In line with its stance that over a million Armenians were killed by the Ottomans in what should be considered a genocide, Israel will send a Knesset delegation to participate in the ceremonies commemorating the massacre.
Members of Knesset Nachman Shai and Anat Berko will head a delegation representing the State of Israel at a series of events to be held over the weekend in the Armenian capital of Yerevan, marking the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide. Approximately 1-1.5 million Armenians were murdered by the Turkish Ottoman regime.
On April 24, 1915, the Ottoman Empire rounded up 250 Armenian leaders and intellectuals whom they accused of supporting the Russian enemy in World War I. The Ottomans then executed Armenian men of military age and sent the elderly, women and children on death marches into the Syrian desert.
“Israel must reconsider its position on whether the time has come to recognize the fact that an Armenian genocide occurred,” Shai stated last week. “As Jews, we must recognize it. This is especially true during these days, when we mark Holocaust Remembrance Day. Participation in the events in Armenia is a clear and strong statement by the Israeli Knesset, which has repeatedly remembered the Armenian victims, that it is obligated to reopen the matter.”
Israel has not yet officially recognized the calamity as “genocide,” categorizing it instead as a “tragedy.” It has done so at the behest of the Turks, who have been working diplomatically to prevent such acknowledgement.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said last Tuesday that the slaughter of the Armenians during World War I was not genocide, but rather “atrocity crimes.”
Ban made his remarks in response to an earlier statement by Pope Francis, who called it “the first genocide of the 20th century.”
Berko explained that “the ancient Armenian people suffered a terrible disaster and many of its sons and daughters perished in a horrible tragedy. We, members of the Jewish nation, who have also suffered, recognize and sympathize with the pain and the loss of the Armenian people. It is our great honor and moral duty to take part in such a significant event, along representatives of other countries.”
By Max Gelber, United with Israel