Antisemitism in Armenia: Molotov cocktail thrown at country’s only synagogue

On the morning of October 3, in the Armenian capital, Yerevan, the only synagogue in the country, Mordechai Navi, was attacked.

ASALA_Young took responsibility for the act of vandalism. The organization’s telegram channel, created on the same day, published a video from the scene of the incident, where a man in a cap and hood can be seen pouring red paint on the walls of the synagogue and breaking out the windows.

Judging by the name and logo, ASALA_Young promotes the ideas of the Armenian Secret Army for Liberation of Armenia (ASALA), an Armenian paramilitary organization created in 1975 and recognized by the United States as terrorist.

According to the organization, the “act of intimidation” was prepared by ASALA_Young “to take revenge on Israel and world Jewry for supporting Azerbaijan”.

In their Telegram message, the Armenian radicals promised to take revenge on Jews, including in European countries: “If Jewish rabbis in the USA and Europe continue to support the Aliyev regime, we will continue to burn their synagogues in other countries. Every rabbi will be under our guns… We will start a war against Israeli Jews in Europe, America, Canada, Georgia.”

Israeli state radio Kan reported that the incident was not just an act of vandalism. The attackers threw a Molotov cocktail into the synagogue, planning to set it on fire, but for some reason the incendiary mixture did not ignite.

This is not the first provocation committed in Armenia against the Jewish minority over the past month.

On September 9, on the Jewish Sabbath, during prayer, an unknown Armenian burst into the same Mordechai Navi synagogue and began shouting curses and threats. Despite the incident, Yerevan authorities ignored the need to provide security to protect the only center of the Jewish religious community, although on September 17 the Israeli Ministry of Diaspora Affairs warned that (in Armenia)”there are concerns about… violent attacks against Jewish property in the near future.”The day before the attack, on October 2, the Israeli think tank Begin-Sadat Center wrote: The restoration of Azerbaijan’s sovereignty over the entire territory of Karabakh triggered a wave of anti-Semitism in Armenia.”And the Israeli English-language publication The Jerusalem Post has been talking about “systemic anti-Semitism” of Armenians since 2019 .

If the Armenian authorities had taken the necessary measures, ASALA_Young members would hardly have been able to freely throw Molotov cocktails at a religious institution.

It is noteworthy that the Armenian law enforcement agencies are still silent about these events, although the head of the CER (Conference of European Rabbis) has already called on the President of Armenia to condemn the attack on the synagogue in Yerevan and“strengthen the security of the Jewish community.”

The main reason for the surge in anti-Semitic sentiments in Armenia was the support of Azerbaijan from the Jewish people, which manifested itself in a recent large-scale media campaign by rabbis from around the world.

Since August 27, about 200 rabbis from Europe, the US, Canada, Latin America, the UK and Israel have actively opposed the use of the terms “Holocaust” and “genocide” by Armenian propaganda to demonize Azerbaijan.

On September 6, fifty rabbis from 19 European countries sent official letters to Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and President Vahagn Khachaturian demanding an “immediate and complete” end to the use of the Holocaust theme by Armenian propaganda “for the sake of achieving any political goals.” Copies of these appeals were sent to the presidents of the European Parliament and the European Commission.

A week and a half later, the largest rabbinical organization in Europe, RCE (Rabbinical Center of Europe), signed by 50 European rabbis, officially sent a similar letter to Israeli President Isaac Herzog, which resulted in widespread coverage in Israeli, Ukrainian and various European media.

In response to the actions of the organized Jewish community, the Armenian diaspora in Europe launched a pressure campaign against rabbis who participated in public statements or signed letters. In addition, Jewish citizens of Yerevan also began to come under pressure (according to the Israeli radio of Israel, Kan, there are only about 200 Jews left in Armenia).

On September 11, Baku rabbi Zamir Isaev called on the last Jews in Armenia to leave the country and move to Azerbaijan, where he guaranteed them citizenship and security.

(Photo: Vacio, via Wikimedia Commons)

Igor Chalenko

Igor Chalenko is an Ukrainian political scientist who heads the Centre for Analysis and Strategies, Ukraine.