The famous Holocaust scholar Elie Wiesel once stated, “Human suffering anywhere concerns men and women everywhere. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.”
In recent days, Rabbi Zamir Isayev reported: “A monument in honor of the friendship between Israel and Armenia was desecrated in Yerevan.” This came after it was reported that a Jewish Holocaust Memorial in Yerevan was also vandalized. Considering these developments, the time has come for the State of Israel to take a stand against such blatant acts of hatred. In my humble opinion, the best way that the State of Israel to take a stand against such acts of hatred is to erect a memorial commemorating the Khojaly Genocide.
In the coming days, Azerbaijan is set to commemorate Khojaly Genocide Day. Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin once stated: “On this day, we must ask ourselves honestly, is our struggle against genocide effective enough? Was it effective enough then in Bosnia? Was it effective in preventing the killing in Khojaly?” In other words, the State of Israel already recognizes the Khojaly Genocide.
Thus, considering this fact, the best way that the State of Israel can respond to anti-Semitic bigotry in Yerevan is to transform Israel’s already existing recognition of the Khojaly Genocide into a proper memorial, similar to the memorial in Netanya that Israel erected in honor of the Soviet soldiers who fought against fascism. Taking a step like this not only is to take a stand against genocide. It also sends a message to Armenia that their anti-Semitic bigotry is not acceptable and that the State of Israel will take a stand against it.
As a nation that survived the Holocaust, we should sympathize with the victims of the Khojaly Genocide in this manner as well. In one horrific day in 1992, 613 Azerbaijani men, women and children were massacred for the crime of being Azerbaijani. According to Rabbi Israel Barouk, who wrote in Khojaly: A Crime against Humanity, “Of those who perished, 56 people were killed with particular cruelty: burning alive, scalping, beheading, gouging out of the eyes and the bayoneting of pregnant women in the abdomen.” An additional 1,275 people were taken hostage. Many of those who were held hostage were raped and tortured in the cruelest manner.
Raoul Conteras wrote in Murder in the Mountains: War Crime in Khojaly and the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict about the horrendous torture endured by the survivors. The testimony given by Durdana was particularly shocking: “She was bound to a chair and slapped and hit time after time. One of the soldiers lit cigarettes for his comrades and they took turns burning her legs with lighted cigarettes. They beat her with a metal stick, which was probably a pipe. When his arm tired, another soldier took the pipe and continued to beat her.” A soldier mashed his boot into her face and then she was gang raped in front of the other prisoners, until she passed out.
Sadly, Durdana was only one of many Azerbaijani women to be treated in this manner in Khojaly. This was not an isolated incident. Furthermore, 800,000 Azerbaijanis in total would be ethnically cleansed from their homes to make way for Armenia to control the Nagorno-Karabakh region, where many cities such as Agdam were transformed into ghost towns.
Unfortunately, too many in the West support Armenia blindly and ignore atrocities like what happened in Khojaly, Agdam and other places that were under Armenian occupation. Recently, Webster University hosted a webinar titled “Karabakh Conflict: Lessons for Diplomacy.” In this talk, Micheline Calmy Rey, a Swiss politician, did not mention in her initial talk whether the non-recognition of the Khojaly Genocide by Armenia is an impediment for peace, even though the same state that perpetrated that crime against humanity controls Yerevan today and continues to not take responsibility for their actions. Nor did she acknowledge that there are countless survivors of the Khojaly Genocide that are with us today and continue to suffer from that grave crime against humanity.
However, she was willing to bring up ancient history as an impediment for peace that has nothing to do with the modern state of Azerbaijan. For me, this right here is a double standard. Since the State of Israel also suffers from Western double standards, we should stand in solidarity with Azerbaijan and build a memorial commemorating the Khojaly Genocide.
This Op-Ed/Analysis is the author’s personal opinion and does not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of JerusalemOnline.com.