Rimma Varzhapetyan-Feller (*)
On the eve of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide, when civilized humanity stands together with Armenia and the Armenian people, and honors the memory of one and a half million innocent victims, killed in the Ottoman Empire, Turkish-Azerbaijani propaganda has become more aggressive. Pursuing a goal to distract the attention of the international community and attract support from different Jewish community structures, targeted efforts have been exerted recently to cast a shadow on Armenian-Jewish relations through publications of ordered and one-sided articles in various media outlets. At the same time, one should mention that those attempts cannot but fail. The history of the two ancient peoples – Armenians and Jews – is full of similarities and mutual contacts, and, even with the utmost effort in the world, one can not derail those relations. Nevertheless, in the existence of a political agenda and irresponsible analysts – one cannot avoid comments based on void arguments, trying to prove the reverse.
Rabbi Joseph Telushkin thinks that when people lapse into anger, their common sense fails.
Unfortunately, some journalists, politicians, pseudo-diplomats, and public figures in pursuit of profits and in the process of cajolery go against every ethic.
The articles by Maxime Gauin and Alexander Murinson in Haaretz, by Arye Gut in JNS.com, and by Alexander Murinson in The Hill are of that kind. The activity and biography of those authors leaves no doubt about the one-sidedness of their analysis. Maxime Gauin, who presents Armenia as an anti-Semitic country, himself publicly supports an ultra-right party in Turkey – the Nationalist Movement Party. Apart from the explicitly employed stance of the denial of the Armenian genocide, that party is known for propagating anti-Semitism and xenophobia. However, Gauin turns a blind eye to that circumstance. Being at the service of the Azerbaijani propaganda machine for quite a long time, Arye Gut is at the same time a member of the Azerbaijan-Israel International Association. Alexander Murinson takes for reality the line of his doctoral thesis, that supposedly Azerbaijan, Turkey and Israel are nothing less than an entente alliance. On the assumption of such a misplaced hypothesis, he develops the thesis that the enemy of one of these states is the enemy of all three.
By some strange coincidence, though, Raoul Contreras, who supports conservative views and who had never published anything on Armenia, Azerbaijan and Jewry, develops the theses of the abovementioned authors in The Hill on January 5, and demonstrates “extensive knowledge” of Israel, Armenia and Azerbaijan.
The one-sidedness of the arguments of the aforesaid authors leaves no doubt about the oneness of the source feeding.
It is no secret what methods the authorities of Azerbaijan are using for opinion-making in the West – something that was mentioned by many highly influential editions, as The New York Times in September 2014 and Foreign Policy magazine in June 2014 made quite an extensive survey on how the dictator of Azerbaijan attempts to shape the international public opinion. I think that all influential international Jewish structures at least should not allow themselves to get involved in such speculations.
Referring to the articles of the aforementioned authors, it is necessary to underscore the apparent falsehood of their points. All those authors that try to present Armenia as an anti-Semitic state are doomed to failure for the apparent lack of any reliable facts. Indeed, no such arguments exist, as the Armenian-Jewish relations have shown a rare example of tolerance and co-existence. The history of the two ancient peoples of the Middle East – the history of the Armenian-Jewish relations – derives from the depth of centuries; the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem serves as the best example. On the other hand, evidence of the existence of densely Jewish population in the towns of Armenia is available in ancient sources.
The “examples” that are brought by the falsifiers of history make no sense, and, according to their authors, are directed at discrediting relations between the two friendly peoples. Particularly, during the World War II an Armenian legion that is presented as a unit that fought on the side of Nazis, in reality, was formed from the Armenian prisoners of war, serving in the Soviet Army. National legions of such kind were also formed from various nationalities of the former Soviet Union. The idea of creation of the Armenian legion was thrown to the Nazi leadership by some representatives of the Armenian Diaspora; the aim was clear – to save the POWs from physical extermination and afford an opportunity to escape and rejoin the Soviet Army. Numerous soldiers of the Soviet Army were saved through this very way – Armenians, Yazidis, Greeks, Assyrians, Russians and Jews among them.
Regarding modern Armenia, even if there were some signs of anti-Semitism, which, unfortunately, may happen in every corner of the world, they never enjoyed the support either of the authorities or more or less influential social and political entities. Can the restoration of the Jewish medieval cemetery in one of the provinces of Armenia at the expense of funds, allocated by the Government, be considered as an expression of anti-Semitic policy? The opinion poll, to which one of the articles refers, is nothing but farce, urged to prove the prejudice thought over in advance. The methodology of the poll begets more questions, than provides answers. The questions are formed so that, even if one holds these polls in the country with most densely populated Jewish community, that country may find itself considered as the most anti-Semitic country. It should be noted, that the authors of that “opinion poll” considered unnecessary to hear the views of the Jewish community of Armenia on questions raised.
The Jewish community feels itself protected in Armenia, and the authorities respect the rights, culture, and traditions of Jews. There is no anti-Semitism in Armenia, and we enjoy good relations with Armenians. Of course, the community has certain problems which originate from the general situation of the country. Numerous citizens – Armenians and representatives of national minorities – emigrated from Armenia as a result of grave economic conditions. Jews of Armenia share all the difficulties of the country and, at the same time, consider themselves proud citizens of the Republic of Armenia. With regard to the society, Armenians always treated Jews and the State of Israel with admiration; and, if surveys were conducted as per the historical path of which people deserves utmost respect, undoubtedly, a greater percentage of answers would be “the Jews” and “Israel”. Definitely, one can not even imagine holding anti-Semitic and anti-Israel demonstrations in Armenia, which took place in different towns of Azerbaijan a couple of years ago.
I am neither a political figure nor an analyst, and I do not want to comment about the relations of Armenia and Iran, Armenia and Israel, or Azerbaijan and Israel; however, the fact that in the aforesaid articles attempts were made to present the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict in an extremely biased manner reveals that, indeed, the Azerbaijani and the Turkish lobbying is task-oriented on the use of the Jewish structures for moving forward the policy of denial of the Armenian Genocide and covering the Azerbaijani aggression against Nagorno-Karabagh. The Jewish people are well aware of what happened to Armenians in Azerbaijan and Karabagh.
In 1990s, when the bandits of the People’s Front of Azerbaijan organized and committed pogroms and deportation of the Armenian population, one of the slogans stated was: “Azerbaijan will prosper without Jews and Armenians.” No matter how hard the authorities of Azerbaijan try to present themselves as friends of Israel, they cannot be one for the Jewish people. If there is someone who doubts this argument, please read the publications on numerous flagrant cases of violations of human rights by Aliyev’s administration, or, at least, the articles on funding of anti-Jewish demonstrations in Europe. There is no doubt that Azerbaijan is utilizing the relations of Iran and Israel, presenting itself in Israel as the most reliable regional partner in the policy against Iran. Obviously, the leaders of Azerbaijan are playing a dangerous game if they think that they would succeed in using Israel and the world Jewry for promoting their personal interests.
It is well-known that during the massacres of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, along with other national minorities, the Jews also became the target of the Young Turks. Particularly, Cemal Pasha declared that, “the policy of massacre of the Armenians is to be pursued against the Jews.” During the actions in Gezi Park, Istanbul, last year, one of the policemen, shooting at the demonstrators, said, “You are not Turks, you are Armenians and Jews.” Today alarming news come from Turkey, that against the backdrop of growing anti-Semitism, the Jews have started emigrating to other states.
The bitter fate of the Jewish and the Armenian peoples is abundant in distress, persecutions and pogroms. Crossing paths of history full of horrendous ordeals, the two peoples, more than anyone else, perceive the pains of one another, and are well aware of what life looks like when surrounded by hostility and hatred.
And if disregard of the reality by journalists and analysts is condemned, but fits the logic of propaganda, disregard by political figures, moreover, by those of democratic states, is unforgivable irresponsibility, which cannot have any excuse. Thus, on December 12, 2014, Congressman Steve Stockman, known for his pro-Azerbaijani views, delivered a speech reflecting the article by Arye Gut. This is an overt disrespect not only to the voters of Mr. Stockman, but also to the American democracy. Promotion of ordered and false theses should by no means be allowed to sound from the rostrum of the legislative power. One cannot present propaganda of hatred and promote the agenda and interests of a dictator as an expression of freedom of speech and media, and use the world Jewry in it, particularly, the Jewish community of Armenia. I would like to draw the attention of the Jewish community of the United States to those facts and urge them to stay alert and condemn any attempt to exploit the Jewish factor in such a despicable way by certain political circles.
(*) President of the Jewish Community of Armenia.