Turkish weekly: Although the Jewish community in Armenia dates back almost 2,000 years, the population of the Jews has reduced to fewer than 1,000 individuals in Armenia and in Karabakh province, which is the Azerbaijan territory under the Armenian occupation. Ironically this tiny Jewish community has exposed to the rising Armenian anti-Semitism in the recent years, and now they are considered as ‘guests’ in Armenia where they have lived for the ages. The reasons for anti-Semitism among the Armenians is not actually the Jewish activities, but the regional and international politics and the historical mistrust, namely the problems between Armenia, Turkey and Azerbaijan, and Israel’s recent co-operation with Turkey. Before analysing the reasons, the study will provide the historical background of the Armenian ‘antagonism’ against the Jews and the history of the Jewish community in Armenia. Then it will move in to the current reasons of the Armenian Jewish scepticism in the recent years. The study, in questioning the reasons, also focuses on Armenia-Israel relations and the Israeli-Turkish alliance’s impact on Armenia’s perception of the region. The article further discusses Israel’s and the world Jewish community’s attitude regarding the Armenian ‘genocide’ allegations. The author reminds that the Jewish community clearly oppose the Armenian allegations and reject all the Armenian attempts to create a similarity between Holocaust and the 1915 events, and the article discusses the Jewish opposition’s effects on the Armenian issue.
I. ARMENIAN ANTI-SEMITISM IN THE OTTOMAN PERIOD
The Ottoman experience proves that anti-Semitism is an old Armenian habit. The main reason for anti-semitism among the Ottoman Armenians was mainly religious biases. For the Christian Armenians the Jews were in great sin. It was a common belief among the Armenians that the Jews slaughter young Christian Armenians and use their blood at the Passover feast. In Amasya province for instance local Armenian priests and notables claimed that an Armenian woman had seen Jews slaughter a young Armenian boy and use his blood for religious purposes. Stanford J. Shaw describes the following events:
‘Several days of rioting and pillaging and attacks on Jews followed, with Armenian mobs devastating the Jewish quarter of the city, beating men, women and children alike. The Armenian notables convinced the local Ottoman governor to imprison several Jewish leaders, including Rabbi Yakub Avayu, who was accused of having supervised the blood letting. They were said, after undergoing severe torture, to have confessed to their crimes and were hanged. Later, however, the Armenian boy who supposedly had been murdered was found and a new Ottoman governor punished the accusers, though nothing could be done about the Jews who had suffered in the process.’
As Abraham Ben-Yakob put it, the Armenian and Greek attacks against the Armenians continued in the following years:
‘There were literally thousands of incidents in subsequent years, invariably resulting from accusations spread among Greeks and Armenians by word mouth, or published in their newspapers, often by Christian financiers and merchants who were anxious to get the Jews out of the way, resulting in isolated and mob attacks on Jews, and burning of their shops and homes.’
Apart from the religious prejudices, the Jewish community in the Empire dramatically rose in numbers and their influence over the administration and economy increased, and this development made the Christian subjects (Armenians, Greeks etc.) worried. Unfortunately this competition between the Jews and Christians resulted in a long series of attacks against the Jews by the Armenians and Greeks, who simply did not want to lose their influential position in terms of politics and economy. In these assaults many Jews were assassinated. When the Europeans increased their economic and political influence over the Ottoman Empire they publicly supported the Ottoman Christians and the Armenians and Greeks gained a clear privilege in trade, which was unfavourable to the Jews. The local Armenians and Greeks had the American and the European diplomats and businessmen with them, while the Jews had to rely on their own sources and their good relations with the Ottoman bureaucracy. In addition, as the Armenians and Greeks got richer and more influential, harassments and the constant attacks against the Jews increased as witnessed in Izmir during the 19th century. The competition between the Armenians and the Jews was severe in Palace and the financial system in particular. When the Armenian bankers sustained monopoly over the Ottoman financial system they did everything to get the Jews out of the Palace, and even libelled Jews by accusing the Jews of not being loyal to the Sultan. As a result of these slanders, many Jews lost their life.
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