The Knesset held a special session Tuesday on the mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks during World War I. "We must not politicize this matter," said Knesset Speaker Rivlin, adding that in spite of the sensitivity of the issue, there is no intention to blame Turkey or the current Turkish government.
"Remembering and recognizing this genocide is our moral obligation. However, the timing of the discussion is problematic, when it is used for political bashing."
Minister Gilad Erdan, a close ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said that the Jewish state ought to change its policy and recognize the 1915 mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks as an act of genocide.
Israel has long avoided acknowledging the mass killings of Armenians as genocide, in deference to already strained ties with Turkey which rejects that view.
Recognition of the Armenian genocide by Israel would enrage Turkey and further strain the already tense ties between the two countries.
For years, Israel has refrained from commenting on the matter for fear of angering Turkey, which until recently was its closest ally in the Muslim world. But as ties have frayed under the Islamic-oriented rule of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Israel appears to be changing course.
Armenian Death March
The Armenian genocide remembrance day is marked every year on April 24. The mass murders by the Ottoman Turks were carefully planned and executed during and after World War I. Hundreds of thousands were sent to labor camps.
Finally, the Ottoman Turks chased the remaining Armenians from their villages to Syria in a death march. Women, children and elderly people marched for weeks without food or water, hunted down by soldiers and criminals. During the marches thousands were perished, murdered, raped and even burnt alive. In villages near the Black Sea, the Turks put the Armenians on boats and drowned them.
Reports on the atrocities reached Europe and the US as early as 1915, which immediately condemned the acts and blamed the Ottoman regime for "crimes against humanity."
The Ottoman massacre of the Armenians was the first genocide of the 20th century, and remains the center of political debate. The Turks continue to deny the genocide, claiming that the Armenians were only transferred, and that deaths only occurred during the fighting between the Armenians and the Kurds.
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