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Anti-Semitism in Armenia: a growing threat

Since the attacks by Hamas on October 7th and Israel's response, many regions around the world have witnessed a troubling rise in anti-Semitism. France, in particular, has documented over 1300 incidents reported by law enforcement authorities, indicating the seriousness of the situation.

Azerbaijan, a staunch ally of Israel, has been engaged in a longstanding conflict with Armenia. This alliance has garnered disapproval from numerous Armenians who view with skepticism the close ties between Jerusalem and Baku. In a sign of protest, some Armenians have reacted by targeting Jewish symbols within their own country.

On November 15th, individuals threw Molotov cocktails at the synagogue in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. In a statement, the police did not explicitly acknowledge that the building was a synagogue, but Rimma Varjapetian, the representative of the Jewish community in Armenia, confirmed to AFP that "the attack took place on the morning of November 15th when the building was empty."

The Situation of Jews in Armenia

Demographic Decline: The Jewish Community in Armenia Facing Extinction

Nestled in the heart of the Caucasus Mountains, Armenia is home to one of the world's smallest Jewish communities. According to various alarming statistics, the Jewish population in the country is steadily declining, currently reaching as low as 700 individuals. A massive exodus marked the period between 1992 and 1994, during which over 6,000 members of the Jewish community made the decision to leave their homeland. The reasons for this mass emigration are diverse, ranging from economic difficulties to security concerns.

Alarming Rise of Anti-Semitism in Armenia: Targeted Attacks Despite a Small Jewish Population

Despite the small size of the Jewish community in Armenia, it is increasingly becoming the target of concerning anti-Semitic attacks. The results of the Anti-Defamation League report reveal that Armenia stands out as the post-Soviet country with the highest rate of anti-Semitism, with 58% of its population harboring anti-Jewish sentiments.

Recently, a shocking statement was made by Mr. Poghosyan, a former advisor to the chief of the Armenian armed forces' general staff and a former assistant to the president's former chief advisor on national security issues. In a video circulated on social media and Telegram groups, Mr. Poghosyan unequivocally declared, "I will help Hamas kill Jews."

The offensive remarks continue in the video, where Vladimir Poghosyan asserts, "You jackals must be completely exterminated. I am someone who has worked his entire life in the intelligence field and has conducted operations at the level of your Mossad and even more." At the beginning of the video, this former high-ranking official expresses his denialist views, stating, "I have never acknowledged the Holocaust" and referring to Jews as a "destructive people who have no right to be on this land."

According to the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy (ISGAP), anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish propaganda in Armenia fuels classic anti-Semitic stereotypes. The ISGAP's August 2023 report highlights the alarming spread of anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish propaganda in Armenia, often intertwined with anti-Azerbaijani sentiments. This campaign, resonating within both authorities and the general public, frequently incorporates classic anti-Semitic clichés, as noted by the ISGAP.

The report cites Colonel Arkady Karapetyan, who told the Armenian news agency "Realist" that "Israeli instructors shot at us to test their weapons... Jews recently celebrated the day commemorating the victims of concentration camps, widely covered by global media. Meanwhile, Israel actively encourages the transformation of Artsakh into a death camp."

On October 3, 2023, the Jewish Cultural Center in Yerevan was vandalized. A few hours later, on Armenian social media, there were messages suggesting that this act should be understood as retaliation for Israel's sale of drones and other weapons to Azerbaijan. It was also linked to recent criticism by dozens of rabbis of the rhetoric used by Armenian officials, who had compared Azerbaijan's actions against Armenian troops and civilians to the Holocaust.

The Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA) claimed responsibility for this act. It's worth noting the historical connection between ASALA and Iran. Established in 1975, ASALA trained in the Bekaa Valley alongside Palestinian terrorist organizations, collaborating against Israel.

In conclusion, these examples highlight the inherent danger in introducing classic anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist narratives into the Armenian public discourse. In the context of Yerevan's defeat in the second Karabakh war and the rise of radical Armenian nationalism, this threat appears to be becoming a palpable reality. It becomes imperative for Armenia to engage in a thoughtful examination of the consequences of such toxic narratives, both on intercommunity relations and regional stability.

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