Why was a Yazidi genocide bill voted down in Israel’s Knesset?

MK Svetlova: Israel was created from the ashes of the Holocaust, we are obligated to acknowledge the suffering of others

 By SETH J. FRANTZMAN

In a preliminary vote in the Knesset a bill to recognize the Yazidi genocide was voted down 58-38 on Wednesday. Ksenia Svetlova of Zionist Union, who introduced the bill said she was disappointed the recognition would not move forward. “As Jewish people who suffered persecution and sought a safe haven, we are obligated to acknowledge the suffering of others.”

In 2014 the Islamic State attacked the Yazidi minority in Iraq, systematically murdering thousands of men and elderly women and selling younger women and children into slavery. Around 3,000 Yazidis are still missing and more than 30 mass graves have been found in Iraq. The attack on the Yazidis mobilized international support in the fight against ISIS and led to US President Barack Obama ordering airstrikes against ISIS and food drops for stranded Yazidis. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe accused ISIS of genocide in 2016. A UN commission of inquiry in 2016 also said that ISIS had committed genocide. Nadia Murad, a Yazidi survivor who recently won the Nobel Prize, visited the Knesset in 2017 and urged recognition of the crimes.

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A tweet from MK Svetlova showing the vote

Opposition parties such as Meretz and Zionist Union supported the bill, while the government opposed it. It comes at a sensitive time for the government which enjoys only a 61 seat coalition in the Knesset. Svetlova said that when she had initially introduced the bill it had received more support from across the political spectrum, but that there were concerns it might create a precedent in which pressure would be brought to support a bill recognizing the Armenian genocide and other persecutions.

Svetlova wrote on Twitter that the bill had been opposed by MK Tzipi Hotovely among others and that bizarrely the government gave as one reason, the fact that the UN had not recognized the genocide and assigned a day of commemoration. Usually Israel condemns the UN for its positions on Israel, but suddenly, Svetlova wondered, why does Israel care so much about the UN? The MK said that she initially received support from politicians across the political spectrum, including Yehuda Glick

“The government parties opposed it because the ministerial commission for legislation decided that on Sunday. When I submitted the bill Ayalet Shaked had been sympathetic. There is no reason not to support it, we are not stepping on anyone’s feet,” said Svetlova.

She also says she spoke to the foreign ministry about it and got the sense the ministry is worried about moving to fast on this issue. She said that while some states are moving towards recognition, Israel has a unique responsibility due to the Holocaust and Jewish history.

But the Knesset’s government majority decided it would be best to bury the bill. “They don’t want to make any precedent, which is an immoral position,” she said. If the bill had proceeded, Israel would have become the first country to recognize the genocide. “Israel was created from the ashes of the Holocaust, we should be pioneers in this regard.” Svetlova says she will reintroduce the bill next year depending on when elections are held.

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