WHAT IS HAPPENING IN ARTSAKH?
Artsakh (also known as Nagorno-Karabakh) is a small swath of land located on the eastern end of the Armenian highlands. It is one of the cradles of Armenian civilization, and has been continuously inhabited by Indigenous Armenians for over 2,000 years. Successive Armenian kingdoms in ancient and medieval times encompassed Artsakh, and the region overflows with Armenian culture and heritage.
Under Soviet rule, it was arbitrarily allocated to the Azerbaijani SSR in spite of the local ethnic Armenian majority. In the 70 years of Soviet rule, Artsakh's Armenian population campaigned for the region to be transferred to Armenian sovereignty, unsuccessfully. When they voted to be transferred in 1988, they were met with pogroms waged by Azerbaijanis.
When the USSR collapsed, a war erupted between Armenia and Azerbaijan, a war initiated by Azerbaijan and ultimately lost by Azerbaijan. Artsakh was incorporated into Armenian territory in 1994. In recent years, Azerbaijan, backed by Turkey, Israel and Pakistan, as well as other countries, promised that it would take back Artsakh by force. In 2020, it launched a large-scale war which saw Azerbaijani forces seize large swathes of territory within Artsakh. In December 2022, Azerbaijan implemented a blockade against the civilian population of Artsakh, blocking the only road connecting Artsakh to Armenia and allowing for essential goods to enter the territory. By August 2023, malnutrition rates had skyrocketed and a person had died of starvation, while access to water and electricity was rudimentary.
Finally, on September 19, 2023, Azerbaijan launched another major ‘operation’ which saw Armenian villages in Artsakh be bombed and targeted. Local forces were overpowered and quickly surrendered and agreed to disband. Azerbaijan had successfully waged an illegal war of aggression and is set to start exercising sovereignty over the territory. Within days, over 100,000 ethnic Armenians have fled Artsakh in an act of ethnic cleansing perpetrated by the Azerbaijani regime, for the Azerbaijani regime.
INTERSECTION BETWEEN ANTISEMITISM AND ARMENOPHOBIA
Antisemitism is hostility, prejudice, and/or discrimination against Jews. Armenophobia is hostility, prejudice, and/or discrimination toward Armenians.
Believe it or not, Armenophobia and antisemitism are strongly interrelated.
Prior to the Armenian Genocide, Turks saw Armenians as a small, privileged, powerful, wealthy minority who occupied “too much space” in a number of influential spaces. To this day, Armenians are accused of fabricating or manipulating history for political gain. Those familiar with antisemitism should recognize this rhetoric all too well.
Under the Ottoman Empire, both Jews and Armenians were “dhimmis,” or second-class citizens subject to heavy taxation and other discriminatory policies. Just as the Arab world sees the State of Israel as a threat to pan-Arab hegemony, the Turkic states see Armenia as a threat to pan-Turkic hegemony.
There is an alleged 1939 quote attributed to Hitler, in which he references the Armenian Genocide as justification for the Holocaust: “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?" While scholars debate the veracity of the quote, we know for a fact that the Turkish policies during the Armenian Genocide influenced Hitler’s Final Solution.
Antisemitism, of course, exists in Armenia, as it exists everywhere in the world, though there is not a history of Armenian persecution of Jews. Calculated Azerbaijani propaganda campaigns aimed at Jews and Israel have long exploited instances of Armenian antisemitism to foster distrust, fear, and resentment.
Today, Armenians and Jews are the two most targeted groups in Turkish media.
UNDERSTANDING THE ISRAEL-AZERBAIJAN RELATIONSHIP
Israel and Azerbaijan have developed a close relationship over the past several years based on a number of issues:
(1) Azerbaijan is not only an enemy to Iran, but also borders Iran, which enables Israel to carry out intelligence operations against Iran. For decades, Iran has explicitly threatened genocide against the State of Israel
(2) Israel, which is surrounded by enemy states, fears antagonizing Turkey. In fact, this is why Israel has failed to officially recognize the Armenian Genocide, despite numerous politicians pushing for its recognition
(3) Israel is surrounded by enemy states with oil, but Israel itself has no oil. As such, Israel obtains about 40 percent of its oil from Azerbaijan
(4) Azerbaijan has carried out a relentless pro-Azerbaijan and anti-Armenia propaganda campaign, including outright intimidation, targeting Israeli journalists and politicians
This has all culminated in a situation in which Azerbaijan imported 69 percent of its arms from Israel between 2016-2020. These arms have been used to carry out a genocidal campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Armenian population.
ARMENIANS AND ZIONISM
Between 1894 and 1897, 80,000-300,000 Armenians were brutally slaughtered in the Ottoman Empire in a series of massacres known as the Hamidian Massacres. Rightfully, the Hamidian Massacres stained the Ottoman Empire’s public image, particularly in Europe.
The sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Abdul Hamid, tried to appeal to European journalists to sanitize his image. Among these journalists was Theodor Herzl, the father of modern political Zionism. Herzl had been trying, for years, to negotiate with the Ottomans, who occupied Palestine and had outlawed Jewish land purchases.
Herzl was under no illusion about the Ottoman Empire. His idea, instead, was to mediate a “negotiation” between Armenian activists and the sultan. But he knew it was wrong, because he worried that the Armenians would find out about his ulterior motive — the creation of a Jewish state.
When Herzl brought up this plan to Max Nordau, the co-founder of the World Zionist Organization, Nordau responded with a one word telegram: “No.”
Zionists overwhelmingly condemned Herzl’s position, with some going as far as to resign from prominent positions within Zionist organizations.
We bring this story up for two reasons: (1) there is a lot of misinformation regarding Herzl, the Zionists, and Armenians, and (2) we as a Jewish community have the responsibility to hold our leaders accountable and demand better of them.
HOW WE CAN HELP
- Keep talking about it, never allow for Azerbaijan to be let off the hook. Talk to the people you know about it. Talk about it at the synagogue, do a drasha about it, address it as much as you can.
- Demand impartial and full reporting from the media, not inaccurate reporting which only bolsters Azerbaijani propaganda.
- Use correct terminology: the 120,000 Artsakh civilians are not ‘separatists’, they're civilians who have been blockaded and bombed for years.
- If your country provides aid to Azerbaijan, whether it be military or financial, demand that they cease funding this regime now.
- Demand sanctions against the regime.
- Following the invasion of Ukraine, some Western countries especially in the EU turned to Azerbaijan for oil. Demand that they stop buying it.
- If you're Israeli - Pressure your representatives to demand an end of arm sales to Azerbaijan.
- Do not forget that there would be no war without Turkey's central participation and help. Hold the Turkish to account.
- Amplify local Armenian voices.
- Support Armenian nonprofits, such as the Fund for Armenian Relief. Also support organizations that are providing Armenian refugees from Artsakh with essential needs in Armenia, such as the UN World Food Programme (WFP).
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