Combating surging anti-Semitism means rooting out under-the-radar sources

Jew-hatred is embedded into the Armenian cultural fabric and is a central pillar of the country’s religious warfare.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan with Iran's President Hassan Rouhani in 2018. Credit: Armenia Government.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan with Iran's President Hassan Rouhani in 2018. Credit: Armenia Government.
Paul Miller
Paul Miller is a media and political consultant based in the Chicago area.

Here’s the bad news about anti-Semitism in America: It’s surging. According to a recently released FBI report, hate crimes against Jews rose 14 percent last year.

But here’s the “good” news: The U.S. government has agreed to designate the anti-Israel BDS movement as anti-Semitic, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced last week. This comes from the same administration that issued an executive order requiring the United States to investigate anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses in accordance with Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, an order that was put into action in November through a newly launched Department of Education investigation into anti-Semitism at the University of Illinois.

However, the positive developments on policy towards anti-Semitism could be transient given January’s transition in the Oval Office. Will President-elect Joe Biden and his secretary of state nominee, Tony Blinken, continue the Trump administration’s efforts to combat anti-Semitism that’s disguised as anti-Zionism?

The question is particularly relevant with Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and others who’ve engaged in anti-Semitic rhetoric slated to speak as part of a Dec. 15 webinar sponsored by the political arm of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), a leading anti-Zionist group. JVP’s strategy mirrors Tlaib’s—masquerading as a critic of Israel when Jews are the real target.

It’s not surprising that Tlaib, the daughter of Palestinian immigrants, would criticize Israeli policy. But the more telling aspect of her outlook—and an important warning sign for the forthcoming Biden administration as it shapes its approach to anti-Semitism—is the Michigan lawmaker’s hypocrisy on foreign policy. While Tlaib opposes the Israeli presence in the West Bank, she supports the Armenian occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh, a territory internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan.

Although Azerbaijan regained significant portions of Nagorno-Karabakh in its recently concluded six-week war with Armenia, Tlaib’s hypocrisy on territorial conflicts is part of a broader trend that’s likely to persist on Capitol Hill. The double standard even extends to supporters of Israel like Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), a vocal opponent of Iranian aggression who remains silent on Armenia’s empowerment of Iran.

During the war, pro-Armenian media commentators misleadingly claimed that the conflict was driven by “Islamist aggression and expansion” into Christian land and represented a second “Christian genocide” of Armenians at the hands of Azerbaijan’s ally, Turkey. Azerbaijan, a moderate Muslim-majority nation known as a beacon of interfaith coexistence which embraces its centuries-old Jewish community, plays no part in such activity. Framing the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as a religious war between Muslim Azerbaijan and Christian Armenia is a shameless propaganda tactic.

Commentators who attempt to inject Islamism into the Nagorno-Karabakh discussion ignore the strong ties between Armenia and Iran, the world’s chief purveyor of Islamism. In the latest escalation, Iran was accused of serving as Russia’s conduit for transferring weapons to Armenia. Such behavior is part of a longtime pattern that includes Armenia’s role in helping Iran circumvent sanctions. Yerevan’s rogue alliances in the Islamist world extend to Syria, where Armenia has partnered with Russia on military support of the Bashar Assad regime.

Meanwhile, Pashinyan made the unsubstantiated claim in an interview with The Jerusalem Post during the recent Armenia-Azerbaijan war that “[Turkish-backed Syrian] mercenaries, Islamic terrorists and Israel are now on the same side basically.” Notably, media reports had perpetuated the myth that “Syrian mercenaries” were fighting against Armenians by publishing photos of Syrian fighters in Libya together with articles about the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Armenia’s hypocrisy was also evident in early November when Pashinyan tweeted following an attack on Jewish targets in Vienna, “#NagornoKarabakh has been fighting against the Azerbaijani-Turkish terrorist tandem for over a month now. I share the grief of the people of Austria, wish patience to the families of the victims, and a speedy recovery to those wounded.”

Pashinyan’s comments exploited the tragedy in Vienna for easy political points on anti-Semitism when, in fact, Jew-hatred is embedded into the Armenian cultural fabric and is a central pillar of the country’s religious warfare. Armenia has a history of glorifying Nazi collaborators, and according to the Anti-Defamation League, Armenians (58 percent) agree with anti-Semitic stereotypes at a higher rate than Iranians (56 percent). Simultaneously, Armenia persistently (and unsuccessfully) aims to disrupt the pioneering Jewish-Muslim ties between Azerbaijan and Israel, in October recalling its ambassador to Israel over Jerusalem’s arms sales to Baku.

As the Biden-era policy on anti-Semitism takes shape, it is incumbent upon the incoming administration to identify and root out the under-the-radar sources of Jew-hatred such as Armenia and its supporters. In the absence of uncovering and countering hypocrisy and double standards, anti-Semitism is poised to continue surging on American soil.

Paul Miller is president and executive director of the news and public-policy group Haym Salomon Center. Follow him on Twitter at @pauliespoint.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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