Society 23:48 04/11/2020 Armenia

Attitude towards Jews in Armenia is only positive, says Armenia's Jewish leader

Author Anna Mkrtchyan

The Azerbaijani propaganda machine has been spending millions of dollars on anti-Armenian propaganda and pushing ahead its own theses. One of such theses is that Azerbaijan is a "multicultural, multinational and tolerant country" in contrast to Armenia. The propaganda war uses well-known and unknown lobbying organizations, particularly American lobbyists, as well as journalists publishing anti-Armenian articles prepared and send by the Azerbaijani authorities on leading media platforms.

An article of The Armenian Weekly entitled “What’s behind all the pro-Azerbaijan articles?” presents in detail Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) filings by Azerbaijan’s lobbyists, which show how they approach almost every major outlet from Bloomberg to CNN, the Washington Post, the Jerusalem Post, the New York Times, NBC, Al-Jazeera, San Francisco Chronicle, Sacramento Bee, Haaretz, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal; the list is almost interminably long.

Another article recently published in The Jerusalem Post presents in short "how happily Jews live in Azerbaijan, again in contrast to Armenia, where antisemitism reigns." Such series of articles prove once again that being a Jew in Azerbaijan and not being persecuted is considered a serious achievement, whereas in Armenia there is not even such a matter for discussion.

A few words about the author of the article, Roman Gurevich, who introduces himself as a political analyst, expert, an observer in Azerbaijani elections, in other words, another "Ibrahim".

Armenia’s Jewish leader: I regret that those people represent Israel today

"The attitude towards Jews in Armenia is exclusively positive, which is announced at more serious settings, including at the White House, World Jewish Congress and European Jewish Congress. It is on such platforms that we voice our approaches and they are more important than what a rogue wrote in the Jerusalem Post,” the religious leader of Armenia's Jewish community, Rabbi Gershon Meir Burstein told in an interview.

Touching upon Armenia's refusal to get humanitarian aid from Israel, the rabbi said that they support Armenia’s position.

In an interview with the Jerusalem Post on Monday, Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan replied bitterly to the question about whether Armenia would be interested in Israeli humanitarian aid. “Humanitarian aid by a country that is selling weapons to mercenaries, which they are using to strike a civilian peaceful population? I propose that Israel send that aid to the mercenaries and to the terrorists as the logical continuation of its activities,” he said.

"The Jewish community was one of the first to call on the Israeli government to suspend arms sales [to Azerbaijan]. This is done not only from abroad, but also from within [the country], by the Armenian youth in Israel. I regret that those people represent Israel today," said Rabbi Gershon Meir Burstein, criticizing the Israeli authorities and adding that “like attracts like”.

According to the religious leader, the second important factor is that the United States is home to larger Jewish community than Israel, adding they do not associate themselves with the government of Israel, but with the Jewish people.

"People and leadership are two different things. It pains me that this is the current Israeli leadership. Not only me, but also many Jews living in Israel say it," the rabbi said.

He noted that he was one of the first to appeal to the Israeli president in 2000, urging Israel to recognize the Armenian Genocide, which was repeated by Israel's chief rabbi in 2005, "but unfortunately today there is a big gap between Jews and Israelis."

"Jews should spread God’s truth, prosperity and peace in this world," said the religious leader, adding Israel's incumbent authorities have embarked on a different path which is alien to the Jewish people.

Talking about antisemitism in Armenia is simply ridiculous

"Talking about antisemitism in Armenia is simply ridiculous. There has never been antisemitism here, Jews have never faced persecution here," Rima Varzhapetyan, the head of the Jewish Community in Armenia NGO, told

Varzhapetyan, however, expressed concern that due to Israel’s supply of weapons to Azerbaijan, the attitude towards Israel and Jews has changed to a certain extent.

Rima Varzhapetyan said that the reports on alleged antisemitism in Armenia are mainly authored by Azerbaijani lobbyists, who "have paid for everything and everyone."

"Of course we have denied and continue to deny those reports, but I would like to say that where there is a Jew, there is antisemitism. It seems to be following Jews like a shadow," she said.

Varzhapetyan mentioned that there are many mixed marriages among the Jews in Armenia, stressing Armenians have always shown positive attitude and have been tolerant towards Jews.

"People feel good and calm here, they hold various positions. There can be no talk of any antisemitism," Varzhapetyan stated.

There are 11 national communities in Armenia, one of which is the Jewish community, which is also provided with state support, including funding for organizing festivals and implementing programs. The Jewish community in Armenia has a cultural center, a Sunday school, a library and a newspaper.

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