Rimma Varzhapetyan, chairwoman of the Jewish Community of Armenia, says there is no anti-Semitism in Armenia as such, however, sometimes anti-Semitic materials appear in the press and their number has grown in the recent days.
Her statement was in response to a comment last week by US Assistant Secretary of State David Kramer, that some media outlets propagandize anti-Semitism. He said “It is unacceptable to have anti-Semitism in a country with historically friendly relations with Israel and the Jewish community.”
Varzhapetyan says there are two reasons that stir Armenia anti-Semitism. One is the long-standing resentment that Israel does not recognize the Armenian Genocide. The other – and the reason for more recent hate-talk – is the exploitation of the heritage of the wife of Levon Ter-Petrosyan, who comes from Jewish ancestry.
“In the first case it is the natural reaction of the nation that has undergone genocide to the views of people who have survived a Holocaust. But it is not widely spread and nothing of the kind is seen on a state level,” Varzhapetyan says.
Varzhapetyan, who is Jewish, says she is noticed for her activities in the fight for recognition of the Armenian Genocide among the representatives of the ethnic minorities of Armenia, although attacks in the press are targeted against her and the Jewish community (Hayots Ashkarh, May 7th, called friendship with the Jewish community and personally with Varzhapetyan a form of fawning).
The second reason had disappeared with the presidency of Ter-Petrosyan and has now returned with him.
Varzhapetyan recalls the Golos Armenii newspaper in a number of publications used to explain the crisis in Armenia with Ter-Petrosyan,’s wife, Ludmilla, being a Jew and a Zionistic plot connected with her. “We were very much annoyed proving the hardships were tied up to the blockade, the Perestroika and other circumstances.” The Jewish community that was equally impoverished during the ‘dark and cold’ years had appealed to Ludmila Ter-Petrosyan for support but was denied with an explanation saying: “I have no such opportunity [to support]: I help all women of Armenia.”
The community has had almost no problem with the media after the change in power. Only the ALM TV channel used to make anti-Jewish statements, but ceased after the State Department report mentioned the facts and, as the news said, after then President Kocharyan reprimanded the channel. Armen Avetisyan, chairman of the Union of Armenian Aryans was tried and sentenced to two months in jail for anti-Semitic and anti-Yezidi propaganda.
Ten years later anti-Semitism is used against Levon Ter-Petrosyan, this time as an opposition; it’s examples were the articles published in May 24th issue of Hayots Ashkharh titled: “Levon Ter-Petrosyan or Levon Fraimi Pliskovski: Armenian National Congress or Jewish Congress?” as well as the article’s retelling in May 27th Golos Armenii. The article says “the Jewish-Masonic lobby spent $65-70 million and plans to spent twice and thrice more on Ter-Petrosyan’s campaign” to bring him to power.
Varzhapetyan says Kramer recalled the article in a conversation with her during a meeting with non-governmental organizations at the US Embassy qualifying it as typical anti-Semitism: “The first reaction to the publication was to respond, but we didn’t, because the aim of the article was to fight the opposition by means of irritating anti-Semitic sentiments. But probably the person responsible for the media monitoring discovered the article and the problem of anti-Semitism was included in Kramer’s program. “He is also a Jew and I am deeply grateful to him for raising the issue before the government.”
Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan called the manifestations of anti-Semitism in the media condemnable and unacceptable during the meeting with Kramer, saying there is no anti-Jewish atmosphere in Armenia in reality.
Varzhapetyan says many real arguments can be brought to fight against the opposition, but they are not used: “There are so many things to be used for the struggle – to show the negative sides of one and the positive sides of the other, but they don’t do that, they opt for irritating anti-Semitism and it’s terrible that the kind of an article may cause hatred against Levon [Ter-Petrosyan].”
Varzhapetyan says she can’t tell the way the Jewish community here of 800 people participated in the voting, because it is personal business. She says she has voted for Serzh Sargsyan as the country has witnessed progress after LTP’s resignation: “I can recall the hard life of those days when Ter-Petrosyan ruled the country. I can forgive it, but I have not forgotten and wouldn’t like to return to it.”
She says also the problems of ethnic minorities were neglected under the previous authorities, but were paid serious attention under Kocharyan and the state budget begun providing them with a certain amount of money.
The article in Hayots Ashkharh says Peter Rosenblat, the representative of the Jewish Committee of America arrived in Armenia in late May as if for getting a report from Levon Ter-Petrosyan.
During the meeting with the Jewish community on May 27th Rosenblat stated the publications are fake and authorized the Jewish community to deny them in his name.
In reality Rosenblat met President Serzh Sargsyan, although this meeting also became a matter of political speculations, this time from the opposition side. The pro-Ter-Petrosyan Haykakan Zhamanak mocked the meeting, saying Sargsyan is forced to meet with unimportant persons.
The flag of Israel appeared at one of the post-election opposition rallies in February that Hayots Ashkharh used to tie Ter-Petrosyan to Jews.
The Jewish community stated then they were annoyed with the appearance of the flag in the rally. “We thought then it was a provocation, but it appeared later it was done by a Jewish woman living in Armenia, who has nothing to do with the community in support of Lyudmila [Ter-Petrosyan], despite she had neither the moral nor the legal right for that.”
By Vahan Ishkhanyan
Published: 04 July, 2008