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Armenia’s Jewish Scepticism and Its Impact

InternationalBy Dr. Sedat Laciner

‘It is in our blood to hate the Turks. However, we hate Bulgarians and Greeks also. The Jews like Turks, but they hate Arabs. The Arabs, in their turn, are not in favour with the Turks. And the level of hatred is rising’

Although the Jewish community in Armenia dates back almost 2,000 years, the population of the Jews has reduced to fewer than 1,000 individuals in Armenia and in Karabakh province, which is the Azerbaijan territory under the Armenian occupation. Ironically this tiny Jewish community has exposed to the rising Armenian anti-Semitism in the recent years, and now they are considered as ‘guests’ in Armenia where they have lived for the ages.[2] The reasons for anti-Semitism among the Armenians is not actually the Jewish activities, but the regional and international politics and the historical mistrust, namely the problems between Armenia, Turkey and Azerbaijan, and Israel’s recent co-operation with Turkey. Before analysing the reasons, the study will provide the historical background of the Armenian ‘antagonism’ against the Jews and the history of the Jewish community in Armenia. Then it will move in to the current reasons of the Armenian Jewish scepticism in the recent years. The study, in questioning the reasons, also focuses on Armenia-Israel relations and the Israeli-Turkish alliance’s impact on Armenia’s perception of the region. The article further discusses Israel’s and the world Jewish community’s attitude regarding the Armenian ‘genocide’ allegations. The author reminds that the Jewish community clearly oppose the Armenian allegations and reject all the Armenian attempts to create a similarity between Holocaust and the 1915 events, and the article discusses the Jewish opposition’s effects on the Armenian issue.

The Ottoman experience proves that anti-Semitism is an old Armenian habit. The main reason for anti-semitism among the Ottoman Armenians was mainly religious biases. For the Christian Armenians the Jews were in great sin. It was a common belief among the Armenians that the Jews slaughter young Christian Armenians and use their blood at the Passover feast. In Amasya province for instance local Armenian priests and notables claimed that an Armenian woman had seen Jews slaughter a young Armenian boy and use his blood for religious purposes. Stanford J. Shaw describes the following events:

‘Several days of rioting and pillaging and attacks on Jews followed, with Armenian mobs devastating the Jewish quarter of the city, beating men, women and children alike. The Armenian notables convinced the local Ottoman governor to imprison several Jewish leaders, including Rabbi Yakub Avayu, who was accused of having supervised the blood letting. They were said, after undergoing severe torture, to have confessed to their crimes and were hanged. Later, however, the Armenian boy who supposedly had been murdered was found and a new Ottoman governor punished the accusers, though nothing could be done about the Jews who had suffered in the process.’[3]

As Abraham Ben-Yakob put it, the Armenian and Greek attacks against the Armenians continued in the following years:

‘There were literally thousands of incidents in subsequent years, invariably resulting from accusations spread among Greeks and Armenians by word mouth, or published in their newspapers, often by Christian financiers and merchants who were anxious to get the Jews out of the way, resulting in isolated and mob attacks on Jews, and burning of their shops and homes.’[4]

Apart from the religious prejudices, the Jewish community in the Empire dramatically rose in numbers and their influence over the administration and economy increased, and this development made the Christian subjects (Armenians, Greeks etc.) worried. Unfortunately this competition between the Jews and Christians resulted in a long series of attacks against the Jews by the Armenians and Greeks, who simply did not want to lose their influential position in terms of politics and economy. In these assaults many Jews were assassinated. When the Europeans increased their economic and political influence over the Ottoman Empire they publicly supported the Ottoman Christians and the Armenians and Greeks gained a clear privilege in trade, which was unfavourable to the Jews. The local Armenians and Greeks had the American and the European diplomats and businessmen with them, while the Jews had to rely on their own sources and their good relations with the Ottoman bureaucracy. In addition, as the Armenians and Greeks got richer and more influential, harassments and the constant attacks against the Jews increased as witnessed in Izmir during the 19th century. The competition between the Armenians and the Jews was severe in Palace and the financial system in particular. When the Armenian bankers sustained monopoly over the Ottoman financial system they did everything to get the Jews out of the Palace, and even libelled Jews by accusing the Jews of not being loyal to the Sultan. As a result of these slanders, many Jews lost their life.[5]

Another dramatic development for the Jews was the impact of the European military victories and conquests of Ottoman territories by the European armies, because when the Christian European armies occupied the Ottoman possessions they were supporting their Christian ‘brothers’, Armenians, Greeks and Bulgarians, and punishing the Jews and Muslims alike.[6] Consequently the Jews became the most loyal ones to the government in the 19th century and this also worsened the relations between the nationalist Armenians and the Jews. The radical Armenians perceived the Jews as the agent of the state against their ‘revolutionary’ movement. Even some Armenians would claim that some of the responsible officers for the 1915 events, which the Armenians see these events as ‘genocide’, were Jews, freemasons or supported by the Jews or freemasons. Although this kind of claims cannot be considered as serious or scholarly, they are useful to understand the degree of the Armenian anti-semitism.

The fourth negative development for the Ottoman Jews was the nationalist-separatist movements in the Arab territories, the Balkans and in Anatolia. The only protector of the Jews in these regions was the Ottoman state and its governor because the Arabs and the Christians hated the Jews due to the tradition and religion. That is why the Jews became more and more loyal to their state, and this more annoyed the nationalist groups, particularly the Greeks and the Armenians. In many Greek uprisings for instance the Jews supported the Ottoman State against the rioters as witnessed in the Ottoman – Greek War in 1897 for Crete island. The Ottoman security forces had to intervene to protect the Jews from the Armenians, Greeks and the Arabs especially in the 19th century. In Syria in particular the Christian Arabs and Armenians hated the Jews as a result of the religious biases.[7]

In summary, the Armenians continually attacked the Jews for the religious reasons and for personal and ethnic interests. In the words of Shaw, ‘the attacks were brutal and without mercy. Women, children, and aged Jewish men were frequently attacked, beaten and often killed’.[8] These attacks inevitably caused a severe tension and nourished mutual hate between the Armenians and the Jews. As a result the Jews sometimes co-operated with other ethnic groups against the Armenians as Shaw puts it:

‘Jewish resentment against the continued persecution and ritual murder attacks by Greeks and Armenians led to such hatred that, for example, many Jews actively assisted the attacks of Kurds and Lazzes on the Armenian quarters of Istanbul in 1896 and 1908, showing the Kurds where Armenians lived and where many of them were hiding and joining them in carrying away the booty. The result was even greater Armenian hatred for Jews than had been the case before, leading to further persecution and attacks in subsequent years’.[9]
In addition to the assaults against the Jewish people the Armenians and Greeks made enormous efforts to keep the Jews out of the Palace and other important official places. Furthermore they tried to prevent constructing new synagogues in Istanbul. Guleryuz’s research on Turkish Jewry’ gives an example:

‘Greeks and Armenians agitated widely to prevent Jews from constructing new synagogues when needed in the Empire. The best example of this came with Greek and Armenian opposition to the construction of a new Jewish synagogue at Haydarpasha in 1899. Sultan Abdul Hamid II allowed the synagogue to be built, and assured its opening despite the protests by sending a contingent of soldiers from the nearby Selimiye barracks, leading the contregation to adopt the name Hemdat Israel synagogue, but also the word Hemdat was close to the name of their benefactor, Sultan Abdul Hamid.’[10]

In conclusion, anti-Semitism was a strong tradition among the Ottoman Armenians, and as will be seen it would be revived in the modern ages.


The historical Armenian mistrust towards the Jews continued in the 1930s and 1940s and some radical Armenians did not hesitate to support the Nazi administration. Ayhan Ozer claims that Hitler aimed to get the Armenian support in his anti-Semitic campaign. In other words both, Nazi party and the radical anti-Semitic Armenians saw each other in the same side. Apart from the ‘common feelings’ about the Jews, in foreign policy, ‘Hitler’s future invasion plans of Russia provided a golden opportunity for the Armenians to liberate what they considered to be “Historic Armenia” from the Soviet as well as the Turkish rule’.[11] The Armenian-German alliance alarmed not only Turkey but also the Turkish Jews. The British Ambassador in Ankara reported to his government that ‘the Armenians (in Turkey) are extremely fruitful ground for German activities, and these non-Muslim elements with their mentality (rooted in the Ottoman years) are always viewed with mistrust by the Turkish authorities’.[12] Ozer claims that as a result of the Armenian-Nazi alliance, the 812th Battalion later developed into a so-called ‘Armenian Legion with the efforts of Alfred Muradian, a German–Armenian, and by Armik Jamalian, the son of Arshak Jamalian, the Foreign Minister of the short-lived Armenian Republic. Some of this 20,000-strong Armenian legion were trained by the SS and its Security Division S. D. and later they joined the Nazi Einsatzgruppen in the invasion of the Crimea and the North Caucasia.[13] The skilled legion served the Nazi army as police unit for internal intelligence and controlling the ‘undesired elements’ like the Jews.

Moreover as Christopher Walker, a pro-Armenian researcher, admits that the relations between the Nazis and the Dashnaks living in the Nazi occupied areas were very close and active. The Armenians of Bucharest in May 1935 for example attacked the local Jews.[14] Walker summarise the close ties between the Nazis and Dashnag Armenians:

‘There remains the incontestable fact that relations between the Nazis and the Dashnags living in the occupied areas were close and active. On 30 December 1941 an Armenian battalion was created by a decision of the Wehrmacht, known as the Armenian 812th Battalion. It was commanded by Dro, and was made of a small number of committed recruits, and a larger number of Armenians from the prisoners of war taken by the Nazis in their sweep eastwards. Early on the total number was 8,000; this number later grew to 20,000. The 812th Battalion was operational in the Crimea and the North Caucasus.’[15]

Apart from the assaults against the Jews, the Armenians also published a German language magazine, with fascist and anti-Semitic tendencies. In these publications the radical Armenians supported the Nazi doctrines and justified the anti-Semitic Nazi policies.[16]

Though pro-Armenian researcher Christopher J. Walker admits that the Armenians collaborated with the Nazis, some of the Armenian authors may refuse these claims. However the Armenian periodicals of that period provide abundant proof for the Nazi-Armenian collaboration. For example the Armenian-language daily Hairenik on 17 September 1936 tried to legitimate the Nazi administration:

‘…and came (to power) Adolph Hitler after Herculean struggles. He spoke to the racial heart strings of the German, opened the fountain of his national genius…’[17]

Similarly Hairenik named the Jews as ‘poisonous elements’ in its 19 and 20 August 1936 issue:

‘Sometimes it is difficult to eradicate these poisonous elements (the Jews) when they have struck deep root like a chronic disease, and when it becomes necessary for a people (the Nazis) to eradicate them in an uncommon method these attempts are regarded as revolutionary. During a surgical operation the flow of blood is a natural thing…’[18]

‘…Jews being the most fanatical nationalists and race-worshippers, are compelled to create an atmosphere of internationalism and world-citizenship in order to preserve their race. As the British use battleships to occupy lands, the Jews use internationalism or communism as a weapon…’[19]

These quotations need no further comment as they speak for themselves. In this context, the next section will focus on the current Armenian scepticism towards the Jews.


Jews in Caucasus and Armenia: Mountain Jews

The Jews from the Caucasus region are known as Mountain Jews and these people are one of the oldest inhabitants of the region.[20] ‘The distinct identity of Mountain Jews is believed to have crystallized by the eight century, which waves of Jewish immigrants began migrating to the Caucasus from Persia. Members of the community spoke Dzhuhuri – a kind of “Persian Yiddish” – a Farsi dialect with a heavy mixture of Hebrew’.[21] Unlike the other parts of the Caucasus, (like Georgia, Azerbaijan[22], Chechnya, Kabardino-Balkaria and Dagestan), however Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh had never had significant Jewish populations. Although the Jews were known to live in Armenia in ancient times, most of them had emigrated from the region in the early years. However, in the early 19th century they began arriving in the region mainly from Persia and Poland, creating Ashkenazic and Sephardic communities in the city of Yerevan.

After the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution the Armenian nationalists declared their independence in May 1918. The relations between the Armenians and the Jews were relatively good during this period although the radicalism of the Armenian nationalists caused a short-term fear among the Jews. However, when the Red Army defeated the Dashnaks (Armenian nationalists) Armenia became one of the Soviet republics under the communist system in 1921 for about seven decades. The number of the Jewish community increased after the World War Two when Moscow sent a number of Jews from the different territories of the Union to Yerevan. After the war the number of Jews was estimated over 5,000. Despite the number of the Jews dramatically decreased in the 1970s and the 80s, the Jews maintained their position in Armenia as one of the major minorities. In brief, the Jewish community had managed to survive, and thrive under the Muslim, Christian and communist rulers in Armenia until the end of the Soviet Union.[23]

a. Jewish Under the Rule of Independent Armenian Republic

In the Soviet Union the Jewish population in Armenia was over 6.000 people. The largest Jewish wave arrived in 1965 and 1972, mainly engineers and members of intelligentsia from Russia and Ukraine.[24] However their number declined in the 1970s and 80s as a result of the bad treatment, political reasons and economic catastrophes. In 1991 independent Armenian Republic recognised the existence of the Jews in Armenia. However for the Armenian Government, the Jews were in the ‘guests status’ in the country like the Russians, Polish and Azerbaijanis.[25] Apart from the official mistrust towards the Jews, the revival of Armenian nationalism caused communal tension between the Armenians and the minorities. The radical nationalists argued all ‘foreign elements’ must be out by starting an Armenisation campaign. In this campaign the central and local government ‘encouraged’ the people to speak Armenian instead of speaking their native languages or other languages other than Armenian, like Russian, Turkish or Persian.[26]
When the armed conflicts erupted and the Armenian forces entered the Azerbaijani territories the fears and mistrust towards ‘foreigners’ and ethnically non-Armenians reached its peak in the country and some radical Armenians saw the Jewish minority as representatives of the ‘evil forces’ in country, although the Jews did not betray their country during the conflicts. As a result of the ethnic tension and economic problems the number of the Jews dramatically decreased in the 1990s. The Jewish population in Armenia in 2000 down to about 1500, while the number of Jews in Karabagh was just 30.[27] The estimations for 2002 show that there are less than 1000 Jewish in Armenia. The remained Jewish like their ancestors speak Armenian and do not know Hebrew. Most of those who remained aim to immigrate to Israel or any Western state. Those who cannot speak Hebrew go to the Sunday schools to learn Hebrew language because they hope Hebrew may helpful to become Israel citizens.

The Armenian Jewish had no problem with the state authority and showed their loyalty in many cases. Most of the members of the community come from mixed marriage.[28] They have limited contact with any other foreign country. Israel makes some financial assistance yet it is limited. In another word, apart from the historical mistrust, there is no tangible basis for anti-Semitism. In Armenia as mentioned above the main reason of anti-Semitism are foreign policy considerations and need to blame a group for the economic and political failure. Because of this, those who use anti-Semitism as a tool in their policy, target an imaginary ‘Jewish enemy’. For this group there is a Jewish conspiracy against Armenia and Armenians. This conspiracy, to them, includes Israel and the Jewish lobbies based in the United States, Europe, Turkey and Russia and uses the Jewish minority in Armenia as well. Igor Muradyan’s article appeared in Golos Armenii (Voice of Armenia) in April 1999, which is one of the vivid examples of the anti-Semitic publications in Armenia, reflects the main idea of this group. Muradyan in his article claims that Armenian-Jewish relations have historically been filled conflict between “Aryan” Armenians and “Semitic” Jews. Igor Muradyan further blames Jews for inciting ethnic conflicts in the region, including the dispute over Nagorno-Karabagh. According to Muradyan’s view the greatest threat to Armenia posed by the close ties between Turkey and Israel. Interestingly Muradyan argues that Turkey’s ‘founding fathers’ were Young Turks and they were ‘Masonic’ with very good relations with the Jews.[29]

Saakian: ‘Jewish Danger Against Armenia’

Another example happened in November 1997. Ara Saakian, the Vice-Speaker of the Armenian National Assembly announced the danger of the ‘Jewish lobby’ and its plans over Armenia. Saakian at that time was supporting the ratification of the pact for allowing a Russian military base in Armenia and he accused those, who opposed any foreign military base in Armenia, as agents of the ‘greater anti-Armenian lobby’. For Ara Saakian the people who opposed ratification were ‘playing into hands of the Jewish lobby’.[30] It is interesting that the number of those who opposed the ratification was just four parliamentarians.

Saakian’s speech caused a hot debate in Armenia over the ‘Jewish problem’. First response came from the Russian-language newspaper Golos Armenii. Narek Mesropian, on 3 May 1997, in his ‘When Brother Acts Against Brother’ article focused on the so-called ‘Jewish issue’:
‘Ara Saakian even mentioned the Jewish problem. It is very painful problem, by the way. And it is so not only in Russia. In short, he sharply criticized the Jewish lobby, which allegedly disregarded all the rules of decency to profit from the oil of Baku. And the Jewish lobby turned into a pro-Azerbaijan power… Furthermore, it is well known that Ara Saakian, as one of the leaders of the Armenian National Movement, naturally considers himself among the so-called democrats… And all the Russian democrats are either Jews or controlled by the Jews…’[31]

Mesropian’s 5 August 1997 article, which was published again in Golos Armenii, reflects tension between the Jews and Armenians and clearly implies the historical mistrust between the two communities:

‘It is in our blood to hate the Turks. However, we hate Bulgarians and Greeks also. The Jews like Turks, but they hate Arabs. The Arabs, in their turn, are not in favour with the Turks. And the level of hatred is rising.’[32]

Furthermore, The Ajzm, weekly publication of the National Democratic Union[33], in its response to Oskanian accused the Armenian authorities. The Ajzm on 13 May 1997 published an article titled ‘They Say Jew, They Understand a Representative of the West’. In this article the unnamed author argued that the Armenian authorities mean Jews when they speak about West and perceive the Jews as identical with the concepts of the West, United States, MOSSAD or CIA.[34]

From Mistrust to Anti-Semitism: ‘Armenian Book Denies Holocaust’

The most recent example of the Armenian mistrust towards the Jews shows the anti-Semitic understanding behind the Jewish sceptic groups; as the JTA reported an anti-Semitic book ‘National System’ was distributed in the early days of 2002.[35] The book identifies Jews and Turks as the leading enemies of the Armenian nation. According to the ‘National System’ the Holocaust is a myth, which was created by the Zionists. The leader of Armenian Jewry at the 9 February gathering said, they are going to meet with Armenian President about the rising anti-Semitism in Armenia, yet the officials made no statement about the book and the anti-Semitic movements in the country.
In addition to the mistrust towards the Jewish minority inside, the scepticism against Israel and the Jewish lobbies is significant in Armenian foreign policy. As will be detailed below Armenia first of all has developed close ties with Israel’s ‘enemies’, namely Iran and Syria. Armenia even signed a military co-operation agreement with Syria.[36] Second, Armenian decision makers have perceived the Israeli and Jewish initiatives in the region against their national interest. Vartan Oskanian, Armenian Foreign Minister, for instance argued ‘Israeli and Armenian interests are diametrically opposed in the Caucasus region’.[37] According to Oskanian the main reasons for this are ‘Israel’s alliance with Turkey, and Israel’s interest in getting Azeri oil out to the Western market.[38]
The Armenian policy makers in general perceive that the Jewish lobby in the United States is so strong and dominates the US Congress and the White House. Even the Armenian press frequently claim that the Jewish lobby blackmails the US administration to protect the Israeli interests.[39] According to this view the Jewish lobby determines the American foreign policy regarding the region and the Jewish Americans favoured Azerbaijan because of oil and other reasons.[40]

b. Karabakh: “Only Armenians Are Full-Fledged Citizens”

During the Soviet Union period, the Nagorna Karabakh in Azerbaijan was one of the ethnic and religious tolerance havens for the Soviet Jews. Thousands of Jews from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and other parts of the Soviet Union arrived in Karabakh of Azerbaijan to escape anti-Semitism. Despite the majority was Armenian, the Azerbaijani administration had allowed the Jews to live their religion and culture freely and they had a close connection with the Jewish organisations in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. As mentioned the majority of the Karabakh Jews had flocked in the region in order to escape persecution. The second reason was to find a job. The mixed-marriages was another reason for coming in Karabakh for the Jewish community. The community had no problem neither with the other minorities (Russians, Polish and Azerbaijanis) nor the Armenians. However, anti-Semitism erupted with the rise of the Armenian separatist nationalism in Karabakh against the Azerbaijani rule.[41] For the Armenian nationalists all non-Armenian people were foreigner or ‘guest’ in the ‘Armenian territory. Maria Spector Groisman, who escaped from Ukraine to Karabakh, summarises the change; she says the life for the Jewish community there was relatively easy in the 1970s and 1980s, and they lived a relatively open Jewish life, they even received regular packages from the Star of David association in Baku. But, she says when the wave of Armenian nationalism grown life became harder for the Karabakh Jews. Many Jews emigrated to Israel in the 1970s. Groisman recalls that Karabakhi nationalists had threatened to have Groisman fired from her job as a telephone operator unless she wrote an article describing the wretched conditions experienced by Soviet Jews in Israel and praising Armenian tolerance, and she said she had refused.[42]

When the armed conflict erupted between Armenians and Azerbaijanis in 1988, most of the Jews had to hide from the Armenian guerrillas. Steve Swerdlow, who is a human rights monitor for the Union Councils and the US Department’s Young Leadership Fellow in the Caucasus, reports that Alexander and Svetlana Peisakhov were two of them:

‘A mixed Jewish-Armenian couple, Alexander and Svetlana Peisakhov, lived in Stepanakert where their children, Sergei and Stella, were known as “local prodigies”. However during four years of fighting, the children’s grandparents, Niusia and Gelta Sarkisian, kept them back from school and hid them in basement. “We would bury the dead at night because the heavy shelling during the day made it too dangerous” said Nuisia Sarkisian. “We were scared because our children were not Armenians. We did everything we could them out through Baku”.[43]

The Armenians won the war with the Russian military support[44] and the Armenian forces occupied not only the Karabakh territories but also some other parts of Azerbaijan (over 20 % of all Azerbaijani territories). In the words of Sverdlow, the Armenian victory and ‘the war has ushered in a new era of chauvinism and intolerance to non-Armenians living in Nagorny Karabakh. And the Jewish community has dwindled to just 30 people’.[45] In this new era, the Jews had to hide their Jewish identity, because the ordinary Armenians think that Israel helps Azerbaijan and they perceive the Jewish community as the agents of the anti-Armenian West. Sverdlow gives another significant example for discrimination against the Karabakh Jews:

‘When the war broke out in 1988, Daniel and Svetlana Groisman were living in Shushi, now Nagorny Karabakh’s second largest town. Daniel joined the Armenian army fought from 1990 until the ceasefire in 1994. Says Svetlana, “My husband helped retake Shushi. So many fled during the war. We aren’t even Armenian but we stayed and didn’t betray Karabakh. But now people call us Yids.” After the war, the new government paid out compensation to veterans of the conflict but Daniel was denied the benefits awarded to “pure-blooded” Armenians. When the city court confiscated the Groismans’ garage in 1998 and gave it to an ethnic Armenian veteran, the family was told “Only Armenians are full-fledged citizens. You should leave for Israel!’[46]

Since 1988, the Karabakh Jews have been almost entirely isolated from the Jewish organisations in Baku, Yerevan and Israel, and they could not connect even with the humanitarian organisations, like the Joint Distribution Committee which sends humanitarian aid and special foods.

c. Diaspora Armenian’s Jewish Scepticism

Apart from the homeland, the Armenians living in abroad shows mistrust towards the Jewish communities. In the United States in particular the Armenian community perceive that the Jewish are manipulating the public opinion and decision making process against Armenia and Armenians. The Jewish activities in the Congress are especially considered by the radical Armenians as a part of an anti-Armenian conspiracy. The role of the Jewish representatives in blocking the Armenian resolutions are seen as proof for such a plan although the American State Department and the White House made it clear that the Armenian anti-Turkish attempts in the Congress damage the American national interests in the Middle East, the Balkans, and the Caucasus and the Armenian allegations are not based on the historical truth. When the latest Armenian resolution failed in the Congress for example the radical Armenian political groups saw Israel, American Jewish community, CIA, Pentagon, State Department and President Bill Clinton as responsible for the failure. Hagop Chakrian expressed this point of view in Asbarez, Armenian daily, on 27 July 2001:

‘When the Armenian genocide resolution was rejected by the US, the Turkish President, Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, and Deputy Prime Minister expressed special gratitude to the White House, Pentagon, CIA, and State Department, as well as to Jewish organizations in the US, since President Clinton intervened on the issue at the request of Israel.’[47]

Chakrian and those who share his view do not provide any proof for their claims yet the words mentioned above clearly show the existence of Armenian Jewish scepticism among the Armenians in diaspora.


As will be seen the anti-Semitic and sceptic attitude towards the Jewish minority inside and Israel and Jewish diasporas outside continued in the independent Armenian Republic period. Surprisingly the most significant factors which nourished the ‘Armenian paranoia’ and the Armenian hostility towards the minorities were as mentioned were not the minority activities inside, but mainly the international developments. Three developments in particular were very important at this stage; Baku oil project, Turkey - Israel strategic cooperation and the improving relations between Turkey and Georgia. Armenia has perceived all these developments as an extension of anti-Armenian conspiracy, which for the Armenians orchestrated by the Turks and Israeli lobbies.[48]

In this context it can be argued that there are seven different main reasons for the Armenian mistrust towards the Jews:
a. Historical Reasons,
b. Religious Reasons,
c. The Armenian Western Scepticism and the Armenian Isolationist Perception,
d. Armenia Feels Isolated: From Fears to Paranoia?
e. Israel-Turkey Friendship’s Impact on Armenia
f. Azerbaijani Oils, Israel and the American Jewish Lobby,
g. Israel’s Attitude to the Armenian Allegations.

a. The Historical Reasons
As discussed in the previous sections anti-Semitism is an old Armenian habit or ‘disease’ and experienced in the Ottoman period. Unfortunately the Soviet period did not help in curing this ‘disease’, contrary the Soviet’s scepticism nourished anti-semitism among the Armenians. In this period and later the Armenians have seen the foreigners including the Jews as the main source of their problems (scapegoat).

Apart from the historical mutual mistrust between the Armenians and the Jews, the traditional Turkish-Jewish friendship also affected the Armenian-Jewish relations. As a well known fact that when Jews suffered persecution in Spain in 15th century, the Ottoman Turks offered them sanctuary and ten thousands of them migrated to the Ottoman Empire. For the centuries the Ottoman Turks provided legal and political protection to the Jews and this friendly relations continued in the 20th century. However, ‘my enemy’s friend is my enemy’ understanding has made the Armenians more sceptical about the Jews.

b. Religious Reasons

As the religious reasons of Armenian-Jewish scepticism were discussed above these reasons are not detailed here.[49]

c. Armenia’s Western Scepticism

One of the most important characteristics of the newly independent Armenian state is the feeling of an isolated Armenia. The Armenian decision makers similar to the laymen have accused the Western states of being indifferent toward the Armenians’ problems. For them the West had used the Armenians for their own interest yet in the end they deserted the Armenians in ‘cold’ before the Turks, Iranians and the Russians. Second, the Armenians have seen the Jewish people and Israel as the agents or representatives of the West. As a direct result of this perception the Armenian people’s Western scepticism shapes their policies towards the Jewish and Israel. In many cases when the Armenians accuse the Jewish people and the State of Israel they mostly mean the West in general not only the Jews and Israel. For many Armenians the CIA, MOSSAD, Israel, Jews and the United States are identical.[50]

d. Armenia Feels Isolated: From Fears to Paranoia?

The dissolution of the Soviet ‘Empire’ made the Armenian independence possible, and Armenia became an independent state for second time in history. However Armenia was born as a weak and in a problematic geography, which made preserving independence highly difficult. Armenia was the smallest of the successor states of the former Soviet Union. It was located in the Caucasus mountains as a completely landlocked country. All these factors increased the Armenian insecurity feelings and led scepticism towards the minorities including the Jews.
Furthermore, after gaining independence in 1991 the country continued to be a zone of Russian influence. Moscow had economic, political and military leverages over the ‘independent’ Armenia,[51] and Armenia had to improve good relations with the neighbouring states, namely Turkey, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Iran, in order to overcome its internal economic and political problems and to escape from the Russian hegemony. Moreover, it needed economic aid from the Western powers, notably the United States and the European Union. As a matter of fact that the environment was suitable for the Armenian policy makers to follow a more constructive foreign policy; Russia was in a domestic economic and political turmoil; the West was enthusiastic to integrate the former Soviet Union territories into the European political system and Turkey was ready for co-operation with Armenia despite of the historical disputes. Turkey even was one of the first countries to recognise the independence of Armenia. The moderate government under Ter-Petrosian, which put aside the historical Armenian claims in order to improve relations with Turkey, was another positive factor in the Armenian side. However, the Karabakh problem restricted Armenia’s freedom of action in foreign policy; When Armenia clearly supported the Karabakh Armenians against Azerbaijan, and occupied about 20 percent of the Azerbaijani territories, Turkey could not improve its relations with Armenia,[52] and diplomatic ties were never established between the two countries since Turkey indexed it to the settlement of the Karabakh conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia.[53] Instead of improving relations with Armenia, Turkey moved into Georgia, Azerbaijan and the other former Soviet Union republics, and declared that it cannot improve its relations with Armenia until the Armenian occupation forces withdrew from the Azerbaijan territories. For instance, Mehmet Ali İrtemçelik, former Turkish State Minister, summarised the situation as ‘Turkey’s ties with Armenia can improve in parallel with the development of relations between Baku and Yerevan’.[54] In practice Turkey restricted its economic and political relations with Armenia, and focused on relations with its kin-state, Azerbaijan. Yet, Turkey’s good relations were always perceived as hostile in both Yerevan and Moscow, and two states got closer each other during the 1990s. Yet the Armenians could not trust the Russians fully, and the co-operation in this period was limited.[55] In another word, Armenia saw almost all its neighbours as ‘enemy, Turks, Russians, Georgians and Iranians.
The Armenian occupation of Azerbaijani territories was not approved by the Western states as well and none of the countries recognised Nagorno-Karabakh as an Armenian territory except Armenia. The leading Western states called the Armenians to withdraw their forces from the region. As far as the Western interests are concerned, another consideration regarding the Armenians was that the Russians and the Iranians were planning to use Armenia’s problems with the other states to implement their regional policies against the Western block and this obviously disturbed the US, Israel and some of the European States and they warned Armenia not to turn its face to Moscow or Tehran.[56]
Apart from the security considerations, Armenia had to rebuild its devastated economy and strengthen its fledgling democracy. Under these circumstances Armenia could not get a serious aid from the West, and widespread dissatisfaction with the moderate Ter-Petrosian government increased, and although he won the 1996 elections, thanks to the growing opposition and street demonstrations, he had to resign in two years (3 February 1998). The resignation of Ter-Petrosian granted power to the radical nationalists, and Robert Kocharian, a hard-core nationalist and a war veteran from Karabakh, became the President of Armenia after the second round of the 1998 elections.[57] Kocharian’s foreign policy was so different than Ter-Petrosian; Kocharian implied the change in Armenia’s Turkish policy before the elections:

‘If I am elected, there will be some new developments in our relations with Turkey, there will be some new emphases; we shall soon clarify our new line regarding our relations’.[58]

His first action in office was lifting the ban on the activities of the fanatically anti-Turkish Dashnak Party, which was considered as terrorist organisation by the Turkish state. The Dashnak Party had been banned by the previous Armenian President Ter-Petrossian in 1994 on the grounds that it was engaged in terrorist activities. Ankara’s response was calming. Ankara advised Kocharian to solve the Karabakh problem and withdraw its soldiers from the Azerbaijani territories, give up the ‘genocide’ claims and respect the international borders of his neighbours. Yet Kocharian choose the worst alternatives for Turkey; he refused all peace plans for Nagorno Karabakh claiming the problem was already solved since Karabakh was an Armenian territory and approached to the Russians, the traditional rival of the West and Turkey in the region, to counter-balance the Turks. Armenia under Kocharian’s rule furthermore focused on the ‘Armenian genocide’ claims, and tried to apply pressure on Turkey and pushing Turkey to accept to establish diplomatic relations with Armenia by simply threatening it with the international pressure.[59] But the worst of all was to open the Armenian territories to the Russian military forces. By doing this, Armenia was challenging not only to Turkey but also to the Western interests while Georgia and Azerbaijan have viewed as a way to counter-balance Moscow and as an aid in building their relations with the US in order to escape permanently from the Russian sphere of influence and became a really independent state.[60] In this framework Georgia and Azerbaijan implied that they wanted a NATO or a NATO member’s military base in their country, while there has been Russian soldiers in Armenia.
These policies increased the gap between Armenian policies and the Western Block’s policies in the Caspian region including Turkey, Israel and the US. Apart from the problems in the external relations, the economic depression caused a social turmoil in the country and the politicians accused the foreigners for all these problems. Under these circumstances the mistrust and fears among the Armenians dramatically increased towards the foreign powers and the fears became a paranoia, which as will be seen below, ultimately stroke the minorities, namely Jewish, Azerbaijanis etc.

e. Israel-Turkey Friendship’s Impact on Armenia

Apart from the mistrust towards the West and isolated Armenian foreign policy, one of the most important factors caused anti-Semitic attitudes and sceptic Israel policy in Armenia has been Israel’s friendly relations with Turkey and Azerbaijan, both of which are Armenia’s traditional enemies. As Inbar puts it the relations between Israel and Turkey greatly expanded and reached an unprecedented degree of closeness.[61] Turkey upgraded its diplomatic relations with Israel to ambassador level at the end of 1991 and then the two states have exchanged many high – level state visits and bilateral trade has grown significantly. As a cooperation of two pro-American democracies of the Middle East Turkey-Israel partnership has become an important factor in the region. Not only the Arab states[62], but also Greece, Southern Cyprus, Iran[63] and Armenia panicked and perceived the ‘alliance’ as a threat for their security.[64] For the radical Armenians the ‘alliance’ targeted Armenia. Haik Marcar for instance said: ‘Israel is now is in bed with Turkey, the mortal enemy of Armenia’.[65] As a matter of fact that Israel was trying to counter-balance Syria and other Arab states in the Palestine problem while Turkey was making efforts to find a strategic partner against the Syria, which supported the PKK terrorism by providing a safe haven to its leader and bases, and logistical support for its armed operations against Turkey. Naturally there were more reasons for such a sensitive partnership yet none of the partners perceived the ‘entente’ against Armenia or Greece. Despite this, the strategic Turkish-Israeli alignment ‘reinforced’ Erivan, Tehran and Athena partnership. Later Syria and the Greek Cyprus joined the Armenia-Iran-Greece co-operation.[66] It is understandable that the Israeli-Turkish co-operation was a great disappointment for the radical Armenians and it can be said that Turkish-Israeli co-operation has played a crucial role in Armenia’s search for co-operation with the above mentioned states half of which are in the United States’ Terrorist States List. In addition, Armenians argued that Turkey-Israel relations have shaped Israel’s position regarding the Armenia issue and because of this Israel has never given support to the Armenian cause. Tsoluk Mornjian, Armeni’s Consul-General in Jerusalem clearly expressed the official Armenian view:

‘I understand Israel’s position for the time being. Turkey is very strategic ally for Israel, especially because of Syria (which borders, and is hostile to, both countries)’.[67]

In brief, while Turkey has extremely good relations with Israel and the United States, Armenia has developed military and political co-operations with Israel’s enemies and rivals like Syria and Iran, and all these choice has affected Armenia’s attitude towards Israel and the Jews in general, including the Jewish minority in Armenia. However at the next stage, Armenia’s good relations with Iran and Syria as a reaction to Israel-Turkey close ties worsened Armenia-Israel relations and Israel openly declared that ‘one of the reasons for the frozen relations is Iran-Armenia political and military co-operation’.[68]

f. Azerbaijani Oil, Israel and Jewish Lobby: Israel-Turkey and Azerbaijan Block?

Both sides have always sympathised with each other and had good relations since the independence of Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan in particular has given enormous importance to develop close ties with Israel.[69] All Azerbaijani Prime Ministers have not allowed any anti-Semitic movement in their country and opposed Iranian type fundamentalism. Israel has also seen Azerbaijan as a potential partner with Turkey. One of the most import factors determined Israel’s Caucasus policy has been the Caspian oil in the last decade. Israel who does not have good relations with the Arab states and Iran has seen the Azerbaijani oil and the natural gas in the other Turkish republics namely Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan as an opportunity to lessen its dependency in the energy sector. Moreover, Israel has perceived the rise of the Muslim and Turkish republics as important actors in international arena as an opportunity to balance the other Muslim states and legitimate itself in world politics by getting support of Turkish Muslims against Iranians and Arabs. Furthermore the American Jewish businessmen viewed the area with the commercial considerations. For the American Jewish businessmen Azerbaijan would be ‘another Kuwait’ and it was a golden opportunity for the American petroleum companies. To get the biggest portion from this market, good relations with Azerbaijan, Armenia’s archenemy, was essential. Apart from these factors Armenia as a small and isolated state with no natural resource or industry can provide any cooperation opportunity to Israel and the American Jews. Because of these factors, the American Jewish lobby has made enormous efforts in the name of Azerbaijan. The efforts by some Jewish groups in the United States (US) to repeal Section 907 of US foreign assistance legislation that prohibits most the US aid to Azerbaijan are significant. In 1992, the well-financed Armenian lobby in the Congress had succeeded in inserting Section 907 into the Freedom Support Act. That provision prohibited direct U.S. Government assistance to the government of Azerbaijan and in effect had labelled Azerbaijan the aggressor although the Armenian forces still occupy more than 20 per cent of the Azerbaijani territories. The 11 Jewish organisations in the United States in Autumn 2001 declared that they were against the Section 907.[70] The Jewish lobby groups clearly argued that Azerbaijan is an important partner for Israel, the US and the West and must be supported by the US.[71] Thanks to the Jewish organisations’ and Turkey’s efforts the US Congressmen were convinced, and the Section 907 was repealed. However this was perceived as a Turkish-Jewish conspiracy against Armenia and led nationalist Armenians to blame the local Jews, whom they see as representatives of Israel.[72]

Apart from the Jewish lobby and oil policies, Israel has seen Azerbaijan as an important actor in the Caucasus against Iran and the Russian policies. In the early years (Elcibey Period) Azerbaijan had troubles with Iran and searched good relations with Israel. According to Elcibey Israel could help Azerbaijan in Karabakh problem by convincing the Americans to stop the Armenians. Though some researchers, like Jane Hunter, claimed Israel sent arms to Azerbaijan to use against Armenians,[73] it can be said that Israel avoided from directly involving Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict. For the Armenians, Turkey has encouraged Israel to support Azerbaijan[74] yet it can be argued that such an argument would be simplification of the case and this strategy seems Israel’s own choice.
It also should be noted that Israel further makes efforts to develop its relations with another regional state, Georgia. Israel and Georgia signed many co-operation agreement and Israel now is one of the most leading foreign investors in Georgia[75] while Turkey is Georgia’s the biggest trade partner.[76] It is also a well known fact that Israel pays extra attention not to contradict with the American interests in the region.[77] Considered the United States’ political support for Georgia, Israel’s ‘friendly’ Georgian policy can be understood more easily. As a result of their importance for Israel have embassies in Tbilisi and Baku while the Israeli ambassador to Tbilisi is at charge for the affairs concerning Armenia.[78]
However Turkey’s and Israel’s good relations with Georgia and Azerbaijan cause conspiracy theories in Yerevan, and the radical Armenians argue that the Jews play the main role in this ‘anti-Armenian great strategy’.[79] As a matter of fact that Israel’s interest regarding to Azerbaijan and Georgia should not be interpreted as an anti-Armenian policy because Azerbaijan and Georgia’s commercial and political potentials cannot be compared with the Armenia’s potential.

g. Israel’s Approach to the Armenian Allegations

One of the formidable obstacles in Jewish-Armenian and Israel-Armenia relations is Israel’s attitude towards the Armenian anti-Turkish claims. As expected for the Armenians, Israel is the most important state in convincing the world to the ‘Armenian genocide claims’ and as Asbarez pointed out, for the Armenians, the importance of the recognition of the Armenian political claims by the Jews, and more importantly by Israel, cannot be overstated.[80] Therefore, the Armenian international campaign especially has focused on Israel and the Jews.[81] However Israel has consistently refrained from acknowledging the Armenian claims. Israel even in the recent years officially declared that the 1915 Relocation and the following inter-communal clashes couldn’t be called ‘genocide’ or ‘holocaust’. Government representatives have never participated in the memorial assemblies held by the Armenians every year on 24 April to commemorate the ‘genocide’.[82]

In last two decades four significant events show Israel’s opposed position against the Armenian arguments. First of all in 1978 the screening of a pro-Armenian film about the Armenian quarter in Jerusalem was cancelled and the film has never been shown since that time because the Israeli authorities thought that the film was a political and a propaganda material. As a matter of fact that Israeli Broadcasting Authority (IBA) had requested a documentary on the historical Armenian quarter in the city. However, though the film was supposed to be about the Armenian quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem, Michael Arlen, director of the film, had focused on the 1915 Armenian Relocation and had accused the Turkish people. In another word, Arlen was repeating the well known Armenian political claims instead of concentrating on the Armenian quarter of Jerusalem. Naturally the IBA refused to broadcast the film. In convincing the IBA the Turkish Jews and the Jews had emigrated from Turkey to Israel played a significant role. Jews in Turkey argued that the documentary was a ‘one-sided political propaganda film’.
In 1982, when some Armenian researchers aimed to participate in an international conference on the subject of the Holocaust and Genocide in Tel Aviv (Israel), the Israeli Government saw this attempt as a part of the politically motivated propaganda campaign. For the Israeli Foreign Ministry, the Armenians were trying to manipulate the public opinion by using the conference in Israel. As a result the Foreign Ministry rejected the Armenian applications and tried to limit the subjects regarding the Armenian claims. However the Armenian applicants started an international campaign against Israel and blamed the Israeli Government of damaging academic freedom.[83]
The third significant development occurred at the end of September 1989 when some American senators mainly led by the Armenian and Greek lobby proposed a bill in the American Senate Judiciary Committee to commemorate the so-called ‘Armenian genocide’ indicating a memorial day in the American calendar. As a matter of fact that the United States House of Representatives had previously rejected two similar attempts in 1985 and in 1987.[84] In the previous cases the US Presidents, the Government and the Congress had clearly showed that the US does not agree with the radical Armenians and never recognised such political claims. Turkey as expected condemned the attempt, yet the campaign against the bill was mainly organised by the Turkish Jews. The Chief Rabbi of Turkey sent a personal letter to every member of the US Senate and said ‘We recognise the tragedy which befell both the Turks and Armenians ... but we cannot accept the definition of “genocide”. The baseless charge harms us just as it harms our Turkish countrymen.’[85] The Chief Rabbi, moreover, pointed out that the Turks were tolerant towards the minorities in the Ottoman and Republican periods. However, the Turkish Jews and the official Turkish representatives were not able to affect the balance in the Congress as the Armenian and Greek lobbies were strong enough to manipulate the other senators for such a bill. Israel’s and the Jewish lobby in this context played a vital role by working behind scenes.[86] The American Jews officially did not accept their efforts in preventing the Armenian bill, because they did not want to alienate their relations with the American Armenians. Though Israeli diplomats denied such an initiative, Ha’aretz, the respected Hebrew daily, on 17 October 1989 declared that the Jews and Israeli diplomats worked to prevent the commemoration. Similarly The Jerusalem Post later wrote ‘the Israeli Embassy in Washington actively lobbied to block a US congressional measure to commemorate the Armenian events. In that instance, the Foreign Ministry chided embassy officials for their excessive involvement…’[87] Not only the Israeli and Turkish lobbies but also the American administration was against the bill and another Armenian attempt also failed, and this once more underscored that the Turkish and Jewish have a similar view on the issue.

Another case showing the Israeli attitude about the Armenian allegations was witnessed in 1990. IBA cancelled screening another pro-Armenian documentary called ‘Journey to Armenia’ in 1990. As IBA confirmed 100.000 Turkey immigrant Jews sent protest letter to the institution. In all these letters the Turkey Jews argued that the Ottoman Empire protected the Jewish minority for the ages and the Turkish people have been outstanding in its humane and tolerant treatment of its Jewish minority for 500 years following the Expulsion of the Jews from Spain and saved masses of Jews from massacre. In this framework the letters further argued a massacre against the Armenians or any other ethnic group cannot be expected. A member of the IBA Board of Directors clearly said that the documentary is a propaganda film:

‘The film contains propaganda and injury to part of the public, because a Holocaust happened only to part of the public, because a Holocaust happened only to the Jewish people’.[88]

‘We Reject the Armenian Attempts’

Israel in the 1970s and 1980s opposed the Armenian attempts to draw similarities between Holocaust and 1915 Relocation event, yet it made extreme efforts not to alienate the Armenians. Therefore all Israeli efforts to prevent the Armenians were secret and ‘behind the curtain’.[89] Naturally there has been a pro-Armenian group in Israel as well and this group does not share the official policy. However the pro-Armenian politicians are not strong enough to shift the official Israeli position and does not reflect the official view. On the other hand the fragile political structure and coalition system allows the marginal groups to enter the cabinet. For instance Yossi Sarid’s, Israel’s Education Minister, efforts resulted in including some Armenian claims in the national curriculum. Similarly Yossi Beilin, then Deputy Foreign Minister, had given support to the radical Armenians in April 1994. In the following years two Israeli ministers expressed their sympathy for the Armenian argument. However David Levy, the Israeli Foreign Minister, declared that the Israeli position regarding the issue was the same and the two minister’s statements on the issue in no way reflected the Israeli Government’s position, expressing his wish to maintain the already excellent relations with Turkey on every level. David Levy reiterated in his letter to his Turkish counterpart İsmail Cem that the Israeli government was clinging to its policy that the Armenian allegations should be discussed by historians, not by politicians or diplomats.[90]
In recent years the Israeli government’s attitude vis-à-vis Turkish and Armenians has changed and Israel has not hesitate to declare its opposition to the Armenian claims. The Nobel Peace Prize Awarded Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres for example declared that the Armenian political claims are meaningless.[91]
Peres in his speech in April left no doubt about that Israel has a similar view with the Turkish government on the question of the 1915 Relocation, saying that the fate of the Armenians in Anatolia was a ‘tragedy’, not a genocide.[92] Peres further continued:

‘Armenian allegations are meaningless… We reject attempts to create a similarity between the Holocaust and the Armenian allegations. Nothing similar to the Holocaust occurred. It is a tragedy what the Armenians went through but not a genocide... Israel should not determine a historical or philosophical position on the Armenian issue. If we have to determine a position, it should be done with great care not to distort the historical realities.’[93] (Emphasis added, s.l.)

Apart from the Armenian claims issue Peres underscored the good relations between the Turkish and Jewish peoples, and made special note of the esteem in which Turkey is held by the Jewish lobby in Washington. Peres having claimed ‘Turkey and Israel are in the same boat and Turkey-Israel relations are extremely good, said that he hoped the lobby would continue to lend support to Turkish causes.[94] Peres’ statement caused great reaction among the radical Armenians; The Asbarez, a periodical of a radical Armenian political group, labelled Peres and Israel as ‘denier’.[95] Haig Boyodjian from the same periodical protested Israel and further said ‘we Armenians in turn reject Israeli efforts at denying the reality of another genocide preceding theirs’.[96]

Memorial Day: No Way to the Armenian Allegations

In addition to Shimon Peres’ statements the First Holocaust Memorial Day in Britain also provided clear proofs for the Jewish stance on the issue of the Armenian attempts to create parallel between the 1915 events and the Jewish Holocaust. When the British government with the BBC organised a Holocaust Memorial Day, the Armenian lobbying groups saw this as an opportunity although the focus of the day was solely the events in the World War Two. In spite of this the Armenian political groups accused the British government and claimed that the British simply ignored the Armenians. Nevertheless they applied to join the day as the ‘victims’ of, as they called, a genocide. As expected the Armenian application was turned down by the British Government and the BBC and the Armenian groups were informed by the Home Office that the memorial ceremonies were designed for the Holocaust only.[97] The representatives of the British Government frequently declared that the United Kingdom had never recognised the 1915 events as ‘genocide’ and its stance regarding the Armenian allegations remained the same.[98] Not only the British but also the Jewish people and Israel were unhappy with the Armenian political attempts. As discussed Shimon Peres clearly refused the Armenian claims while the British Jewish never supported the Armenian attempt. Turkey’s Jewish community also declared that inclusion of other ‘so-called genocides’ in the commemoration of Holocaust Memorial Day in Britain would be disrespectful to the Jews killed by the Nazis.[99]

Israel: ‘No Parallels Between Holocaust and the 1915 Events’

As the examples demonstrated that Israel has made it clear its position about the Armenian allegations and officially and clearly rejected all Armenian attempts to present the 1915 Relocation as ‘genocide’. The most recent example came from the Israeli Ambassador to Armenian Rivka Kohen. Mrs. Kohen on 7 February 2002, during a press conference in Yerevan said that the Israeli people and government are sorry for the both sides of the tragic events of 1915, but she refused to draw any parallels between the 1915 events and Holocaust. Rivka Kohen implied that the 1915 events couldn’t be considered as ‘genocide’ because the mass killings in these events were not planned and the Turkish Government had no intention to destroy a nation or a group of people. As a well-known fact many people from the Armenian and Muslim groups had lost their life in these events. She further argued that Holocaust is unique:

‘Holocaust was a unique phenomenon, since it had always planned and aimed to destroy the whole nation. At this stage nothing should be compared with Holocaust.’[100]

The Armenian reaction to Kohen’s comment was bitter: First, Dzyunik Agadzhanyian from the Armenian Foreign Ministry said Kohen’s statements were “unusual and sad”:

‘It is sad that the political leadership of the nation which went through the Holocaust continues to adhere to such position, based on unclear political reasons’.[101]

Then, the Armenian Aryan party urged persona non grata status for the Israeli Ambassador. For the Aryan party, Kohen’s “pro-Turkish” statement was “cynical and interference in Armenia’s internal affairs”. Aryan’s press release declared Israel as “genocide denier” and claimed that Israel helps Turkey and Azerbaijan against Armenia.[102] After an anti-Israel campaign, Armenian Foreign Ministry had to change its ‘moderate’ position. On 15 February Dzyunik Agadzhanyan the spokeswoman for the Armenian Foreign Ministry gave an interview to the Armenian press and criticised Kohen and Israeli policy regarding the Armenian issue. Agadzhanyan told the reporter that the Armenian Foreign Minister strongly denounced Israeli Ambassador’s remarks:

‘Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanyan has unequivocally negatively assessed Ambassador Kohen’s statement. Earlier the Armenian Foreign Ministry also negatively assessed a similar statement by Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres. This time the Armenian foreign minister has again taken serious steps to express his dissatisfaction… It is really regrettable that Israeli diplomacy sticks to such a position, which stems from certain political considerations…’[103]

After the statement Armenian Foreign Ministry issued a note of protest to Israel over the Ambassador’s remarks[104] and the Ministry cancelled Oskanian’s official visit to Israel which had been planned before the Ambassador crisis as Ms. Ashjain said ‘at this moment no visit on the level of foreign affairs minister is planned to Israel, and no delegation is expected from Israel at this moment in Armenia.’[105] As expected Israel did not accept the accusations and Israeli Foreign Ministry released its answer to the Armenian note of protest:

‘As Jews and Israelis we are sorry for the killings and tragedies that took place particularly in 1915-16. We understand the outbursts of the feelings of both sides (Turks and Armenians - s.l.), know that there were many victims and realize the suffering of Armenia nation. The examination of this theme requires discussions with participation of large communities of society and dialogue of historians, which will be based on facts and proofs.’[106]

As anticipated this reply did not satisfy the Armenians and the Armenian press blamed Israel and accused the Israeli Foreign Ministry of ‘playing dirty political games’[107] In conclusion, Israel’s attitude regarding the Armenian allegation has deeply affected the relation between both states; on the one hand Armenia has insisted on its allegations and accused Turkey and Israel for their positions, on the other it has criticized Turks and Israelis for not to develop good relations with Armenia.
To conclude, the anti-Semitic attitudes among the Armenians, and the Armenian scepticism about Israel and the Jews are apparent. One of the reasons for this is obviously the historical thorny relations between the Armenians and the Jewish communities and the historically good relations between the Turkish and the Jewish peoples. However, much of the Armenian anti-Semitism and Armenian Jewish scepticism stems from the relatively good relations Israel, and the United States currently have with Turkey and Azerbaijan. According to the American, European and Israeli policy makers the priorities in the region are stability and the security. The energy routes are also important for these countries. The ‘unreliable states’ of the region, like Syria, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan, are sources of conflict and the Western world needs partners to stabilise the region and to maintain the security of the energy routes. Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan in this framework provide the co-operation the West needs. On the other hand, Armenia’s aggressive foreign policy has stirred up the regional states; Armenia first of all supported the separatist Armenians in Nagorna Karabagh and occupied 20 percent of the Azerbaijani territories

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