and historical obligation” to recognize the genocide “especially when we are still struggling against Holocaust denial.” She cited in that regard the adoption by the French parliament of a bill criminalizing Armenian genocide denial.