Amid heightened tensions between Turkey and France, after the latter passed a bill criminalizing the denial of genocide in Armenia, the Knesset's Education Committee on Monday held a session on the controversial chapter of history, which occurred almost 100 years ago.
"This subject is being discussed in the Knesset today regardless of the recent negative developments between Israel and Turkey," said Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, who attended the hearing.
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"There is an element of recognition – as the State of Israel – That we will not ignore another people's calamity, despite diplomatic pressures and the current political situation.
"We believe that as humans, as Jews and as citizens of the State of Israel – along with members of Knesset that are not Jewish – we must put the subject on the national agenda. We stand before the world with the utmost moral demand," he said.
The Knesset speaker added that "even the Turks understand that we cannot ignore our commitment as people, as Jews and as citizens of Israel."
'Not a partisan issue'
MK Zahava Gal-On, chairwoman of the Meretz faction, said that "acknowledging the horrors that took place in the past should not affect future relations with Turkey.
"(Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip) Erdgoan's statements are made to create internal propaganda," the member of Knesset noted, adding that the Turkey will find a way to preserve its diplomatic tieswith Israel based on common interests.
'Unrelated to ties with Turkey.' Rivlin (Photo: Knesset Channel)
Gal-On stated that the Knesset must take a clear position on the Armenian genocide after long years of silence. "The moral duty to recognize the Armenian genocide is not a partisan issue.
"As a daughter to the Jewish people, who underwent a holocaust that has no precedent in human memory, we have the moral duty to show sensitivity to the calamity of other nations," she said.
"A million and a half people were butchered. I know this is a sensitive topic, and that throughout the years it has been used as a foreign policy tool in the hands of Israel's governments, but we have a moral duty. It is inconceivable that our school curriculums are silent on the Armenian genocide," she said.
Protest in front of Turkish Embassy in France (Photo: MCT)
Former member of Knesset Haim Oron, who has been dealing with the subject for many years, added: "We don't want this to end with this discussion, but with a statement that expresses the Knesset's recognition in the Armenian genocide."
Three years ago the Foreign Ministry tried to thwart a hearing dealing with the Armenian genocide, but this time officials in the ministry presented a different view, claiming that the subject should be determined "by historians, not politicians."
National Security Adviser Yaakov Amidror asked Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin to postpone the discussion, but Rivlin refused, saying: "As a nation that has suffered through a holocaust, we cannot ignore this issue, and therefore the hearing will be held as scheduled."
Relations between France and Turkey reached an all time low last week, after French lawmakers voted to jail and fine anyone in France who denies that the 1915 killings of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire amounted to genocide.
In response, Ankara recalled its Ambassador from Paris and announced a series of unprecedented measures, including a prohibition on French fighter jets to land on its territory and cancellation of all diplomatic meetings with French delegates.
Moran Azulay contributed to this report
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