As Jews around the world gather to celebrate Hanukkah, we remember the great persecutions that the Jewish people experienced under the Seleucid Greeks, whose leader at that time was Antiochus IV. During the Seleucid Greek oppression, Antiochus IV outlawed Torah study, kosher food, circumcisions for babies, and the observance of Shabbat and other Jewish festivals. He placed Greek idols in Jewish places of worship and compelled the Jews to sacrifice pigs as well as other unclean animals to Greek gods inside of their holy places. It is also recorded in the Talmud that the Seleucid Greeks also used to routinely rape Jewish brides before their weddings and that it was the bravary of one Jewish woman who paraded through the streets naked in protest that sparked the Maccabean Rebellion.
At this time of year, it is always important to recall if there are modern-day parallels to the Seleucid Greek persecutions. After all, as Jews, it is important to apply the lessons of the Hanukkah story to our times. Considering the Second Karabakh War, the atrocities committed by the Armenians against the Azerbaijani people come to mind. After all, they desecrated mosques with pigs and vandalized an ancient Albanian temple, just as the Seleucid Greeks desecrated the Holy Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. They recently abducted and murdered Ismayil Irapov, an 18-year-old Azerbaijani soldier who was doing nothing more than drawing water from a spring, merely because of his faith and nationality, just as the Seleucid Greeks massacred Hannah’s seven sons for the crime of refusing to renounce their faith. And during the Khojaly Genocide and the Quba massacre, they did rape many Azerbaijani women.
Furthermore, Azerbaijan’s Institute on Law and Human Rights reported that Armenia has implemented policies that led to them becoming a mono-ethnic state, just as the Seleucid Greeks instituted policies that forced Jews to either become Greek or to be gone: “In 1969, there were 6,6108 Russians, 148,189 Azerbaijanis and 1,000 Jews in Armenia. The main reason for the dominance of Azerbaijanis here is that Armenia is the land of ancient Azerbaijan.” Until 1918, there was neither Armenia, nor a state called Armenia, in the South Caucasus. The demographic situation in the Irevan khanate of Azerbaijan, which constituted the main part of the current territory of Armenia, was changed to the benefit of Armenians as a result of the policy of resettlement carried out after the occupation by the Russian Empire. In just over 70 years from the establishment of the Armenian state in the South Caucasus in 1918 until the end of the 1980s/early 1990s, Azerbaijanis were subject to mass deportation three times: 1) Between 1918 and 1920; 2) between 1948 and1953; 3) from the end of the 1980s to the early 1990s. During this period, more than 200,000 Azerbaijanis were expelled from their lands.
After Armenia became independent, the Azerbaijani population that lived there for thousands of years was no more, the Russian population dropped to 2,145 and the Jewish community dropped to 60 people. For this, we can look at the ethnic map of Armenia. It obviously shows that the indigenous ethnic Azerbaijani population of Armenia were subjected to systematic/bloody ethnic cleansing throughout the last century.
The Caucasus Center for Human Rights Monitoring blames Armenian policy for this, noting a rise in hate speech against minority groups that led to violence. In Armenia, they claim that Jews are among the groups to fall victim to such hatred: “Horrifically, many Armenians have taken to addressing Jews as ‘ocar,’ the Armenian word for soap. This is an underhanded reference to the Nazi practice of turning corpses of the victims of their extermination camps into soap, wallets, lampshades, and other ‘useful’ things.” As TRT World recently reported, “Just walking by in downtown Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, it is easy to spot Nazi glorification embodied in the huge statue of Garegin Nzhdeh, a Nazi general of Armenian origin. Considered and taught in schools as a national hero, the general has a square and metro statue honoring his legacy.” Nzhdeh was responsible for rounding up thousands of Jews and sending them to Nazi concentration camps.
It is not surprising that modern-day Armenia would glorify such a person. According to TRT World, “The general is the founder of a racist movement called Tseghakronism, which translates as carrier of race. Echoing theories of Aryan supremacy, Tseghakronism calls for a master race of true pure blooded Armenian ancestry to rule the country and resisting the influence of the anti-nationalists ‘bastards’ and ‘mixed races.” However, Armenian intolerance of the other goes beyond the rhetoric of a few individuals. Interestingly, Pew Research Center documented in one of their polls that only 32% of Armenians are willing to accept Jews as fellow citizens.
This makes one ponder, are the modern-day Armenians connected to the Seleucid Greeks? After all, in every age, the Jewish people face enemies and foes, who seek our destruction, yet we always persevere against them. Interestingly, Robert Drews in his book “The Coming of the Greeks” claimed that the ancestors of the Ancient Greeks originated in the Armenian plateau. In fact, genetic studies have confirmed that the idea that the Ancient Greeks originated in Armenia is in fact one of several possible theories for their origins. If this theory is correct, then the ancestors of Seleucid IV could plausibly have been from Armenia.
Furthermore, Armenian political scientists Asatryan and Ara Mirzoyan claim that the ancestor of the Armenians was Amalek, “who represented the first Aryan nation that originated in the Armenian Highland.” Although the claim that the Armenians are descendants of Amalek is a historic falsehood, as Amalek was a Semite and thus could not be Aryan, the very fact that any Armenian political scientist would claim that his nation is descended from Amalek highlights how much these two individuals share his disdain for the Jewish people. In other words, there are many Armenians who hold Judaism in contempt, just as Antiochus IV did. Considering this, if Antiochus IV were alive today, it is highly likely he would have many fans in modern-day Armenia, just like Amalek and various Nazi leaders do.
This Op-Ed/Analysis is the author’s personal opinion and does not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of JerusalemOnline.com.