Anti-Semitism in the Armenian press: “Driving forces of treacherous hatred”

 In order to better perceive the enmity with regard to the Jews, it is necessary to undertake the history of Israel since its dispersion, or, more properly speaking, since the times of its expansion outside the territory of Palestine. Wherever Jews, ceasing to be a nation ready to defend their freedom and independence, have established themselves, everywhere anti-Semitism or anti-Judaism has developed, for anti-Semitism is an ill-chosen word, has had its reason for being that in our time, when we wanted to broaden this struggle of the Jew and give it a philosophy at the same time as a reason more metaphysical than material. If this hostility, even this repugnance, had been exercised with regard to the Jews only in a time and in a country, it would be easy to discern the limited causes of this anger. But this race has, on the contrary, been exposed to the hatred of all the peoples in the midst of which it has been established.

       Let us take the example of Armenia, a Caucasian country with a a monoethnic and monoconfessional nation. Today the existence of anti-Semitic prejudice in Armenia is no longer a legend but a sad reality. The Israeli expert on international affairs Arye Guth writes in his article “Anti-Semitism in Armenia: A Clear and Present Danger” in an American Jewish newspaper The Algemeiner on December 12, 2014 that after the disappearance of the USSR the Jewish minority community and its legacy been greatly reduced in Armenia. The increase in anti-Semitic acts in Armenian society and the collapse of the economic situation forced the Jews to abandon the country. "

        The Jewish community is today reduced to grief because of several anti-Jewish episodes in Armenia. Of course, the Jews are free on paper, but we can only observe the progressive exodus of the Jews from Armenia. Jews are still being captured in Armenia. One discovers these types of behavior often repeated in Armenia during the television shows, the publication of books on anti-Semitism and as well as the deterioration of the memorial of the victims of the Holocaust in Armenian capital Yerevan.

          Of course, these types of anti-Semitic acts are legion in different countries of the world, but in the case of Armenia they constitute an inseparable component of the policy of Armenian politicians and representatives of the media.

        A few days ago former Armenian Prime Minister Hrant Bagradyan proposed a draft resolution to the legislative body concerning the official recognition of the Shoah by the Armenian Parliament. The former Prime Minister and the current MP explained his views to the media in the following words: "Some say that we should not officially recognize the Shoah as long as Israel has not recognized the Armenian massacre." This confirms once again that anti-Semitism in Armenia is active at the highest level of the state. In other words, Armenia has never been in favor of an official recognition of the historical pain of the Jews, of the Holocaust, when the international community regarded the Holocaust after the Nuremberg trial as a perpetual genocide against the Jews.  The Nazis exterminated 6 million Jews in Europe for the sole reason of their ethnicity, to be Jewish.

It should be mentioned that hate speech and anti-Semitic prejudice are often repeated in Armenian society by pro-government media outlets. On 11 February 2002 Armen Avetissian, leader of the nationalist party, declared Persona Non Grata the then Israeli ambassador to Armenia Rivka Cohen on the pretext of Israel's refusal to give Armenian events equal status as Armenians 'Holocaust, while questioning the number of victims during the Shoah. The Jewish Council of Armenia sent an open letter to former Armenian President Robert Kocharian expressing his concern about the recent aggravation of anti-Semitism. Armen Avetissian responded by publishing an anti-Semitic article in the Iravunq newspaper, where he said: "Every country that has a Jewish minority is under great threat to its stability."

How could we talk about the non-existence of anti-Semitism in Armenia? A few years ago there was a presentation of the book "The National System" reprinted by Romen Yepiskoposyan in the House of Writers of Yerevan. Mrs. Rimma Varzhapetian, appointed head of the Jewish Council of Armenia, instead of defending the honor and dignity of the Jewish people and the memory of the 6 million Jews exterminated by the fascists, explained that this book used anti-Semitism as a means of starting a new national system in Armenia. So a question arises for the so-called representative of the Jewish Community in Armenia: how can a representative of the Jewish people agree with Rauten Yepiskoposyan, an Armenian chauvinist, anti-Semite, who boldly said that "the Holocaust is a legend "?

Although the Armenian diasporas claims international recognition of their genocide during the First World War, at the same time the Armenians have a somber aspect to hide from the world: a fierce anti-Semitism and a deep hatred of Israel. This hypocrisy is deep within Armenian society. A horrible example, many Armenians treat the Jews as 'Oscar', the Armenian word for soap. It is a sneaky reference to what the Nazis had done to the Jews, such as transforming the corpses of the victims of their extermination camps into soap, wallets, shades and other "useful" things. The emergence of anti-Semitism in Armenia prompts us to study the roots of the sickly jealousy of Armenian militants towards the Jews and the Hebrew state as well.

          Anti-Semitic diatribes regularly appear in the Republic of Armenia, as well as in publications intended for the Armenian diaspora. "Armenia is prey to an invasive nationalism that can be assimilated to racism or Holocaust denial,”. It should be stressed that Armenia is a single state in the South Caucasus with a mono-ethnic population and an identity based on a racist and genocidal ideology. 25 years ago, on 26 February 1992 during a frozen winter night, Armenia militarized by the heavy artillery of the 366th Motorized Infantry Regiment of the former Sviet Union lcated in Khankendi commited this barbarity in the Azerbaijani district of Khojaly.

The racial hatred of the Armenians towards the Azerbaijanis and other nations knows no borders. In a few hours during the night 25 to 26 February 613 civilians were killed including 106 women, 83 children. 56 people were killed with particular brutality, 8 families were totally exterminated, 25 children lost both parents, and 130 children lost at least one parent in a massacre that beacme the most brutal punishment of civilians during the 3 years of the military phase of Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorny-Karabakh conflict.
Worse, the emergence of anti-Semitism as a raw political tool no longer seems to be new in the political arena of Armenia. Its use by the pro-government written press, and its broadcast on public television, suggests that it is tolerated and orchestrated by the current authorities in Armenia, which use to weaken Levon Ter-Petrossian, opposition leader of the opposition.

The Jewish community in Armenia is perplexed and worried about the rise of anti-Semitism in this society.  The dwindling Jewish community in Armenia has complained about these attacks— R.Varzhapetyan, head of the Jewish community expressed her concern that “this [anti-Semitism] has the backing of people in power.” But appeals have fallen on deaf ears, which is hardly a surprise when such attitudes are shared by much of Armenian society. The Anti-Defamation League’s survey in June 2014 showed that the rate of anti-Semitism in Armenia (at 58 %) was the third-highest in all of Europe, and the highest in all of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Thus, around 1.3 million out of 2.2 million adults in Armenia expressed anti-Semitic attitudes. Armenia’s closest comparisons were with virulently hostile countries in the Middle East.

Statistics of the ADL Global 100 show that Armenians are more anti-Semitic than Muslim Iranians. 63% of Armenians surveyed believe that Jews are hated “because of the way Jews behave;” 60 % claimed that “Jews don’t care what happens to anyone but their own kind;” 45 % think that “Jews still talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust;” and 38 % consider that “Jews are responsible for most of the world’s wars.”

Rimma Varzhapetyan, the head of the Jewish community in Armenia, said that these articles were difficult, calling them "a provocation and a blaze of anti-Semitism" in that country. She added that "I am afraid that they have the support of the people in power." Varzhapetyan admitted that she has no plans for a public response; she believes it is up to GOAM to condemn the hateful rhetoric. She noted with concern that people are beginning to believe these malicious lies, including some of her acquaintances. They reacted negatively to her reactions to anti-Semitic articles by blaming her for being Jewish.

Varzhapetyan also spoke of the failure of the Jewish community in a recent initiative to create an alley lined with Israeli trees. The project was to plant 60 trees in a street in Yerevan to mark and honor the 60th anniversary of Israel. Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian and parliament speaker Tigran Torosyan refused the request without explanation. She noted that despite the rejection of this project, the Jewish community organized an important celebration of the independence of Israel which received no media coverage in Armenia.

Finally, to sum up, the various documents cited confirm the rise of anti-Semitism in Armenia and social-political factors play a decisive role in the emergence of this racist disease. So it is no longer surprising when the Jewish community in Armenia is obliged to abandon their homes or to hide their ethnic identities so as not to attract attention especially during marriages with Armenians. Unfortunately, the Armenian government does not take any measures to prevent or manage problems in relation to the resurgence of anti-Semitism in the country. On the other hand, anti-Semitism must be considered as aggravating circumstances of an offense, a counterproductive, dangerous and irresponsible legal leak. How long will Armenia lead a nationalist policy by blaming others for economic and political management, by seeking traditional scapegoats? How long will the few hundred Jews still remaining in Armenia remain in this anguish?

                                                                         Said MUSAYEV,
                                                                         PhD candidate at the Institute of Law and
                                                                                                        Human Rights of ANAS