TODAY.AZ / Voice of Diaspora

Azerbaijani-American Council decries anti-Semitism and intolerance in Armenia, applauds groundbreaking of a new synagogue in Azerbaijan

04 November 2010 [12:37] - TODAY.AZ
On the night of October 20, 2010, an unidentified group of people desecrated the Holocaust memorial in the capital of Armenia, Yerevan. The memorial erected in 1999 was spray-painted with swastika and “Death to Jews” inscriptions in Armenian.

This is not a first time when the Holocaust memorial in Armenia was vandalized, similar acts were committed against the monument in 2005 and 2007 [1]. In 2005, a Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty report raised concern about the increasing anti-Semitic rhetoric in Armenian society and even from some government officials [2]. While the US State Department's 2005 Report on Global Anti-Semitism cited Armenia [3], the subsequent 2008 report did not, hinting some hope for improvement.

Yet this new act of vandalism against the Holocaust memorial reveals the  disturbing persistence of anti-Semitism in Armenian society. The anti-Jewish feelings are also blossoming amidst the general atmosphere of Turcophobia and anti-Azerbaijani sentiment often fueled for political purposes in now mono-ethnic Armenia. To justify country's ongoing occupation and ethnic cleansing of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding territories of neighboring Azerbaijan, Armenian authorities and media resort to various forms of propaganda of intolerance. These range from denial of 1992 Khojaly Massacre (according to Human Rights Watch, the largest massacre of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, committed by Armenian forces against Azerbaijani civilians) to renouncing Azerbaijani heritage and historical identity in Caucasus via revisionism and factual distortion.

In contrast, the neighboring predominantly-Muslim secular Azerbaijan has demonstrated a remarkable history of tolerance towards Jewish communities and other ethnic and religious congregations in the country. Just today, on November 3, 2010, public officials, representatives of Jewish community, and diplomats from different countries joined a groundbreaking ceremony of a new synagogue in the historic Jewish quarter of Azerbaijani capital, Baku. The ceremony came a month after the grand opening of the Chabad Ohr Avner Educational Complex in Baku on October 4. Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony for a new synagogue, Israeli ambassador to Azerbaijan,  Michael Lavon-Lotem, stated: "Only in Azerbaijan within just one month could such a landmark event have occurred in the life of the Jewish community" [4].

Azerbaijani-American Council (AAC) applauds the groundbreaking of a new synagogue in Azerbaijan as another sign of tolerance and intercultural synergy practiced in Azerbaijani society. AAC also expresses its indignation about the  acts of anti-Semitism and intolerance in Armenia or any other part of South Caucasus. We appeal to Armenian authorities and media to put an end to the propaganda of irredentism, ethnocentrism, and phobia against neighboring nations. Such policies have already isolated Armenia and threaten to further deprive Armenian people from regional integration and economic development opportunities.


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