Unprotected and unpunished: Turning a blind eye to anti-Jewish attacks in Armenia

    INTERVIEWS  16 June 2024 - 11:19

    Samir Ibrahimov

    On the night of June 11, unknown persons attacked a synagogue in Yerevan, according to representatives of the Jewish community of Armenia. In the photos published in TV channels, one can see a window broken by a stone and shards of glass. A criminal case has been opened on the fact of attacking a religious centre with intentional damage.

    The current attack on the only synagogue in the Armenian capital is the fourth since last October. Israeli media express concern about the lack of response from the authorities. The publications recall cases of threats to rabbis and Israelis on social networks. The attackers who tried to set fire to the building have not been found so far. The Armenian authorities stated that it was a Russian tourist, but did not publish any data on the matter.

    How was this news perceived in Israeli society? How can the recurrence of such incidents in Armenia be explained? Prominent Israeli experts shared their opinions with Caliber.Az.

    According to journalist and historian Shimon Briman, the Israeli media, covering the attack on the only synagogue in Yerevan, note that this is the fourth attack in six months, i.e. it is not an accident, but a purposeful trend.

    "Our media wrote that in November 2023 the Armenian terrorist organisation ASALA claimed responsibility for the attempted arson attack on the same synagogue. It should be recalled that this organisation pledged new actions against Jewish sites at that time.

    Earlier, on October 3, 2023, an Armenian citizen who broke the windows in the same synagogue openly stated that his actions "were revenge against Israel, which supplies weapons to Azerbaijan, which is at war against Armenia."

    Thus, the side effect of the strategic partnership between Israel and Azerbaijan is the extremist and anti-Semitic actions of Armenian nationalists against Armenia's poorly protected Jewish sites. The losers always 'fall back' on the weaker ones," the expert says.

    According to him, the military-political leadership of Israel has not perceived Armenia as an independent and serious player for a long time.

    "This country has become a transshipment base for Iranian arms and military equipment shipments to Russia. Armenia is saturated with Iranian influence, which certainly stimulates anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli acts of vandalism. In the war that Israel is fighting for its life and security against Tehran's terrorist satellites, Armenia unfortunately has a place on the Iranian side of the front.

    For these reasons, Israel's diplomatic relations with Armenia have long been frozen. These are very cold contacts on a purely formal level.

    As an Israeli citizen who wishes well for his fellow Jews, I would advise the remnants of Armenia's microscopic Jewish community to leave that country as soon as possible, without waiting for more violent attacks and incidents of bloodshed. It is time for the Jews of Armenia to realize that their lives and safety are protected by nothing and no one in the territory of this small but vociferous ally of the fanatical ayatollahs," Briman said.

    Avraham Shmulevich, a specialist on the Caucasus, the Islamic world and the Middle East, head of the Eastern Partnership Institute (Jerusalem), reminded in his turn that indeed such attacks on the Jewish community, on the synagogue and on the memorial to the victims of the Holocaust have been occurring regularly in Armenia in recent years.

    "It is noteworthy that in all cases of attacks on the synagogue, the police of the Republic of Armenia did not find the perpetrators, although it would seem that if this happens regularly, it is possible to put video cameras, install protection and surveillance systems. But this does not happen. In words, the Armenian authorities, when they communicate with representatives of the Armenian Jewish community and foreign Jewish organizations, say that they will take all measures to find the perpetrators, but this does not happen. After the previous attack on the synagogue, it was reported in Armenian blogs that some hitherto unknown "youth ASALA" took responsibility for it. They had an account in "Telegram", published a video with footage of the attack, and Armenian media made accusations against Azerbaijanis - allegedly it was the work of Azerbaijani agents. However, no evidence was presented. And it sounds strange, because it turns out that the Armenian authorities allow Azerbaijani agents to operate in the center of Yerevan. That is, if they really believed that Azerbaijanis were behind it, they would certainly take the most serious search measures," says the head of the Institute.

    In the latter case, it was said to have been done by a tourist from Russia, he notes.

    "And again, no data about this person - why he was not detained, who recruited him, why he did it, how he left, etc. So there are two conclusions - either there are no special services and no police in Armenia at all, if they are not able to guard such a sensitive place, which has been repeatedly attacked, and are not able to conduct investigative actions, or they do not want to do it. But since we know that the special services and the police in Armenia work poorly, we can't help but conclude that the impunity of these vandals comes from the fact that nobody really catches them. The report about the latest attack was published by almost all media outlets in Israel, both Hebrew- and Russian-language.

    As for the attitude towards Jews in Armenia, it should be said that for years before, no complaints about manifestations of anti-Semitism were received from there. Even 10 years ago, Jews coming from Armenia said that they did not face discrimination or insults. But during the last few years the situation started to change, and I have already heard from Jews living in Armenia, from Israelis and Jews living in other countries who came to Armenia that they are starting to face hostility towards Israel," says the specialist.

    It should be said, he added, that there has been an anti-Semitic campaign in Armenian media for a long time.

    "It started back in the days of the KGB, when the committee launched disinformation that it was the Jews who were behind the Young Turks and the events of 1915. This is nonsense, but this myth has taken root in the Armenian Diaspora, and there are so many books and publications on the Internet on this topic. There are even claims that Jews were behind the formation of the Azerbaijani state in order to harm Armenians. That Azerbaijan attacked Armenia because Jews are jealous of Armenians - such nonsense. But this nonsense finds its listeners in Armenia, and that's why this kind of anti-Semitic sentiment is spread. Besides, Armenian media write that Israel supplies arms to Azerbaijan. Yes, it is true, but it is a normal manifestation of interstate relations. Israel has a long history of relations with Azerbaijan, I think, since 1994, and the relations between the two nations are centuries old. None of the provisions of international law prohibits supplying arms to Azerbaijan, conducting military trade with it. Besides, as we know, Russia, Belarus and many other countries also supply arms to Azerbaijan. But for some reason, it is against Jews and Israel that such an anti-Semitic campaign is purposefully intensified in the Armenian media.

    I still hope that the Armenian authorities will take some measures both to protect Jewish sites and to protect the very small Jewish community that remains in Armenia. Because inaction in this case hits first of all the interests of Armenia itself. Impunity for such pogromists lowers Armenia's authority in the international arena," Shmulevich concluded.


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