Israel

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Armenians demonstrate in Jerusalem in memory of the Armenian Genocide. (April 24)

Israel is a country tugged by two forces, as far as Armenia is concerned. One force is the memory of the Jewish genocide of the 1940s, which is commemorated annually in a national holiday; the second is the need for alliances in the Mideast so that Israel doesn't get suddenly swamped by someone else's military. One of those alliances happens to be with Turkey, and because of the nagging ghosts of the Holocaust and the desires for friendship with the genocide-denier government of Turkey, Israel often finds itself in a bind.

Contents

Israel - The Ambivalent Player

By Matthew Karanian
Armenian International Magazine
May 2000 - Volume 11, No. 5

Turkey's continued denials of the Armenian Genocide are growing tiresome to many Western governments. The latest expression of this weariness came from Israel on April 24, when a state minister expressly affirmed that the events of 1915 were genocide against the Armenian nation.

But instead of calling on Turkey to admit to the crimes of its Ottoman forbears, the cabinet minister-Israel's Minister of Education, no less-advocated that Israel's schools include the Armenian Genocide in its curriculum. Turkey demanded a clarification, and it got one. But the clarification from Israel was a deliberately worded response that did not expressly retract the minister's statement.

The episode was an embarrassment to Turkey, but it is not expected to sour Israeli-Turkish relations, or to have an affect on Armenia's relations with either of the countries. The diplomatic row occurred after Israel's Minister of Education Yossi Sarid accepted an invitation from the Armenians to speak at a memorial gathering on April 24 in Jerusalem. Armenians commemorate the Genocide each year on this day. Sarid told the crowd "As Minister of Education of the State of Israel, …I will do everything in order that Israeli children learn and know about the Armenian Genocide."

On the following day, Israeli Minister of Justice Yossi Beilin said the events of 1915 "cannot be defined except as genocide." Beilin's comments were brief and less detailed than Sarid's, and they reiterated Sarid's main point about genocide. But Beilin's words were not merely cumulative, because of Beilin's political affiliation. Beilin is a member of the Prime Minister's ruling party. Sarid is in the opposition.

Israel's Charge d'Affaires in Turkey, Moshe Kamhi, clarified their comments after receiving a demand from Turkey. He told the Turks that the two ministers' statements are their personal opinions, and do not reflect the government's policies. The tempered reply was apparently intended to be sensitive to the world's Armenians without causing further annoyance to Turkey. But it failed to have that effect.

A leader in the Armenian-American community in Washington, DC said the official clarification from Israel was offensive to Armenians. And the Turkish government rejected the explanation as inadequate. Turkey demanded that Israel issue a "satisfactory" statement, and it demonstrated its anger by refusing to attend a recent diplomatic event that had been sponsored by the Israeli Embassy in Ankara.

Israel had not issued any further comments as of late May.

An Unlikely Partnership

Turkey and Israel have been nurturing a cordial relationship in recent years. Turkey's interest in this partnership is, at least in part, to obtain Israeli technology and to receive a share of Israel's military expertise. Israel's interest is to enlist Turkey's assistance in containing their mutual Arab foes.

As an apparent condition for this relationship, Turkey has insisted that Israel maintain a policy that the events of 1915 should be discussed among historians, and not politicians.

Israel's clarification said that it was sticking to this "policy," which had been adopted in 1995. An official of the Armenian National Institute (ANI), however, says that Israel's reply comes close to affirming the Genocide. Rouben Adalian, the Project Director of the ANI in Washington, DC, points to what the Israeli clarification did not say. "They don't deny the remarks. There's been no retraction, and they don't disavow the statements. Therein lies the difference," he says. Israel merely says, officially, that its "policy" of allowing historians to discuss the events of 1915 has not changed.

Adalian also suggests that there's more to the matter. "No cabinet minister would go out on a limb and say something like that [that the Armenians were victims of a genocide] without some sanction or approval," says Adalian.

A genocide scholar from Israel who is familiar with each of the ministers disputes this hypothesis. The scholar, Israel Charny, says there is no reason to suspect that the ministers' statements are anything more than their own personal words, and no basis for speculation that the government of Israel is signaling a shift in diplomacy. "Sarid did not discuss or clear his wonderful performance with any government leader," says Charny. "I pray that there is a change [in Israel's official position on the Armenian genocide]," says Charny. "But I have seen nothing, heard nothing, from any public or private source to suggest that there is."

Charny is a Professor of Psychology at Tel Aviv University, and a leading scholar on genocide and the Holocaust. He has written extensively on the subject, and he is also the editor-in-chief of the two-volume Encyclopedia of Genocide (ABC-Clio, 1999) which is a comprehensive reference work with major sections not just on the Jewish Holocaust, but also on the Armenian Genocide, as well as on Denial of Genocide and the Comparative Study of the Genocides of All Peoples.

Because of his history of involvement in this area, he is in a position to know whether a change in Israeli policy had intentionally been signaled. Charny was the organizer of a Tel Aviv conference in 1982 when the Turkish government pressured Israel to disinvite the participants scheduled to speak on the Armenian Genocide. Charny refused despite the implied threat about the safety of Jews escaping Iran through Turkey. Charny made his comments during a telephone interview with AIM.

A Giant Step Forward

Regardless of Israel's official stance, however, the statements of Sarid and Beilin illustrate a growing unofficial resistance in Israel to Turkey's continued denials. This is a "giant step forward" for Israel. "On a cultural level, in terms of the country's press and media, and in reflections of public opinion, there definitely is a corrective process going on," says Charny.

Adalian is more blunt. This is evidence, he says, that Turkey's "intimidating methods are building some resistance." In other words, there's a backlash against Turkey's heavy-handed denials. "I see it all over."

Beilin, the Justice Minister, had said that "[s]omething happened that cannot be defined except as genocide. One-and-a-half million people disappeared. It wasn't negligence. It was deliberate.

"[W]e must clarify to the Turks that we cannot accept their political demands to ignore a historical event."

Beilin's comments had been reported in Ha'aretz, the Israeli Daily newspaper. He had been motivated to make the statement by his "impeccable integrity, moral coherence," says Charny. "He's from the government party, and yet he spoke!"

Sarid, the Education Minister, said during his comments that he had been deeply moved by the epic account of one battle during the genocide, as portrayed in Franz Werfel's 1933 novel "The Forty Days of Musa Dagh." He called the book a masterpiece, and said that it shocked millions of people. "For me and for many youngsters my generation in Israel, The Forty Days of Musa Dagh had a formative effect on our personality and our world outlook. "Today in Israel, very few youngsters have heard about Musa Dagh, very few know about the Armenian Genocide…. As Minister of Education of the State of Israel, I will do whatever is in my capacity in order that this monumental work, 'The Forty Days of Musa Dagh' is once more well known to our children.

"I would like to see a central chapter on genocide [in the school curriculum], on this huge and inhuman atrocity. The Armenian Genocide should occupy a prominent place in this program, which does justice to the national and personal memory of every one of you, to the memory of all the members of your nation. This is our obligation to you; this is our obligation to ourselves."

Charny frames the issue not merely as a moral obligation, but also as one that strikes at the heart of Israel's national interest. Turkey's denials perpetuate the genocide, he says. And, by involving Israel, Turkey implicates Israel not just in wrongly denying the Armenian Genocide, but also in covertly supporting those who deny the Holocaust.

This "policy of pressure" has been applied against Israel "to the point of extortion," he says. In the short run, it may benefit Israel to placate the Turks. But in the long run, this appeasement could put Jews and Armenians at risk of continued genocide, he says.

"It's a trap," which Charny says he is optimistic about avoiding. Why the optimism?

Israel's leaders are "already taking positions we didn't see in years past," he says.

"Israelis are becoming more aware."

Armenian Community

Genocide Recognition

The state of Israel does not officially recognize the Armenian Genocide, despite the fact that the Jews themselves were victims of a similiar genocide for which Adolf Hitler himself used the Armenian massacres as an example. Many righteous Jews detest this stance, and a number of prominent politicians, historians and the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger publicly speak of the Armenian Genocide. Turkey has not only warned Israel of cutting off ties if it recognizes the killings as genocide, but also said that ties would be harmed if the United States recognizes it as genocide.[1] When an American Jewish group, the Anti-Defamation League, recognized the killings of Armenians as "tantamount to genocide", prompting Turkish protests against the State of Israel.

The crisis has also spilled in to the American Jewish community.[2]

Parliamentary Armenian Genocide Bills

Israel Parliament Rejects Armenian Genocide Bill in 2007

AFP

Israel's parliament on March 14, 2007 rejected a motion recognizing the Turkish mass killings of Armenians dating back to 1915 as a genocide.

"Stop ignoring and rejecting the catastrophe of another people," MP Haim Oron, who submitted the motion, told the plenum before the vote.

"We refuse to accept the turning of a blind eye to the Armenian genocide," the opposition left-wing Meretz party MP said. "We owe this vote not only to the Armenian people, we owe it to ourselves, especially in a period where we are struggling to prolong the memory" of the Nazi Holocaust of six million Jews during World War II.

The motion was nevertheless rejected by parliament in a vote of 16 against 12, with a low turnout by MPs. It would have needed a second ratification if it had passed.

The issue of the Armenian massacre has been raised several times in the past in Israel's Knesset, but there has never been an implicit vote branding it as genocide. If approved, Israel would have joined a growing list of countries which have recognized the killings as genocide. It would have marked April 24, the day when the massacres started in 1915, as Armenian genocide memorial day.

Israel has close diplomatic ties with Turkey -- one of the few Muslim countries with which it has relations -- and has in the past steered clear of the recognition issue.

Oron told AFP he had been under heavy pressure from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office and the foreign ministry to withdraw his motion. "I have been under a lot of pressure, but that is something any MP must face," Oron said. "Turkey has been exerting its pressure everywhere. This is their right. But they can not set the agenda of the Israeli parliament."

Government spokeswoman Miri Eisin said that Israel "did not intend to place itself at the forefront of this issue, which is being handled by the international community."

Armenian Genocide Parliament Bill 2010

Armenian Genocide Bill Again On Israel Parliament Agenda
28.04.2010
Artyom Chernamorian

Israel’s parliament agreed on Wednesday to again consider a draft resolution recognizing the World War One-era mass killings and deportations of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey as genocide.

The Knesset decided by 12 votes to 8, with one abstention, that one of its standing committees will discuss the resolution and determine whether it should be put to a full parliament vote.

Speaker Reuven Rivlin was among those who voted for the decision. Significantly, a representative of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also backed a parliament debate on the bill drafted by Haim Oron, the leader of the left-wing opposition Meretz party.

Most of the lawmakers voting against its inclusion on the parliament agenda were from the Yisrael Beiteinu party, a junior partner in Netanyahu’s coalition government that mainly represents Jewish immigrants from Soviet republics and Azerbaijan in particular. One of them, the Baku-born Yosef Shagal, said Israel should not pass judgment on what he described as a Turkish-Armenian dispute.

It is not yet clear which Knesset committee will pick up the measure. Oron wants it to be debated by the Education Committee, having failed to push similar bills through the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in 2009 and 2008. But both Rivlin and Netanyahu’s representative said that the latter panel should again deal with the matter.

The Defense Committee did not even vote on the Armenian genocide resolutions in the past, despite clearance from the Knesset. It thus highlighted successive Israeli governments’ reluctance to antagonize Turkey, a rare Muslim partner of the Jewish state.

The Netanyahu government did not back a parliament debate on Armenian genocide recognition on the previous occasion, in May 2009. Commentators might link the apparent shift in its position on the highly sensitive issue to recent months’ worsening of Turkish-Israeli relations.

Armenia's 'Christian holocaust'

Apr 24, 2008
Jerusalem Post
By DAVID SMITH

In late August 1939, the day before his invasion of Poland, Adolf Hitler gathered his commanders at his home and informed them he had placed "death's head" military formations in the east with orders "to send to death mercilessly and without compassion men, women and children of Polish derivation and language."

He assured his commanders the world would not long condemn them, justifying his brutality by asking rhetorically, "Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?" Hitler was referring to the massacre of 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turkish forces beginning in April 1915. Until today, the Turkish government denies the authenticity of both Hitler's statement and the genocide itself.

Tel Aviv University professor Israel Charny, chief editor of the Encyclopedia of Genocide, insists the statement was recorded by "an indisputably serious" Associated Press correspondent, and that other remarks were made by Hitler that "confirm that the Armenian genocide was an active guiding concept in the monster's mind."

Kevork Kahvedjian, son of Jerusalem photographer and Armenian genocide survivor Elia Kahvedjian, explains his father was personal testimony to the genocide and its savagery. "When it started, he was only five years old, but he remembered it very clearly. Especially the last year of his life he remembered it..." Kevork continually slipped into the first person while recounting his father's story, as if it had happened to him: "I used to see lots of dead people, piles of them. Some had been burned. Until today I remember the smell of burned flesh," he narrated, detailing the death march through the desert.

He remembered the sound of the German cannons pounding the city, then a lull of about a month before the Turkish soldiers entered his home and took Elia, his mother, a sister and two brothers - one brother was just a few months old. Two older brothers had already been hanged.

"Soldiers came and started pushing my mother. She tried to go back to the house but the soldiers hit her with rifle butts and she had to take the children and start walking." The Armenians were allowed only what they could carry. They walked for weeks through the desert of Deir Zor with soldiers on both sides. The soldiers offered neither food nor water, but the prisoners ate some plants and drank brackish water on the way.

After weeks of carrying her six-month-old baby, Elia's mother, exhausted, set the infant in the shade of a tree and abandoned him, hoping some kind person would find him. The older sister, about 12 years old during the march, was abducted. Elia found her 18 years later and discovered she had been forced to serve in a harem.

In a wadi, near the end of the trek, "I heard my mother say, 'Today, I think they're going to kill us.'" It happened that that a Kurd was passing by. She called the Kurd and told him, "Take this boy and go." The Kurd took Elia and the boy remembered, "At the top of the hill we turned around and saw the soldiers killing everyone." The Kurd took Elia, burned his clothes, gave him medicine for dysentery, and sold him to a blacksmith, who eventually sent him away. Elia sought refuge in a Syrian convent. In 1918, when the war was over, the American Near East Relief Foundation began to gather Armenian orphans and distribute them in its orphanages throughout the Middle East.

Elia was transferred to Lebanon, then to Nazareth in 1920. There, one of the teachers was a photographer and Elia worked for him. Elia learned the photography trade and became a prominent photographer. Many beloved pictures of early 20th-century Jerusalem were taken by Elia; the album, Through My Father's Eyes, celebrates his work.

Turkish authorities strive to discredit accounts such as Elia's, although his testimony is confirmed by an abundance of contemporary journalism, eyewitness accounts by statesmen such as American ambassador to the Ottoman Empire Henry Morgenthau, as well as German and Austrian documentation.

Charny claims there was "most certainly" a religious element in the persecution of the Armenians, the first empire to embrace the faith. (Armenia officially adopted Christianity as the state religion in 301 CE, about 25 years before the Roman Empire did so.) "There are even some who want to refer to this period overall as 'The Christian Genocide,' because the victims of the Turks' genocide were not only Armenians but also Assyrians and Greeks," he explains. Still, he is reticent to use that term as it "could seem to remove from the Armenian community their hard-won gains for recognition of the genocide of their people."

According to Charney, "What stands out about the denials of the Armenian genocide is that for many years, the full power of the Turkish government has been devoted to denials of the genocide. Turkey literally spends millions on advertising agencies and on publicity efforts. It also throws the considerable weight of its government behind coercing denials from other countries, with threats to the United States of not allowing American military planes to use Turkish air space or threatening to pull out of joint NATO military exercises, as well as with threats of major economic retaliation should or when a country, such as France, confirms recognition of the Armenian genocide.

"Israel is regularly the object of threats by the Turks and, regrettably to say the least, for many years has kowtowed to these threats. But then too so has the stronger United States"

MK Haim Oron (Meretz) proposed in March that the Knesset appoint a committee to consider recognizing the Armenian genocide, adding, "It is unacceptable that the Jewish people is not making itself heard." Although the measure passed, MK Shalom Simhon (Likud) responded, "this has become a politically charged issue between Armenians and Turks, and Israel is not interested in taking sides."

Many Israelis are eager for their country to recognize the genocide. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem will hold an event titled "A Symposium in Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide" at its Givat Ram campus on April 29 at 6:30 p.m. Both Kevork Kahvedjian and Charney will speak.

Israel will eventually recognize the genocide, insists Kevork, who manages his father's business, Elia Photo Service, in Jerusalem's Old City. Kevork, named for the baby left under a tree in the desert, believes, "One day they are going to say, 'Yes, it happened.' If not now, then in 50 years!"

Otherwise, Armenians worry, states that refuse to recognize the genocide risk rendering Hitler's rhetorical question a reality.


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Tel-Aviv Must Rise Above Monopolizing Genocide

BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN

asbarez Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman

When Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said "attempts to turn conflicts and massacres in Africa, Asia and Balkans into another Holocaust are unacceptable," and "Since its establishment, Israel has opposed the application of the term Holocaust to another war or tragedy," it revealed an ugly and ignorant reality by which certain Israeli leaders have been guided.

Having risen from the ashes of the Holocaust, Israel should have been the first country to properly acknowledge the events of 1915 as Genocide. However, as Lieberman himself decries that "today historical incidents have turned into political disputes; that's why I don't consider it right for Israel to address this [the Genocide] issue," the Israeli government has made it a policy to ignore the Armenian Genocide in the face of its regional POLITICAL interests-namely its unholy alliance with Turkey.

Lieberman's assertion that Israel has a monopoly on man's inhumanity to man disrespects and diminishes the suffering and eventual fate of the millions genocide victims be they Armenian, Rwandan or Sudanese.

It also goes against all international conventions on prevention of such acts, to which Israel is a signatory. More important, Lieberman's statements can be characterized as denial, which implies complicity in and the perpetuation of the cycle of Genocide.

In December, an unprecedented discussion took place in the Israeli Knesset, where leaders from both parties affirmed the need for Israel's recognition of the Armenian Genocide. This coincided-or prompted-leading Israeli publications and human rights advocates, to as the director of Jerusalem Institute of Holocaust and Genocide Israel Charny appropriately said "put an end to this charade and fully recognize the Armenian Genocide."

At the same Knesset event Israel's foreign ministry representatives maintained the Tel-Aviv's steadfast denial of the Genocide by saying "at this time, recognition of this type can have very grave strategic implications... Our relations with Turkey today are so fragile and so delicate that there is no place to take them over the red line." Is this not politicizing historic events?

This dangerous semantics game only bolsters the likes of Turkey to continue its policies and further its pre-meditated and planned campaign of denial that also allows it to wreak havoc on its minorities today and pursue a policy of stifling those that stand opposed to its doctrines.

Israel must rise above Lieberman's skewed beliefs that Israel has cornered the market on being a victim of a systematic effort to annihilate an entire race. Such a monopoly does not exist in the world and the likes of Avigdor Lieberman only incite hatred by making such statements.

Lieberman should remember that such sense of entitlement breeds supremacist sentiments, which were the cornerstone of Hitler's plan that eventually became known as the Holocaust.


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Israeli Minister Calls To Recognize Armenian Genocide

13.06.2012

(Reuters) - An Israeli cabinet minister said on Tuesday 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.

Gilad Erdan, a close ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, answered a motion in parliament by opposition lawmakers marking the massacre's anniversary.

"I think it is definitely fitting that the Israeli government formally recognize the Holocaust perpetrated against the Armenian people," Erdan, Israel's environmental affairs minister said.

Israel has long avoided acknowledging the mass killings of Armenians as genocide, in deference to already strained ties with Turkey which rejects that view. Relations with Turkey have been tense since the 2010 killings of nine Turkish activists in a commando raid on a Gaza-bound ship. Turkey withdrew its ambassador to Israel after that incident and suspended military cooperation.

Erdan said the Israeli government had not formally changed its policy on the Armenians' past tragedy, adding: "we should definitely support holding an open and in depth discussion that analyses the data and facts."

Armenia, backed by many historians and parliaments, says about 1.5 million Christian Armenians were killed in what is now eastern Turkey during World War One in a deliberate policy of genocide ordered by the Ottoman government. Successive Turkish governments and most Turks feel the charge of genocide is an insult. Ankara argues that there was heavy loss of life on both sides during fighting in the area.

Israeli lawmakers voted that the issue would face further debate in the education committee. Any parliamentary decision on the issue would not be binding on the government. Yigal Palmor, a spokesman at Israel's Foreign Ministry, said Israel's formal position on the Armenian tragedy remained that the issue "must be decided by historians and not be subject to political deliberation."

The Armenian issue has stirred emotions in Israel where many feel that the Jewish people who suffered six million dead in the Nazi Holocaust during World War Two have a moral obligation to identify more closely with the Armenians' ordeals.

"Those who demand recognition of the murder are not engaged in lobbying but are simply seeking historic justice," Israeli Parliament speaker Reuven Rivlin, a member of Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party, said.

Nino Abesadze, a lawmaker with the centrist Kadima party, counseled against linking the issue to relations with Turkey. "We must not link our sentiments about the Armenian tragedy to considerations about other dangers in the region. Events such as genocide are above politics," Abesadze said.

Israel expresses concern over Turkish-Armenian massacre dispute

The Associated Press Published: October 11, 2007

JERUSALEM: Israel on Thursday expressed concern over the dispute over the World War I killing of more than 1 million Armenians by Ottoman Turks but tried to deflect pressure from Turkey to take its side.

During his visit to Israel this week, Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan pressed Israel to use its influence in Washington to help kill a Congressional effort to label the mass killing as genocide. Turkey has been resisting such efforts for decades.

In media interviews, Babacan warned that Turkey's relations with Israel and the United States could suffer if the genocide resolution is approved. U.S. President George W. Bush has called on Congress to defeat it, pointing to the importance of Turkey as an ally.

Armenians say more than 1.5 million people were killed from 1915-17 in a systematic genocide of Armenians waged during the Ottoman Empire before the birth of modern Turkey in 1923.

The Turks refuse to call it genocide, saying the Armenians were the victims of widespread chaos and political upheaval as the 600-year-old empire collapsed — not genocide.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev confirmed the issue came up during talks between Babacan and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.

"We take the Turkish concerns very seriously. We have an excellent relationship with Turkey," Regev said Thursday.

He declined to discuss Israel's response or say whether Israel would ask its allies in Washington to intervene. In recent months the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish group known for fighting anti-Semitism, changed its policy and declared the killing of the Armenians "tantamount to genocide," provoking Turkish wrath.

The debate in Washington over the World I massacre of Armenians has put Israel in an uncomfortable position. Turkey is a key Israeli ally and one of its few friends in the Muslim world. At the same time, Israel was built in the aftermath of the Nazi Holocaust, and genocide is an extremely sensitive topic.

Alon Liel, a former director of Israel's foreign ministry and expert in Israel-Turkey relations, said the U.S. legislation could ultimately hurt ties between the two countries.

"We tried all these years not to get into it," he said. But because of the ADL's new position, "Turkey will blame the Jewish organizations, and then this could bounce back to us."

Israel has acknowledged that massacres were perpetrated against the Armenians and expressed sympathy for their suffering. But the government has stopped short of calling it genocide.

Regev said Thursday "there is no change" in Israel's policy.

Earlier this year, the parliament shelved a proposal for a discussion on the Armenian genocide at the request of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. At the time, Livni expressed concern the issue could destabilize ties with Turkey.

"As Jews and Israelis, we have special sympathy and a moral obligation to commemorate the massacres that were perpetrated against the Armenians in the last years of Ottoman rule," said a statement from Livni at the time, hoping "both sides will reach an open dialogue that will enable them to heal the wounds that have been left open."

Israeli Armenians to protest Israel’s policy towards Armenian Genocide recognition

/PanARMENIAN.Net/ The Armenian Community of Israel will launch a protest on Monday, October 22, in front of the Foreign Ministry of Israel.

As a source told PanARMENIAN.Net, the protest is aimed at Israel’s policy towards the recognition of Armenian Genocide, which the government has yet to recognize, and also Israel’s lobbying, on Turkey’s behalf, in the U.S. Congress, on the issue of the Genocide.


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Armenia, Israel Review Tenuous Relationship (2011)

23.08.2011 Emil Danielyan Senior Armenian and Israeli diplomats discussed the sometimes uneasy relationship between their countries during two days of consultations that ended in Yerevan on Tuesday.

The Armenian Foreign Ministry said the two negotiating teams were headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Arman Kirakosian and Pinchas Avivi, a high-level Israeli Foreign Ministry official coordinating ties with Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

“During the consultations the two sides discussed issues related to Armenia-Israel cooperation, developments taking place in the Middle East and South Caucasus regions as well as other issues of mutual interest,” read a ministry statement. It gave no details of those discussions.

Although the statement described the talks as “regular,” they are understood to be connected with Kirakosian’s July 25 phone conversation with Israel’s Deputy Foreign Ministry Danny Ayalon.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry said that Ayalon “thanked Kirakosian for the friendly relationship and mentioned the historical ties and cultural similarities between the two nations.”

“Ayalon emphasized the importance Israel attaches to the continuous development of diplomatic relations and practical cooperation with Armenia,” the ministry said in a statement. “He further stated that it would be his pleasure to visit Yerevan, and invited Kirakosian to visit Israel.”

Ayalon also “reiterated the special sensitivity we, as Jews, feel regarding the Armenian tragedy,” the statement added in reference to the World War One-era slaughter of some 1.5 million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.

Successive Israeli governments have resisted domestic and Armenian calls for an official Israeli recognition of what many historians regard as the first genocide of the 20th century.

Support for such recognition appears to have grown within the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, over the past year. Some observers attribute that to Israel’s increasingly strained relations with Turkey, which vehemently denies the genocide.

Diplomatic sources in Yerevan say that Ayalon phoned his Armenian counterpart to address the Armenian government’s unease over Israel’s growing ties with Azerbaijan, which was communicated to another Israeli diplomat earlier this summer.

One source told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that Ayalon strongly denied news reports that quoted him as saying in May that Israel will not recognize the Armenian genocide because of Azerbaijan’s importance for his country.

Incidentally, Avivi, who served as Israel’s ambassador to Turkey from 2003-2007, and other Israeli diplomats accompanying him visited Yerevan’s Tsitsernakabert genocide memorial on Tuesday.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman held up the Azerbaijani-Israeli ties as a model for cooperation between the Jewish state and a Muslim nation when he visited Baku in February 2010. He also reportedly voiced support for Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity and denounced the international community’s “inadequate and hypocritical” approach to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

“Unfortunately, the international community prefers sweet lies,” Azerbaijani media quoted Lieberman as saying at the time.

In what may have been an attempt to soothe Yerevan, Ayalon clearly contradicted those remarks in his phone call with Kirakosian. According to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, he said that “Israel supports the efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group to reach a negotiated resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue.”

The United States, Russia and France have been trying to broker a solution to the Armenian-Azerbaijani dispute with the framework of the Minsk Group.

Yerevan should have more serious concerns about Azerbaijani-Israeli military cooperation. Israel’s “Ha’aretz” daily reported in 2008 that the two governments have signed a deal that will enable Azerbaijan to purchase Israeli weapons, other military equipment and ammunition worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Baku announced last year that an Israeli defense company will upgrade dozens of Azerbaijani army tanks. Another Israeli firm is known to have sold unmanned military aircraft to Baku in recent years. An Azerbaijani-Israeli joint venture reportedly began assembling drones in Azerbaijan earlier this year.

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