Supposedly, the Armenians living in Israel are almost aggressively attacked by the autochthonous population, i.e. the Jews and their civil rights are violated very often. The law enforcement authorities, they say, do not react in any way, because they are on the same side with the evil persecutors.
The incident with the scuffle at the Armenian restaurant in the Old City of Jerusalem seemed to be a kind of overture to the complaining chorus in the Armenian press. Different horror stories about people of Armenian nationality who suffered at the hands of the Jews in the Promised Land surfaced in all media outlets. The Armenian Foreign Ministry joined in, expressing “deepest concern” about this.
If anyone will believe in these Armenian tales, it will not be the Azerbaijanis – we have heard and even seen so much of them. Everything is unfolding in Israel according to a nauseatingly familiar scenario: to accuse of all mortal sins the tolerant, friendly, and most importantly, the people who sheltered you, presenting the Armenians as eternal victims. Maybe Armenians are now seeing harbingers of a “genocide” on Israeli soil? Anyway, this is what it looks like.
“Armenia is concerned about the violence against Armenians in Jerusalem,” Armenian Foreign Ministry’s spokesman Vahan Hounanian wrote on Twitter the other day. – We are deeply concerned about recent acts of violence and vandalism directed against Christian religious institutions in Jerusalem, including the Armenian Patriarchate and the Armenian residents of the Old City.”
This is just one of the many complaints by Armenians in Israel. Among the most “serious” incidents are fights in a restaurant and an attempt to tear down the national flag from an Armenian church in Jerusalem.
A statement by the Israeli Center for Armenian Culture and Education in “Noyan Tapan” claims that “there has been a worrying trend of nationalism towards the country’s ethnic and religious minorities in Israel in recent years”.
These claims, to put it mildly, do not hold water. Firstly, it is very difficult to believe in periodic attacks on Armenians by residents of Israel. Why would Armenians suddenly become the target of such attacks? Moreover, there are completely different cases when the victims in Jerusalem and Israel, in general, were Jews and it was Armenians who attacked them. There are specific reasons, for example, anger for Israel’s assistance to Azerbaijan. The facts of attacks of raging Armenians on Jews were repeatedly mentioned in the Israeli media, especially during the 44-day war. Representatives of the Armenian community thought then that it was the right time to express their anger in this way – so they smashed the cars of Israelis and beat up their owners. According to the victims, the brutality of attackers was overwhelming.
Many also remember another frightening case of Armenian atrocity reported by many global media: in 2019, several dozen young Armenian monks in cassocks beat two Israeli students to a pulp. According to attorney Haim Bleicher, his clients would have been beaten to death if random passers-by hadn’t intervened and stopped the lynching, JewishPress wrote at the time.
Here is how Caliber.Az’s interlocutor, Israeli political analyst Roman Gurevich, explains such incidents and the harassment thriller promoted by Armenians from the Promised Land today. To understand how different local Armenians are from the rest of the Old City population, it is important to understand the structure of the Armenian quarter in Jerusalem, the competent expert stressed above all.
“There are four quarters in the Old City of Jerusalem – Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Armenian. The latter is the smallest of the four, occupying about 14 per cent of the Old City. The entrance gate to the quarter is locked at 10 p.m., after which even the residents of the quarter are no longer allowed in. According to various estimates, the population of this quarter is between 500 and 600 people, and it is constantly decreasing. Moreover, if you get into the Armenian quarter, you will notice that it is strikingly different from all other districts of the Old City.
For example, in the Jewish quarter, which was completely destroyed by the Jordanians in 1948 and then rebuilt, there are beautiful new houses, flowers and clean streets. In the Armenian quarter everything is bricked up and you feel as if you are walking between fortress walls with small windows. However, behind the high walls of the fences there are beautiful gardens, courtyards and even sports fields – not for outsiders, of course. The Armenian community lives in a very closed and isolated way,” says the political analyst.
Moreover, according to Gurevich, many of the residents of the Armenian neighbourhood do not have Israeli citizenship – they have the possibility of obtaining citizenship, but they are not interested in it.
“We should not forget that the Old City of Jerusalem is an integral part of the one and indivisible Jerusalem, the capital of the State of Israel. And the Armenian quarter itself is located on the territory of King Herod the Great’s palace… Life in general, and especially in the Old City, shows how important it is to be able to find a common language for people of different religions and different beliefs. Unfortunately, this does not always work out,” says the expert.
According to the political scientist, there are incidents even in the Church of Holy Sepulchre, the holiest place for the Christians, where clashes and even fights have happened more than once between the priests and representatives of different confessions, with the Armenian clergy being especially aggressive.
“In 1977, a Greek deacon put the lectern across the line that separates the Armenian and Greek parts of the church. This was, of course, a big mistake. The Armenians lashed out at the deacon. And the priests went head-to-head with each other… In 2008, during Palm Sunday, a serious fight broke out at the entrance of the temple and the Catholic Franciscan monks were injured as a result. Then, in November 2008, dozens of Armenians and Greeks scuffled en masse in the same church. Israeli police special forces had to go inside the holy place to break up a mass brawl between local clergymen. The scuffle arose between priests of the Gregorian Brotherhood of St. James of the Armenian Apostolic Church and representatives of the Jerusalem Patriarchate, who did not share the aisle – first the Armenians blocked the path of the Greek priest, then he called his people to help.
In any case, the Jews are always to blame. The responsibility for maintaining order in the Old City lies with the Israeli army and police…. Our security forces do what they can. But this is sometimes very difficult in such an explosive mix of contradictions and convictions. What kind of tolerance is there if spiritual leaders are beating each other up for no reason?” the Israeli political analyst noted.
If today one goes behind the walls of the Old City, says Gurevich, one cannot help but see that the Armenian community of Israel has a rather strained attitude towards Baku-Tel Aviv relations, which are mutually strengthening. Sometimes even extremely negative. This was particularly evident during the Patriotic War of 2020, when Azerbaijan was liberating its territories occupied for almost thirty years.
“The Armenian lobby was active in Israel at the time, attempts were made to influence public opinion and the Israeli leadership, leaflets were distributed in Hebrew condemning Israel’s position and more… Yes, there is a powerful Armenian lobby in the Jewish state, which is not pleased by the growing ties between Azerbaijan and Israel. Especially this tension is growing now, on the eve of a very auspicious event, which we are all waiting for – the opening of the embassy of Azerbaijan in Israel.
And there are fears that the very fact of the embassy opening may cause some undesirable actions by Armenian activists. I hope that these fears are not justified. I can confidently say that Israel will not tolerate any provocation against the embassy of Azerbaijan and will provide the embassy of a friendly country, as well as embassies of all countries in Israel, with full assistance and security,” Gurevich said.
At the same time, as Avraham Shmulevich, an expert on the Caucasus, the Islamic world and the Middle East and chairman of the Eastern Partnership Institute (Jerusalem), points out, Armenian media reports of violence against Armenians in Israel are promoted almost constantly. As a rule, these reports are not confirmed; however, they sometimes reach the level of ridiculous myths. For example, there have long been rumours, spread, of course, by people from Armenia, that Israeli soldiers have attacked Armenian priests.
“Those who imagine the situation in Israel, a democratic, free state, understand that this is simply impossible,” the Israeli political analyst is convinced.
According to him, a wave of fakes has recently emerged in the Armenian media, with the same narrative – suppression of Armenian rights in the Jewish state and allegedly an attack of police on Armenians in the Old City of Jerusalem. Incidentally, the videos that are circulating on the Armenian public pages, which allegedly depict attacks on Armenians, are actually police crackdowns on groups of Arab youths who had a rapturous bacchanalia over the death of Jews in a synagogue in Jerusalem. Such is the sad paradox of the Holy Land…
“But the Armenian public pages are trumpeting that it was Armenians. And I wouldn’t be surprised or even ironic: so, maybe it really was the Armenians who rejoiced over the murder of Jews, which would also be very symbolic,” the political scientist noted.
The information in the Armenian media about “Jewish extremists” trying to throw down a flag from an Armenian church in the Old City is also a fake, he said.
“The only incident in recent days in the Old City that finds confirmation is a clash between a group of Jewish activists who were walking with flags outside an Armenian restaurant. The action was organised on the occasion of mourning – the deaths of people in the synagogue – and the Jews were on their own territory with their national flags. However, the Armenian owner of the restaurant arranged a provocation, trying to prohibit the Jews to pass near his restaurant with flags. This caused understandable indignation among the Jewish youth, and as a result of the altercation, they have thrown several chairs into the restaurant. This put an end to the incident. However, the Armenian Foreign Ministry and the press seized the occasion and made a big fuss about it. Some representatives of the Armenian community even started to say that they were afraid of living in Israel. Of course, all these are scaremongering and provocations by the Armenian lobby,” says the Israeli political analyst.