On Violence and Racism in the Armenian Quarter: A Call for Respect and Equality

Armenian Quarter, Jerusalem (Photo: Adam Fagen/Flickr)

When I visited East Jerusalem for the first time in 2010 under the auspices of the Palestine Festival of Literature, I was given a reality tour of the Israeli occupation. I was shocked by how little I had known and understood about what life was like in the Armenian Quarter, where the ongoing insults and injustices were designed to let Christian residents know that their presence was barely tolerated by the occupation authorities and by the armed Israeli settlers. It was also strange to see how Christian pilgrims from around the world, Diaspora Armenians among them, could make their way through the streets of the Old City, seemingly oblivious to the scaffolding and violence of settler colonialism around them.

While I was in Jerusalem, I met Elise Aghazarian and her late father Albert, who identified as both Armenian and Palestinian. Elise and I have remained friends since that time. She did an interview with me and translated one of my poems into Arabic for publication in Al Araby. Last week, just after the latest ceasefire went into effect in Gaza on May 22, Elise posted some thoughts on Facebook about a recent assault against an Armenian priest in the Old City. Emboldened mobs of settlers and right-wing Israeli Jews have been attacking those deemed as other—Christians, Muslims, Armenians, Palestinians—in Jerusalem, in the West Bank, and in the so-called “mixed” cities of ’48 Israel. Elise’s heartfelt call for respect and equality is written out of love for humanity and devotion to her beloved Jerusalem. 

Today I remembered an article about spitting attacks against Armenians in the Jerusalem Armenian Quarter, published in the Israeli Newspaper “Haaretz” in November 2011, on how these attacks against Old City clergymen were becoming daily.

Now, nine years later, in May 2021, this is still going on and even getting worse. Some Israeli mobs have been advancing from spitting attacks to beating up priests in our Quarter. We have also in the past witnessed graveyard desecration and death threat graffiti, added to some incidents of tension around Easter time. It seems these groups feel they can get away with it within Israeli society.

The same way I and some members of my community refuse and condemn attacks on Jewish graveyards and rabbis around the world, and the same way we refuse and condemn seeing mosques and Muslim women wearing scarves attacked, we care about Christian monuments and priests. We refuse and condemn attacks against Christians. This kind of behavior must be opposed.

We know that those ignorant racist mobs who sow hatred do not represent the true teachings of their religion. We also realize that if such people continue being encouraged by the system, they will eventually gain more power and start bullying any person who disagrees with them, even members of their own society and religion. They do this because they know they can get away with it.

Armenians have lived in Jerusalem for hundreds of years. Different authorities (Arabs, etc.) have historically coexisted with us and respected the peaceful monks of the brotherhood of St. James. Throughout history there have been different documents calling for the protection of the Armenian community of Jerusalem, including some Islamic sources. 

We stand in solidarity with our Armenian priests and fellow Jerusalemites and call for equality and freedom of peaceful worship for everybody.

I and many people like me believe in the values of respect and righteousness. Whenever we witness violations against human life and the natural world around us we feel compelled to stand with the oppressed and the victims of injustice. Even if we are to be persecuted for this in the short term, in the long run we know we have followed our conscience and worked on improving the life conditions of our beloved city and country.

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Nancy Kricorian is the author of the novels Zabelle, Dreams of Bread and Fire, and All the Light There Was. She is currently working on a novel about Armenians in Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War.
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@NancyKric

Author of ZABELLE, DREAMS OF BREAD AND FIRE, and ALL THE LIGHT THERE WAS. Currently writing a novel about Beirut Armenians during the Civil War.
RT @MariaTitizian: International criminal lawyer and war crimes investigator Sheila Paylan has written an important piece about the mass ex… - 3 mins ago
Elise Aghazarian

Elise Aghazarian

Elise Aghazarian grew up in Jerusalem and studied social sciences and languages. She works as an Arabic teacher and translator and occasionally writes on social and cultural topics with a focus on issues related to the Arab world.

20 Comments

  1. Thank you Nancy and Elise for giving further light to the reprehensible behavior of Israelis towards not only
    the indigenous Palestinians but also the Christians. Many
    Armenians are not aware of the struggle for survival when economic and social pressures slowly squeeze the life out of a once
    vibrant community. These attacks are a reflection of a deeper
    Intolerance designed to vacate Jerusalem of its historic Arab and
    Christian population. It is wrong and to oppose this policy does not
    make one anti-Semitic. It is quite possible to respect the Jewish people and their right to self determination/ sovereignty ….. yet oppose human rights and cultural abuses.

    • Thanks for the appreciation, Stepan. Agree entirely with what you say here regarding the necessity of opposing these policies that are squeezing out the Arrmenians from their own quarter.

  2. Thank you very much Nancy and Elise for your courage in printing this article. More people need to know the truth about what some extremist, hate-filled Israelis are doing to the indigenous Armenians and Palestinians of Jerusalem. I am a Christian pastor who works with Jewish Voice for Peace in Massachusetts. This Jewish organization abhors the violence and desecration these Israeli religious fanatics are perpetrating and are ashamed that such persons call themselves followers of Judaism.

  3. I fully understand & also endorse this veritable ‘cri de coeur’ by 2 wonderful Armenian writers. During the time I was working with the late patriarch, HB Torkom II, in Jerusalem, we came across many such incidents – against priests, deacons & lay Armenians. The police station, known for residents as “al-kishleh”, which is a couple of minutes away from St James’s Convent, bears witness to long years of such vile & discriminatory behaviour.

    Elise’s late dad, a wonderful & erudite man who contributed hugely to Jerusalem as well as to Armenian & Palestinian aspirations, will give his nod of approval to this short piece.

  4. Albert Aghazarian was a student of mine at AUB in Beirut. Very intelligent, persistent, principled, he always fought for what was right. We renewed our friendship during our last visit to the Holy Land. Dickran K.

  5. Albert was my student at the AMERICAN University of Beirut. He was intelligent, committed and very sympa. We met again in Jerusalem about a decade ago. Remarkable, dedicated human being. Dickran

    • I love to hear this, Dickran. I had not idea that Albert had been your student.

  6. Such an important message, Nancy, delivered with your usual evidence. Thank you for this.

    • Thanks, Markar. Elise’s FB post was very moving, and I wanted people to hear her persuasive plea. I hope it will move people to action.

  7. Thank you both for your comments. More people need to be made aware of what goes on in the Old City and in Jerusalem. Most freedom-loving people would not be willing to endure this type of harassment. We have friends we visit in the Old City, Jerusalem and Bethlehem. My heart aches for them listening to what they have to live with on a daily basis. Thanks again for your articles

    • Thanks, Christopher. It is important to help spread the word about the situation.

  8. As a Jew and Israeli I am deeply ashamed of every instance of bigotry and humiliation by our people. Rabbis, teachers, the press and the police should be gathered together to undertake a major correction of any such insults to Armenians and any other faith.

  9. What do you expect? In Jerusalem they attack Armenian priest during processions spitting at the crosses, then they try to take away our land in Jerusalem , and Israel is helping to destroy the Armenian army with their drones in Azerbaidjan.

  10. It is a sad reality for the Christians of Jerusalem and Armenians in particular. Thank you for the article. If Israeli Jews are not learning hatred from the teachings of their “religion,” where are they learning it from? From schools? One thing is certain, hatred destroys the moral fabric of the hater as much as it destroys the hated.

  11. I wish to bring to attention ICC Case Situation in Palestine and Affected Communities (such as Jerusalemite Armenian Palestinians); Rome Statute articles 73 and 30 which together comprise Third Party Document and Records knowledge management otherwise known as Integrated (Global) eGovernance; European Human Rights Court (ECHR) Grande Chamber Ruling 15-10-2015 Perincek versus Switzerland on Right to deny Armenian Genocide being of Freedom of Speech — and hope deep dive examination will prove that Israel has worked strategically to build all legal ecosystems to provide 1) sustained negative discrimination and Exception Rule, meaning denial of all rights to “others” meaning non-Jews. The mechanism to do this is called “integrated Knowledge management” which means control of all documents and historical Records and Archives (mostly digitized with originals destroyed) which allows technichal tools and algorithms to be deployed to alter and change documents and thus legal evidence. The methods used weaponize knowledge management and are scaled up to integrated into International and inter-governamental authorities thus affecting all Affected Communities living in Diaspora — and The methods are sheltered under Third Party Consortia structures which protect The “mechanism” used under under IPR-protection meaning intellectual propery Rights

    In effect, International Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Rome Statute articles 6-9 Crimes can be and are conducted with UN Security Council endorsments of integrated eGovernance and Knowledge Management which couples articles Rome Statute 73 and 30 with permanent Exception Rule applied and scaled up to all Palestinian persons of non-Jew origins in The Affected territories or any territory.

    The ECHR Perincek vs Switzerland Grande Chamber Ruling 15-10-2015 (Lost by Amal Clooney, QC Jeffrey Robertson of Doughty Chambers UK) ruled that 1) Denial of Armenian Genocide is a Freedom of Speech Right inside EU Borders because The Genocide did not occur inside Europe and that 2) denial of Jewish Holocaust is a Hate crime (Rome Statute) because Holocaust occurred inside Europe.

    Therefore, the interpretations of International Human Rights emerged as 1) denial of Armenian, Palestinian, Syyrian or other genocides inside Europe (and EuroJust, EU Member States, EU Council and harmonization of International Laws to cater for eGovernance and eLaws and eCourts meaning use of automated text and legal text corpus analysis to produce Judgment recommendations and judgments) are scued to produce sustained denial and sustained negative discrimination to “those people” (of Middle-East or African origins) and 2) explicit criminalization of denial of Jewish Holocaust produced sustained positive discrimination of persons of Jewish origins living in diaspora in Europe or anywhere Else as pivotal point is – global Integration into eGovernance and eLaw practices that produce desired outcomes that are legalized.

    In terms of treatment of Palestinian Armenians by ultra Orthodox Jews with hate Crimes in Old City of Jerusalem, I wish to clearly indicate that this practices has been legalized and put into practicein Europe in case Aghazarian family members (Citizens of Europe or residing in Europe) who are direct descendents of Ottoman Turkey’s Armenian Genocide and also original (born) Jerusalemite-Armenian Palestinians of Old City of Jerusalem, East-Jerusalem. The Right of denial of origins and of Genocide is coupled with Turkey’s denial of Genocide of Armenians and Israel’s denial of Apartheid, Ethnic cleansing and also testing of Dual Use technologies targeting Palestinian bio-physical bodies with remote weapons that affect cell levels, neuro-cognitive states and psycho-social networks to sever and destroy all.

    From this context US Senate Resolution 150 to recognize Armenian Genocide (after over 100 years has passed) in 12/2019 with the aim to learn from it, is first and foremost in line with ultra-orthodox Zionist strategy of sustaining measures against Palestinians over 100 years until 5-7 generations are deprived of living environments which means sustained Genocide.

    As US is aware and has placed Aghazarian family members under terrorist list since and before 2010 and is aware of Security measures taken with Israel and Turkey, as well as others to sustain hate Crimes and incitment to Crimes, and as by now there are only a handful of original Christian Palestinians left in Jerusalem – The question IS and emerged as “what did we integrated into integrated eGovernance and Security by being left out and 100 percent blocked from having any Rights ?”

    I approached Sweden Palestinian Authority this summer to act on my behalf as “secure postal delivery service to ICC Prosecutor” to submit My Statement to ICC Situation in Palestine and Affected Communities as I am under 24/7 tele- and other targeting to block all access to Fair Trials and Due Process.

    The Finnish and Swedish Governments are currently negotiating secret security mechanisms, including modifying its Laws to cater for integrating into and joining NATO in its fight against terrorism and terrorists Gateway for Finland and Sweden is Turkey’s NATO ratification decision – Turkey and Israel are terrorist States. Evidence to that is Armenian Genocide and Palestinian Genocide over 100 years. The mechanism sought is to integrated denial of Genocide to all integrated Government practices and also to weaponize them as The sustained method and Solution. EU Member States and ECHR has already complied in Perincek vs Switzerland .

    Written on tiny mobile device with poor eye sight which is a personal birth defect.

    Tiina Ison

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