With antisemitism and other forms of hate metastasizing online, the principle known as “Godwin’s Law” is increasingly relevant. The law asserts that the longer an online discussion continues, the probability of a comparison to Nazis or Hitler increases. Whoever makes such analogy first, it asserts, loses the argument.
Regrettably, Godwin’s Law has not been applied to the case of Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, whose recent usage of a Holocaust analogy has failed to prompt the appropriate outrage in the U.S.
Speaking of Armenia’s ongoing conflict with Azerbaijan over the Karabakh region, Pashinyan told AFP, “Let’s go back to the Holocaust. … Did Hitler come to power and the next morning pulled out the sword and started chasing the Jews in the streets? It lasted years, it was a process. … Now in Nagorno-Karabakh, [Azerbaijan has] created a ghetto, in the most literal meaning of the word.”
Karabakh was occupied by Armenia for three decades before Azerbaijan liberated the territory in 2020. Today, Azerbaijan is undertaking comprehensive efforts to rebuild the area. Four U.N. Security Council resolutions have affirmed that Karabakh rightfully belongs to Azerbaijan.
Pashinyan’s “ghetto” analogy is widely used by the Armenian leadership and has been echoed by Armenia’s advocates on Capitol Hill. It stems from Armenia’s demand that Azerbaijan reopen the Lachin Corridor, a road that connects Armenia to Karabakh. However, claims that the road is closed belie the reality on the ground. The corridor has remained open to Armenians for humanitarian purposes.
In February, the International Court of Justice rejected two of the three claims Armenia made in a case against Azerbaijan. These included demands that “Azerbaijan shall cease its orchestration and support of the alleged ‘protests’ blocking uninterrupted free movement along the Lachin Corridor in both directions” and “Azerbaijan shall immediately fully restore and refrain from disrupting or impeding the provision of natural gas and other public utilities to Nagorno-Karabakh.”
At the same time, Armenia has used the Lachin Corridor to transport landmines and plant them on Azerbaijani territory. This threatens the post-war reconstruction work, the civilian population in the area and the return of internally displaced Azerbaijanis to their homes.
Pashinyan’s inaccuracies aside, the manner in which he trivialized the Holocaust should be unequivocally condemned by the Jewish community. Yet the ADL and other American Jewish organizations have remained silent.
This has not been the case in Europe. This month, a group of 50 European rabbis issued a letter to Armenian leaders that called on them to “clarify that the Armenian people recognizes and honors the terrible human suffering undergone by the Jewish people” and stop “belittling the extent of the Jewish people’s suffering to further any political interest.” While powerful, the rabbis’ words would carry even more weight if they were echoed by their peers in the U.S.
The Jewish community’s presumed leader on combating antisemitism, the ADL, often weighs in on the subject of Holocaust analogies. As such, the organization’s voice is sorely needed when it comes to countering Pashinyan’s rhetoric.
This is especially true in the case of American public discourse on the conflict over Karabakh. American Jews and Americans in general mostly hear about the conflict from federal lawmakers like Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who parrot the claims of Armenia and its lobby, the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
Although they have not explicitly used the word “ghetto,” Armenia’s advocates in Congress have come close to it. They use inflammatory terms like “siege” and “blockade” to describe Azerbaijan’s policies on the Lachin Corridor and Karabakh in general. At the same time, these lawmakers have failed to acknowledge Armenian-led massacres, such as the killing of 613 Azerbaijani civilians in Khojaly in 1992.
Jewish organizations have a responsibility to not only condemn Pashinyan’s remarks but also raise awareness of their broader context. After all, Armenia has erected a monument in its capital Yerevan that honors Nazi collaborator Garegin Nzhdeh. It further glorifies Nzhdeh with a statue in Gyumri and streets in nearly 20 municipalities. At the same time, 58% of Armenians believe in antisemitic stereotypes, which is an even higher rate than Iranians (56%), according to the ADL’s own research.
By making a Nazi comparison, Pashinyan lost the argument. By remaining silent, the American Jewish community risks losing the moral high ground. Now is the time to speak up.