Israel and Armenia: Lessons from the 1990s

By SETH J. FRANTZMAN

As we watch the blockade of Armenians in Nagorna-Karabakh, some 150,000 people or more who are indigenous to the land who have their electricity cut off and the single road connecting them to Armenia cut off…and the international community does nothing…it occurs to me:

The situation of the Armenians and Armenia is what some people wanted to do to Israel and Jews in the Middle East; and it is why Israel has been working so hard since the 1990s to acquire the best defense systems and weapons and make sure it is not isolated; and it is why Israel has been very suspicious and reticent of “peace deals.”

How are the two situations comparable? The Armenians and Jews are both ancient peoples of the Middle East. Both have a diaspora. Both suffered genocide. The genocide of Armenians was carried out between 1915 and 1920. Exterminated and drive from many of their lands, some ended up in Syria, Lebanon, Iran and other places; and a small Armenian country was created within the Soviet Union’s USSR.

The situation of Israel is a bit different. It was reconstituted as a state in 1948 with immigration from the diaspora. By the 1990s the situations of Armenia and Israel were in flux. Israel, founded as a labor socialist state had grown through wars to include the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan (it had given up the Sinai in peace with Egypt). When the Soviet Union fell apart, Armenia also had a conflict with Azerbaijan. The Soviets, like the British in the Middle East, had tried to use minorities against eachother. In the Armenian case a large area where Armenians lived was placed in the Azerbaijan Soviet SSR. This set up an ethnic war, much like the British created in 1947 with their partition plan.

Like Israel in 1948, the Armenians initially won the conflict in the 1990s, receiving backing from the Soviets (Israel also had received backing from the Soviets and the Diaspora in 1948, a parallel to what Armenia received).

From the 1990s the situations diverge a bit. Israel continued its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and despite the Oslo Accords it was reticent to trust that a full peace would arrive. Meanwhile enemies of Israel continued to work to blockade it, pressuring countries not to have relations with Israel or recognize Jerusalem as the capital. Israel understood its precarious position. As the Cold War ended it was possible international pressure would force it to leave the WB and that the international community might do to Israel what was done in the Balkans; sending in international forces. Could Israel end up portrayed as a pariah like Serbia?

Israel made sure this didn’t happen and also worked hard to acquire key air defenses and weapons that would make it secure, as well as supplies of energy needs and self-sufficiency. Israel put a lot of its eggs in trust in a partnership with the US, a key relationship that protects it at the UN, despite bias, and has helped its economic and military power.

Armenia ended up in the opposite situation. It also continued to control Nagorna-Karabkah, which “international law” saw as part of Azerbiajan. Yerevan trusted that Moscow would continue to help and Armenia thought it had friends in the West that would help it. But it didn’t notice as Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan and others quietly isolated it; and as Moscow’s weapons deliveries dried up. Yerevan also lost out in Washington, as lobbyists for Ankara and Baku went to work. The people of Nagorna-Karabakh didn’t arm themselves or create self-sufficient structures that could withstand a war and isolation.

Israel understood that it was facing calls for its own isolation as well. The rise of the AKP in Turkey and BDS and other movements wanted to turn Israel into an isolated blockaded boycotted state. In their misguided view, they could turn Israel into South Africa of the 1980s.

The war launched against Armenia in 2020, conducted while the Trump admin was in office and was sympathetic to Turkey, forced Armenia to basically give up Nagorna-Karabakh and the people there became isolated. Now there is a slow agenda to strangle their life and ethnically cleanse them. No one will do anything, because Ankara has shown through its actions in Afrin, that with a few lobbyists in DC and at the UN and human rights groups, that countries can ethnically cleanse. This isn’t the 1990s.

Israel read the global map and understood no one will stop ethnic cleansing when it begins. Had Israel given up the WB, Golan and Gaza, as various plans called for in the 1990s, it would be isolated. One can’t rely on the “International” community or “laws” to safeguard people. Had Israel made compromises, it would have seen that then the international community would demand Jerusalem be handed over, and then the Negev and then the partition plan of 1947 be enacted again and then a binational “one state” put in place. The “human rights” groups already call for “one state.”

Israel didn’t trust in any “laws” or “international” structures, because it knew that no one will come to help, just as no one helped in 1942…just as no one was there to help the Jews who were ethnically cleansed from Yemen, Iraq, Libya, Lebanon, Tunisia and many other places. It’s F-15s, F-16s, F-35s, weapons and massive armories that keep countries safe, that’s the only thing. Nothing matter except air defenses and submarines, warships, tanks and the ability to service them and re-arm them. Ukraine has seen how the “international” law works…as Russia has destroyed 1/3 of the country. Had Ukraine made tanks it wouldn’t be needing to wait for Germany…and while Ukrainians fight and die, Germany waits to give Leopards. Ukraine trusted the international community in the 1990s…and it has learned what that trust means. It means 100,000 dead…and cities laid waste. Anyone who trusts in the “UN” or all that international lies…will find out the hard way that it is meaningless. It didn’t help Afrin, it didn’t stop Saddam’s genocide…it doesn’t stop the blockade of Nagorna-Karabkah.

So anyone who wonders why Israel didn’t smile and give up all this area in the 1990s for “peace” will know that those countries that gave up things for peace and didn’t ring themselves with masses of weapons to defend themselves…those countries are now being invaded and destroyed. The lies of the 1990s have led to massive suffering, ethnic cleansing, genocide and other things…the lies of “liberal rules based order” and “democracy”…those are the lies. The West said to Armenia “be democratic” and it was…but no one helps them. Because the West is a lie. And even though the West helps Ukraine…it didn’t help enough. Russia should never have been permitted to put one foot in Ukraine…I was in Marinka and those towns of eastern Ukraine that are now totally destroyed…the international lies of “law” didn’t help those people. It didn’t help Afrin. It never helps.

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