Armenian political narratives crossover with the Israel-Hamas conflict

Israel government offices record the Israel Declaration of Independence. 

ANCA accused of using Israel-Palestine conflict for political narrativ

By Rachel Brooks

May 22, 2021 

Information warfare raised its head again at the close of the recent conflict episode between Israel and Hamas, along with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which are both terror cells based in Gaza.As the fragile ceasefire went into effect, and the Israeli Prime Minister thanked the U.S. for its role in mediation, lobbyists continued to exploit the conflict for their own ends. The Jewish News Syndicate published a piece by Paul Miller with regards to Armenia’s use of the Israel-Hamas conflict for its political narratives. 

“An often-overlooked element of this narrative-warfare comes from Armenia and its supporters,” wrote Paul Miller, a commentator of the Haym Solomon center. 

“Armenian commentators exploit the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in an attempt to score political points regarding the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the South Caucasus region.” 

Miller then quoted the ANCA’s communication director Alex Galitsky who drew an equivalency between Israel’s conflict with the terror cells among Palestinians and Armenia’s territory conflict with Azerbaijan over the Karabakh region, which is recognized under international law as part of the Azerbaijani republic’s territory. Galitsky referred to Israel as having “vilified” and “dehumanized” the Palestinians in the name of “self-defense” and drew a direct comparison to the Armenian experience with Azerbaijan. 

“We too felt that deafening silence when Azerbaijan, armed by Israel, forced Armenians from their land,” tweeted Galitsky. He was referring to an Armenian political narrative that Azerbaijan had illegally displaced Armenians from Karabakh. Armenia argues that there is a similarity between its political narrative regarding Karabakh and the narrative that Israel’s repatriated nation is not legitimate.

In late 2020, there was a border escalation between Armenia and Azerbaijan which led to the 44-Day war of 2020. Azerbaijan met Armenia’s renewed missile attacks against the Karabakh territory and civilian areas Barda and Ganja with new defense systems purchased from its diplomatic relations with Israel. As a result of the 44-Day War, Azerbaijan liberated territory in Karabakh that had been ethnically cleansed of its citizens in the First Karabakh War of 1988-1994. As the region has shifted from de facto to de jure control, the Armenian nationals that were living in the area were relocated to Armenia’s legal territories. The process of this has led to disputes over which side of the border is legally Armenia and which is Karabakh, an issue further conflicting the tensions. This, along with the increased political volatility within Armenia due to disapproval of Prime Minister Pashinyan, and complications in the post-ceasefire process, has led to increased political tensions between the two South Caucasus nations. 

The Armenian political equivalency between the Israel-Palestinian conflict and the Karabakh conflict is based on land dispute debates, which in the narrative, are based on ethnic land claims. In Armenia’s argument, the large population of Armenians in the Karabakh region during the Soviet era gave Armenians sole ethnic rights to the region, even though both ethnicities have co-existed in the region for thousands of years, under various foreign occupations.However, what is now Karabakh under the new Azerbaijani republic was historically recognized pre-Soviet Union as part of the Azerbaijani sovereign territory of the former Azerbaijani republic. Before the war of the 1988-1994 era, Azerbaijanis and Armenians lived in peace in this region, even attending co-opted schools, see this account by a native of Aghdam. Azerbaijanis were ethnically purged from the region as a result of hostilities of the first conflict, which erupted as one of the events leading to the Soviet Union’s collapse. 

By comparison, Jews and Arabs both have ancient historical claims to coexist in the land of Israel and have continued to do so since the inception of Israel as an inhabitance of the Hebrews, the ancestors of the people now referred to as Jews, after the Exodus from Egypt. Both Jews and Arabs trace their ethnic roots to the same common ancestor, Abraham of the Ur of the Chaldee, who was the original settlement founder in the region known today as Israel and is the spiritual father of the Jewish, Christian, and Islam religions. 

The modern Israel settlement was purchased by the Jews from the British Mandate of Palestine, a name given during the foreign occupation of the territory, which has been colonized by Rome, the Ottomans, and Britain during its long history. 

The repatriation settlement program allowed for the Jewish Diaspora to relocate to the historically documented ethnic origination of Jews in the Middle East. The name “Jew” for Semitic peoples of the Jerusalem region, for example, comes from the word “Judea” which is an early name of the territory. The Jewish people established a state in the region which fell to Roman conquest, and later colonizations. A majority of Jews were driven from the region, while a remnant of them remained and coexisted with the Arabs that lived there under colonization. Under British occupation, members of the Jewish Diaspora attempted immigration to the region, which was limited by Britain in the early 20th century to prevent conflict with the regional Arabs, who were under the political control of neighbor Arab states at that time.

During an immediate conflict initiated by the disgruntled regional Arabs post the settlement and the British withdrawal, portions of land were annexed to the UN chartered Jewish settlement, sparking controversy. Israel has since exchanged land returns and complex legal battles with the Arabs of the region, who are referred to as Palestinians after the name the land was given post-colonization. See the Tikvah Fund for more history on the Israel-Palestinian conflict from a nonpartisan perspective.

Despite these historical facts, the ANCA’s communications director continued to draw a narrative equivalency between the two conflicts and accused Israel of supporting the “Azerbaijani regime” which Armenia refers to as “genocidal.” 

Galitsky, in response to Simon Weisenthal’ center’s criticism of the Palestinian terrorist cells, tweeted that the statement was “coming from an organization whose associate dean once said that ‘Azerbaijan’s tolerance is a model for other countries,’ even as its genocidal government institutionalized the dehumanization of the Armenian people and prepared for the invasion and ethnic cleansing of Artsakh.” 

“Artsakh” is the name that the Armenian settlement in the Karabakh region was given following the Armenian occupation during the First Karabakh conflict. 

Armenia has referred to Azerbaijan as a “genocidal” dictatorship due to the equivalency Armenia politically draws between Turkey and Azerbaijan, which are both states of primarily Turkic descent. During the austere reign of the Ottoman Turks, ethnic Armenian civilians were forcibly displaced from and killed in Anatolia, in a politically charged series of regime-strategic pogroms as well as retaliatory programs against the Dashnaks, a socialist party interested in establishing a nationalist Greater Armenia. At this time in history, there were also pogroms against Azerbaijanis, Meskhetian Turks, and Mountain Jews, who were targeted by the Dashnaks during World War I sideline conflicts of the Bolshevik Revolution that rose against the last Russian Czar Nikolas II. Armenia describes its losses during this period of ethnic cleansings in Anatolia and the South Caucasus region as the Armenian Genocide. In modern politics, the events of this era are highly politicized to meet the political intent of Armenia to be granted exclusive access to the Karabakh region. See more on this history by Utah University. 

Armenia has used the history of the Ottoman-era genocides in its political campaigns to retaliate against Azerbaijan through western policy, including attempting to pass U.S. sanctions. These sanctions have not been enforced by U.S.President Biden, which has sparked controversy. The U.S. President also received criticism for recognizing the political narrative of the Armenian Genocide. 

The Armenian Diaspora is much larger than the Azerbaijani Diaspora in the west and thus has a greater influence over American foreign policy in the South Caucasus. Armenia has used narrative to portray the Azerbaijani republic as an austere, brutal, religiously intolerant apartheid that ethnically targeted and banished Armenians from its borders. In reality, Azerbaijan, while drawing criticism from its citizens for a lack of democratic development and post-war controversy in its government, is an ethnically tolerant nation, with ethnic Armenians residing in the capital city Baku, alongside many other regional non-Turkic ethnicities. It is the only Shia Muslim majority nation of the region that openly welcomes communities of multiple religious backgrounds. Azerbaijan has large communities of Christians, and Jews, varying sects and smaller religious demographics, and faith micro-demographics such as Zoroastrians. Azerbaijan has itself suffered massacres such as the Khojaly Massacre of 1992 by the ASALA forces and the Black January massacre in Baku in 1990, which have led its citizens to protest the abuse of terminology in recording genocides. 

In his JNS piece, Miller questioned why Jewish media outlets such as The Jerusalem Post, The Times of Israel, and Haaretz continued to publish work by Galitsky despite the “chronic antisemitism” voiced by the ANCA.