The Jerusalem Post: Armenian-Israeli relations: myth or reality ?

The Jerusalem Post has published an article titled 'Armenian-Israeli relations : myth or reality?' by Arye Gut.

The article reads that Armenia and Israel will further develop friendly relations, foreign ministers of both countries agreed at a meeting in Yerevan on July 25,2017 informed Panarmenian agency.

"At the meeting, Armenian foreign policy chief Edward Nalbandian and Israeli minister for regional cooperation Tzachi Hanegbi discussed bilateral relations, as well as urgent regional and international problems.At the end of the meeting, Nalbandian detailed Hanegbi on the recent developments surrounding the Nagorno Karabakh conflict, as well as Armenia and the OSCE Minsk Group's efforts to put the peaceful negotiations back on track.

The author asks, 'why now Armenia decided to establish relations with Israel, why for more than 25 years Armenia has excellent even fraternal relations with fundamentalist Iran and relations with the State of Israel leave much to be desired?'

"It is historical fact that since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and the newly independent Azerbaijan in 1991, the relationship has improved consistently and now these relations have strategic character. At present time, 65 percent of the oil consumed in Israel comes from Azerbaijan, a crucial and paramount client for Israeli high-tech industries. Meanwhile, the Armenian government has established close relations with the Iranian mullahs," the article reads.

"As Maxim Gauin and Aleksander Murinson have written the relations between Israel and Azerbaijan have improved, anti-Semitic diatribes appear more regularly in Armenian domestic and diaspora publications, in which Israel and Jews are vilified and demonized.

"Armenia has become a mono-ethnic country, thriving on a daily diet of virulent nationalism bordering on racism. Anti-Semitism in Armenia is an unfortunate and little-acknowledged fact. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the country’s Jewish minority and Jewish heritage—the products of a more tolerant time—have shrunk dramatically. The end of Soviet rule removed constraint, and anti-Semitic attacks rose dramatically. That, and Armenia’s ongoing economic collapse, drive the Jews of Armenia to flee the country. In just 20 years, Armenian Jewish population has shrunk from more than 5,000 to just a few hundred.

"In addition, the cultural violence has continued. Anti-Semitic books are published and TV programs aired, and the Holocaust memorial in the capital of Yerevan has been repeatedly defaced. Of course, many countries have suffered such unfortunate incidents, the product of an ignorant populace. However, in Armenia such views have been espoused even by mainstream politicians and media personalities.

"The dwindling Jewish community in Armenia has complained about these attacks—the 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 author of the article says.

According to the article, the Anti-Defamation League’s latest survey in June 2014 showed that the rate of anti-Semitism in Armenia (at 58 percent) 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. 

"After the April events of 2016 - according to the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense, during a rapid counter-offensive, the Armenian side's front defense line was broken in multiple places and several strategic heights and inhabited places were retaken - we actually have seen anti-Israeli hysteria and antisemitism in Armenia, even in Israel the Armenian community held rallies against the Azerbaijani-Israeli partnership. Concerning the criticism of Armenia, I would say that Azerbaijan and Israel themselves choose their friends and partners, and these countries themselves determine the level of strategic cooperation in the military-technical field. Moreover, no one has the right to interfere with it. Azerbaijan does not ask that there are military bases of the third state on the territory of Armenia and what military assistance this country provides to the Republic of Armenia. Absolutely clear, Armenia does not have independent defence strategy as well as military procurement policy. Armenia is a member of Collective Security Treaty Organization and bilateral agreement on establishment of joint military union with Russia deprives Armenia from all tenets of having independent armed forces.

"Israel, which is one of the main suppliers of weapons to Azerbaijan, can sell arms to Armenia. The Deputy Foreign Minister of Armenia Shavarsh Kocharyan made such a statement after the official visit of the Minister of Regional Cooperation of Israel Tsakhi Hanegbi to Armenia. I believe that the possible military cooperation between Israel and Armenia are nothing more than a political bluff. In order to supply the weapons to Armenia, Israel should have strategic relations with this country, and really these relations on zero level. Armenia does not have financial means to make serious defence procurement contracts with Israeli companies. From commercial point of view, Armenia does not promise any perspective. Armenia, as a subsidy and donation, acquires Russian military equipment and technology. Isolated in the South Caucasus region, Armenia, due to the occupation of the Azerbaijani lands, has remained largely outside the main geopolitical and geo-economic projects associated with the gas and oil resources of the Caspian Sea. It is an indisputable fact that Armenia is the most dependent and poor country in the South Caucasus. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Armenia has been completely tied up and depends on Russia's external political and economic ambitions. Armenia, a small country with a population of 1.5 million, has been in the position of geopolitical isolation in recent years.
"It is even more absurd when you consider the current official ideology in Armenia: The Republican Party, which has ruled since 1998, openly claims its fidelity to antisemit and fascist Garegin Nzhdeh (1886-1955), a leader of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation. It is worth emphasizing that the forces of some marginal political groups do not support the cult of these bloodthirsty fascists and anti-Semites, behind these actions is the state, or rather the criminal terrorist leadership of the modern Republic of Armenia. The fact that Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan and former Defense Minister Seyran Ohanyan once again confirm that they consider themselves real and genuine heirs of the Armenian fascist and anti-Semite Nzhdeh in the opening ceremony of the monument to the fascist and anti-Semite, General Garegin Nzhdeh," the article reads
The article further notes that the history has never forgotten the cruelty of a 20,000-strong Armenian legion as part of the Wehrmacht in the WW II.

"The aim of the Armenian legion led by nationalist commander Dro and Nzdeh was to persecute and annihilate thousands Jews and others disliked by the German army. At the same time, the Armenian legion organized death marches at concentration camps. We have a lot of evidence of the Armenian units` involvement in genocide of Jews, particularly Dro's report of about the operation in Western Crimea. From November 16 to December 15, 1941, some 17,645 Jews, 2,504 Karaims, 824 Gypsies and 212 partisans were executed. Simferopol, Eupatoria, Alushta, Karasubazar, Kerch, Feodosia and other regions of Western Crimea were cleaned of Jews. A strong cult is today created around Dro and Nzhdeh in Armenia, which is considered a close ally of Russia. In honor of them, they mint coins, shoot feature and documentary films. A square is named after Garegin Nzhdeh and monument of Garagin Nzdeh is created and opened in the heart of Armenian capital. Let`s underline: a cult cannot be created by some marginal political groups – it is the government that stands behind these acts.

"Armenia, like Iran, is constantly annoyed by the strong strategic partnership of Israel and Azerbaijan. In order to harm excellent bilateral relations with Azerbaijan, including in the field of defence and undermining positive public perception of Israel in Azerbaijani society, Armenia may seek via some unofficial channels to acquire symbolic amount of Israeli military equipment. Hypothetically speaking, Armenia may get some assault rifles or snipers, equip 5-10 soldiers with this weaponry in the line of contact, and create illusive image as if Israeli made lethal weapons have been brought into the armament of Armenian forces. Via social networks and fake news media may also try distributes this info further. Exactly same propaganda campaign was the case with UK and French made sniper rifles acquired via fake and illegal company established in France. Therefore, Israel and Azerbaijan must exert additional attentiveness over this issue knowing such ill intentions of Armenia," the article says.

"In addition, Armenia, the aggressor, illegally occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan, including Nagorno-Karabakh and seven adjacent districts. This caused a refugee crisis numbering nearly 1 million innocent Azerbaijanis, as they attempted to ethnically cleanse the region. The most terrible and immoral fact is that the ideologues, organizers and perpetrators of the atrocities and barbarities of the Khojaly act of genocide - the current Prime Minister of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan, the former Defense Minister of Armenia Seyran Ohanyan, and the former Armenian President Robert Kocharian and others continue to occupy high-ranking positions in Armenia today.

"Khojaly, a town in the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, still occupied today by the separatist and terrorist Armenian regime was home to nearly 25,000 Azerbaijanis. On the eve of February 25, 1992 Armenian armed forces began the final takeover of the area. The terrified and unarmed population, including woman and children, were slaughtered. Because of the atrocities of the Armenian armed forces, 613people have been killed and 487 people were crippled. The elderly, children and women who have been captured were subjected to unprecedented torture, abuse and humiliation…incidentally atrocities similar to that of ISIS today. Khojaly was not only directed against the Azerbaijani people. It is clearly, a crime against humanity.

"Today, this remains a threat to peace and security in the South Caucasus region. Encouraged by intense Armenian lobbying efforts in the U.S. and other key nations, as well as by strong and ongoing Russian military, economic, and political aid, Armenia has ignored four United Nations Security Council resolutions associated with the occupation of Azerbaijani lands and treatment of civilians.

"No country in Eurasia has closer or warmer ties with Israel than Azerbaijan. The relationship between the two countries is particularly surprising because Azerbaijan is a majority- Muslim secular country. However, the reasons for this close relationship lie in the longstanding friendship between Azerbaijanis and Jews living in Azerbaijan. Unlike many cultures, Azerbaijanis have never viewed Jews as foreign or alien. Israelis with roots in Azerbaijan are doing a great deal to foster the emerging economic and even geopolitical cooperation between Azerbaijan and Israel.

"Israel has always been attracted to Azerbaijan, not only because there is no anti-Semitism in that country but also because Baku has repeatedly denounced manifestations of anti-Semitism elsewhere. It is especially true given the dramatic and continuing expansion of economic ties, with Israel purchasing Azerbaijani petroleum and investing in Azerbaijani agriculture and industry and Azerbaijan interested in expanding ties in ecology, telecommunications, natural resources, and the like. In addition, both sides are promoting educational and cultural exchanges," the article says.

According to it, Israeli defense companies were also involved in the building of Azerbaijan military industry. Azerbaijan is a serious partner of Israel in the defence procurement field. According to open source information defence contracts between Israel and Azerbaijan amount to 5 billion USD. In 2012, a $1.6 billion transaction involving the sale of weapons by Israel Aerospace Industries to Azerbaijan was reported. Over the past three years, Azerbaijan has become an even more significant destination for Israeli arms exports. Even there is news that Azerbaijan seeks opportunities to acquire Iron Dome system.

"Armenian Report website openly propagandizes anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism, and even calls for the destruction of the State of Israel. Look at what they write. "We need to work even more closely with Iran, with Arab militant groups and organizations that are determined against Israel. Armenian government should actively involve Armenians living in the Middle East who have close ties with Hezbollah, the Islamic Jihad, Hamas, especially with the Izzadin al-Qasam Brigades. Our Armenian Diaspora organizations in the Middle East need to start financing these organizations that promise to destroy Israel" - written Armenian Report. 

"I think the comments here are superfluous. After this, can we indifferently look how in modern Armenia the Armenian fascist and anti-Semite are glorified as a national hero, and after that, Armenians teach us the Israelis of conscience, morality and justice ?! And after that, some "Jewish" leaders of Armenia will prove to me that there is no anti-Semitism and hatred towards Jews in Armenia.

"There is also no guarantee that Armenia may not transfer weapons acquired from Israel to Iran and Hezbollah. There is well established line in this field between Iran and Armenia. According to Wikileaks Armenia has acquired substantial number of anti-tank missiles from Bulgaria. Couple of months later by these missiles American Abrahams tanks was hit in Iraq by Shia militia. While checking the code of missiles it has been identified that they originate from Bulgaria and ended up in Armenia. That time State Department sent a very strong note of protest to Armenia. Even Hillary Clinton in the capacity of State Secretary wrote a strong letter of protest to Armenian President and demanded explanation.

"At the same time, Armenian mass media disseminate false information about Armenia purchasing SPIKE missiles. Hypothetically speaking Armenia may try to procure SPIKE missiles from Israel and then transfer these weapons to Iran and they may end up in the hand of Hizbullah. First of all, as an element of physiological pressure Hezbollah may use it against Israeli soldiers and tanks. Second part of this risk is associated with transfer of military technology. Any military sales to Armenia means that prototype of these weapons will soon be made by arch enemy of Israel- Iran and competitor of Israel in the defence market- Russia," says the article.

"As an Israeli citizen, I can say proudly that the leadership of Azerbaijan shows a great degree of deference and partnership to the Jewish community. Under the patronage of President Ilham Aliyev, two synagogues and the largest Jewish educational center in the South Caucasus have been built. Plans are in place for the first Azerbaijani Jewish museum, which will be the first Jewish museum in the South Caucasus," Arye Gut says.

"If one wonders how the majority Muslim country of Azerbaijan  came to such a rich alliance with Israel today, one need look no further than the Red Village, a tiny river conclave in the mountainous region of Quba. There, for centuries, a Jewish community has thrived amid a Muslim population. The ancient town of Krasnaya Sloboda (Quba) in northern Azerbaijan, said to be the only all-Jewish town outside of Israel, is the pride of Azerbaijan. In this region, Jewish and Muslim Azerbaijanis have been living harmoniously for centuries."

Gut says in the article that despite Armenia’s ethnic cleansing and aggression toward Azerbaijan, which includes occupation of 20% of its territories and one million refugees and internally displaced people, Azerbaijan is a true model of inter-civilizational, intercultural and interfaith dialogue. Tolerance and multiculturalism are key foundations of the Azerbaijani society. Azerbaijan has made a concerted effort to create and foster the necessary political and social conditions for developing and strengthening the country’s traditions of multiculturalism and tolerance.

"The State of Israel supports the fair position of Azerbaijan - it actively supports the territorial integrity of the country and calls for resolving the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict within the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. For more than 25 years, the occupation of Azerbaijani territories by Armenia has continued. As a result of this aggression, there are 1 million refugees in the country. In this complex geopolitical situation, support for Azerbaijan's fair position on the part of such an important strategic partner and strong geopolitical actor in the Middle East as the State of Israel is very necessary and very important for the Republic of Azerbaijan," the article reads.

"President Ilham Aliyev and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opened a new page in strengthening relations between the countries and peoples. Azerbaijan is a magnificent and brilliant example of tolerance and mutual respect. Mutual respect, which was manifested in Azerbaijan to Jews for 2600 years, the excellent attitude towards them further strengthens the sympathy for Azerbaijan and admiration for Azerbaijan. Common values and a shared history permeate the modern relationship. Both countries are enriched by the human connections and a determination to live in diverse and religiously tolerant societies. Time and again, Azerbaijan has demonstrated that harmony is possible, and issues can be resolved without resorting to violence or strife. Furthermore, it is evident and clear that Jews and Muslims in Azerbaijan have peacefully coexisted as brothers – and have become forever linked through common history and destiny. I can say with pride that unlike many so-called civilized countries and peoples of Europe, Azerbaijanis never betrayed Jews, and Jews never betrayed Azerbaijanis," the article concludes.

Arye Gut is an Israeli political analyst.


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