Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Knesset panel to consider recognition of Armenian genocide

By Shahar Ilan, Haaretz Correspondent

The Knesset decided Wednesday that a parliamentary committee will hold an unprecedented hearing on whether to recognize the World War I-era mass murder of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire as a genocide.

The decision to hold a hearing, which was proposed by Meretz Chairman Haim Oron, was approved by a 12-MK margin. The government did not oppose the motion.

The Knesset House Committee will decide whether the issue will be handed over to the Knesset Education Committee, as Oron wants, or to the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, as requested by Yisrael Beiteinu MK Yosef Shagal. The latter generally holds hearings behind closed doors.

Oron wants the committee to recognize the Armenian genocide, pointing out that similar recognition has been afforded recently by the French parliament and the United States Congress. "It is appropriate that the Israeli Knesset, which represents the Jewish people, recognize the Armenian genocide," said Oron. "It is unacceptable that the Jewish people is not making itself heard."

The Meretz MK added that he raises the proposal every year ahead of Armenian Genocide Day, which falls on April 24.

Minister Shalom Simhon, who represented the government in the Knesset debate, did not object to sending the issue to committee. Simhon said the Jewish people have a special sensitivity to the issue and a moral obligation to remember tragic episodes in human history, including the mass murder of the Armenians.

Nonetheless, Simhon added that, "in the course of time this has become a politically charged issue between Armenians and Turks ? and Israel is not interested in taking a side."

Shagal warned that recognizing the killings as a genocide could have repercussions for Israel's diplomatic relations with Turkey, as well as the fate of tens of thousands of Jews who live in Azerbaijan.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

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