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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Israel may recognise Ottoman Armenian genocide

A plan by Israel's parliamentary speaker to move the country closer to recognising the 1915 killing of Armenians by Ottoman forces as genocide worries foreign ministry officials because it threatens to worsen ties with Turkey.

The decision by Reuven Rivlin, a member of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's ruling Likud party, is a break with the years-long Israeli policy to take no stance on the massacre.

On Monday, Mr Rivlin said that the 120-member parliament will begin holding an annual session to mark the massacre.

"It's my duty as a Jew and an Israeli to recognise the tragedies of other nations," said Mr Rivlin, in an indirect reference to the Holocaust. "Diplomatic considerations, as considerable as they are, will not allow us to deny the catastrophe of others."

Israel, like the US, has never acknowledged that the massacre of up to 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Turks was genocide, saying that the historical dispute should be settled between Turkey and Armenia. Its long-held view, however, is widely attributed to its desire to maintain good relations with Turkey, which has vehemently denied that genocide had taken place.

The Israeli stance has been supported for years by pro-Israel Jewish organisations in the US, which have pressured the US Congress and successive presidents to defeat congressional resolutions marking the killing of the Armenians. Turkey is a key ally that has supported the US in confrontations from Afghanistan to Iran.

Mr Rivlin's move to conduct an event that would publicly question Turkey's denial is probably a result of the deteriorating ties between Israel and Turkey.

The allies' relations have suffered amid Turkey's growing condemnation of the Jewish state's approach towards the Palestinians and after Israeli commandos' killing of nine Turkish activists aboard a Gaza-bound flotilla last year.

Yossi Sarid, a former education minister, said the parliament's approval of Mr Rivlin's initiative was due to Israel's anger at Turkey's support of an upcoming international aid flotilla that aims to break Israel's blockade of Gaza's airspace, territorial waters and all but one of its border crossings.

"The Israelis no longer favour the Turks and are willing to give up the charms and temptations of Antalya," he wrote in the Haaretz newspaper yesterday, referring to the Turkish resort city that in the past was a major tourism destination for Israelis.

Mr Rivlin's announcement has also stirred speculation in the Israeli and Turkish press that Israel intended to pressure Turkey to stop the Gaza-bound flotilla expected as soon as this month.

On Monday, a coalition of 22 activist groups aiming to take part in the new flotilla said at a news conference aboard the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara, the ship on which last year's confrontation took place, that 15 ships would be in the new convoy.

Their briefing came a day after Turkey's foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, warned Israel against launching another raid of the aid flotilla. "We are sending a clear message to all those concerned: the same tragedy should not be repeated again," he told the Reuters news agency.

Muslim Turkey accepts that as many as 1.5 million Christian Armenians were killed by Ottoman forces but denies the act amounted to genocide, a term employed by many Western historians and some foreign parliaments.

The Israeli government has expressed opposition to Mr Rivlin's initiative, with Danny Ayalon, deputy foreign minister and a member of the ultranationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, saying this week it was "impossible" for Israel to officially recognise the genocide.

Mr Rivlin's announcement comes after the parliament's vote last week to hold an open, public debate on the Armenians' massacre.

Armenians for Israel - Armenian-Israeli Friendship

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Armenians for Israel - Charles Aznavour

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Armenian who supports Israel, Charles Aznavour (Born Shahnour Vaghenag Aznavourian) makes a testament to his friendship and gratitude to the Israeli humanitarian aid, addressing solemnly to the people of Israel. Sorry he only did this testament in French because he lives in France, soon I will get to translate and put it in the video.

In December 1988 an earthquake with a phenomenal power will upset the Soviet Armenia, killing over 30,000 people and leaving hundreds of thousands wounded.

At the time of the disaster, children are still in school, mothers are at home and prepare lunch ... A few minutes later, they will be buried under the ruins. The towns of Leninakan (30,000 inhabitants), Kirovakan (200,000 inhab.) And Spitak (50,000 inhab.) Almost completely destroyed. The affected areas are very extensive and the population density is very high. This earthquake is one of the most deadly of the century. Faced with a disaster of this magnitude, local authorities are totally destitute and Leninakan, they are struggling to recover from the shock of the death of many administrators. The population is divided between shock and panic. Command structures and state utilities are paralyzed. The extent of the earthquake makes it more difficult organizing and setting up rescue operations.

First responders will be on site had special Israeli emergency teams.

Within weeks, the international mobilization was successful in reaching more than 80 plane loads of relief supplies. A team of Doctors Without Borders composed of three surgeons, two intensivists, two doctors and five specialist logistics and sanitation left for Armenia. The unit also carries thirty tons of specialized equipment. In all, seven aircraft loaded with equipment and personnel to leave for Leninakan.