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Op-Ed: Does Armenia Pose a Threat to The State of Israel?

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In recent days, Advisor to the Chief of the Armenian Army General Staff Vladimir Pogosyan compared Israel to Nazi Germany and threatened: “We will not forgive anyone, and we will not forget whose hands are covered in Armenian blood. The day will come, and we will take revenge. Israel, Turkey, and other countries built the Azerbaijani army. And what did they achieve by that? We will win! Have no doubt about it.”

Considering these recent statements, can the Jewish people expect Armenians to attack Jewish people?   It is hard to know.  However, what we do know is that is better to play it safe and take the threat seriously, if history has taught us anything.  According to the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA), in 2019, Fathi Hammad, a member of the Hamas Politburo, urged members of the Palestinian diaspora to kill Jews around the world. Hammad said: “You have Jews everywhere and we must attack every Jew on the globe by way of slaughter and killing if God permits.”

About a year later, five synagogues and three Jewish schools were attacked in Los Angeles as rioters shouted “effing Jews” during the Black Lives Matter protests in the city.  One of the synagogues had graffiti sprayed on it that read “f_ck Israel” and “Free Palestine.” There were PLO flags spotted in the background and some of the onlookers claimed that the assailants were Palestinian.   Did Hamas order this attack upon the Los Angeles Jewish community?   There is no proof of that, yet there is a great chance that the incitement emanating from Hamas and the Palestinian Authority towards the Palestinian Diaspora did likely influence it.  This means that if the Armenian government incites against Israel, it can potentially have a similar reaction among the Armenian Diaspora.

In recent days, the Armenian National Assembly of America in accordance with government policy issued from Yerevan issued a press release, where they utilized highly divisive religious rhetoric to incite US President-Elect Joe Biden against Azerbaijan.  They portrayed the Nagorno-Karabakh as a struggle between “Christian Armenia” and “vulnerable Christian communities” against “Turkish jihadists.”  Similarly, the Armenian National Committee of America after praising the election of President-Elect Biden called for him to end all military assistance to Azerbaijan, a strong US ally, yet to back the independence of Artsakh and assist Armenia, who is a proxy of the Islamic Republic of Iran.  They issued this statement right before the peace agreement was reached between these two sides, yet to date have not retracted this statement.

Similarly, a program called Birthright Armenia has been instrumental in bringing Armenian Diaspora youth to Armenia in order to get immersed into the society and its culture doing internship programs, where some of them are indoctrinated into settling in Nagorno-Karabakh as settlers and even joining the Armenian military.  In other words, these Armenian Diaspora groups actively violated the Fourth Geneva Conventions, which bars settlers the right to relocate into territories where the original inhabitants were ethnically cleansed.  In the 1990’s, one million Azerbaijanis were forced to flee Nagorno-Karabakh, yet Diaspora Armenians were encouraged to settle in areas that used to be their home.

During the conflict, Birthright Armenia partnered with the Armenian Wounded Heroes Fund to raise $100,000 for Armenian soldiers by November 24. In fact, even some Armenian churches, such as the St. Vartan Apostolic Church, called upon their congregants to work “for the defense of Armenia and Artsakh” by raising funds to support the Armenian military forces.

As the St. Vartan Apostolic Church stated in a recent Facebook post right before the peace agreement: “The Armenian Assembly of America and the Armenian National Committee are urging Congress and the Administration to condemn the Azeri aggression and demand its immediate cessation; to end U.S. financial aid to Azerbaijan; to rein in Turkey from its military support of Azerbaijan; and the recognize Artsakh’s right of self-determination.  Armenia’s government is looking to the diaspora for financial as well as moral support. At the behest of the Armenian government, the Eastern Diocese is directing contributions to the Armenia Fund. Donations can be made directly to Armenia Fund, on its secure website.”

Such activities that the Armenian Church, Birthright Armenia, the Armenian National Committee of America and the Armenian National Assembly of America are engaged in do nothing more than assist Armenia, who during the conflict wantonly targeted civilian population centers in Azerbaijan and utilized cluster munitions against innocent people.  Baku reported 93 civilian deaths and 407 injured since the fighting erupted on September 27 till the signing of the peace agreement.    Some 504 civilian facilities, 3,326 private homes and 120 apartment buildings were also damaged by Armenian artillery and missile fire.   When members of the Armenian Diaspora raised funds for the defense of Armenia and Artsakh, their money does nothing more than encourage war crimes and crimes against humanity against Azerbaijan civilians.

Sadly, the Armenian Church and these Armenian lobbying groups have great influence over the hearts and minds of many Armenian Americans.   “In a city like LA … you have Armenian schools, Armenian businesses, Armenian churches,” Alex Galitsky from the LA-based Armenian National Committee of America’s western region told the Guardian. “Someone could grow up living in LA and never be exposed to anything other than Armenian culture.”  Thus, if these lobbying groups with the backing of the Armenian Church and the Armenian government incite hatred, then many members of the Armenian Diaspora will follow their lead.

It appears that already it has been proven that such divisive rhetoric does nothing but encourage hate crimes. On the eve of July 2020, thousands of Armenian nationalists were marching to storm the Consulate General of Azerbaijan in Los Angeles and attacked Azerbaijanis who were peacefully protesting Armenia’s recent provocation. Seven Azerbaijanis were injured in the attack and four of them have been hospitalized, while a Los Angeles police officer suffered a head injury. Afterwards, Some American Armenians in California shared life-threatening messages on social network against Azerbaijanis living in LA and surroundings.

On July 22, in the result of Armenians attacks, Azerbaijani embassy building in Brussels was damaged, several Azerbaijanis including the correspondent of the European Bureau of Azerbaijan-based REAL TV were seriously wounded. Then, a group of several Armenians also attacked a young Azerbaijani, beating him and filming it on camera. On July 24, Belgian law enforcement agencies detained 17 Armenians who attacked the Azerbaijanis in Belgium. During July, Armenian protestors carrying ASALA signs attacked diplomats and civilians in Europe and beat peaceful Azerbaijani protestors in London.

There were also some incidents in France, Netherlands, Ukraine and Canada where Azerbaijanis were assaulted because of their ethnic origins and in some cities of Europe, Azerbaijani embassies was subject to attack and were damaged.

Nowadays, Armenian diaspora organize some protests against Azerbaijan in some countries which cause much turmoil to the local authorities and population. Within the last 10 days, the Armenian diaspora have already assaulted Azerbaijani embassies in some European countries. But, there is no such incident caused by Azerbaijani diaspora.

In October 2020, Armenian rioters vandalized a Turkish restaurant in California while chanting that they “wanted Turks to die” and that they are here “to kill Turks.”  According to the Los Angeles Times, between six to eight Armenians completely vandalized Café Istanbul, throwing chairs, breaking dishes and they also assaulted the waiters. On November 7, Azerbaijan’s Consulate General in Ukraine’s Kharkiv came under an attack by Armenian gunmen. The Armenians opened fire at the consulate building.  As a result, the building’s entrance door and windows were broken. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has strongly condemned the firing on the building of Azerbaijan’s Honorary Consulate in Kharkov.

Thus, if the Armenian government decides to incite against Israel to the same level, it could also lead to the same thing happening to us, if it is done with the same tenacity and passion at which they incite against Turks and Azerbaijanis

Fern Sidman of The Jewish Voice in New York wrote an article titled “Armenian antisemitism rears its ugly head again” that “Armenia is cited as the least tolerant toward Jews among 18 countries in Central and Eastern Europe in data published by the Pew Research Center. Fully 32% of the Armenian respondents surveyed said they would not even accept Jews as fellow citizens. That figure is jarring, but actually, not surprising.”

According to the Anti-Defamation League’s Index of Antisemitism, Armenia is the most saturated with antisemitism among the post-Soviet countries, with anti-Jewish sentiments shared by 58% of its population.  “The typical official response to antisemitism in Armenia is to deny its existence,” Sidman wrote. The Holocaust memorial in Armenia’s capital of Yerevan was vandalized multiple times in 2004 and 2005, but police reportedly concluded that the monument “had just fallen on its own,” and no officials publicly condemned the incidents.

It is important to note that the closest ally of Armenia in today’s conflict is Iran, a country that openly declares its desire to destroy the Jewish state, and which is a major sponsor of world terrorism. More than that, American Rabbi Israel Baruk wrote about the coordinated action of the Armenian student organizations in the US to advance in various universities the BDS Movement.

“Violent prejudice against Jews and deeply antisemitic action in Armenia is a long-term crisis, despite an absolute lack of public awareness to this fact, particularly in the US,” Baruk wrote in the Times of Israel.  “It is practically unknown to most that Armenian antisemitism played a weighty role in Hitler’s ‘Final Solution,’ specifically when 20,000 Armenian Nazi collaborators lent a hand by rounding up Jews and other ‘undesirables’ behind the German Army.”

The leaders of those collaborators were Gen. Dro and Gen. Njdeh, both of whom are hailed as national heroes in Armenia today. Moreover, in the 1930s, the Armenian-American media outlets, such as Hairenik, gave its full propaganda support to Hitler, calling Jews ‘poisonous elements,’ justifying the Holocaust and naming it a necessary ‘surgical operation.’  In the center of Yerevan, a monument now stands to Nzhdeh, who is considered a national hero.  “The numbers don’t lie,” concludes Sidman. “Armenian antisemitism is a serious problem, and the issue must not be denied, whitewashed or ignored.”

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of JerusalemOnline.

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