A plea to all Armenians to think about the genocide of the Palestinians

A horrifying scene. A man rides his bicycle along the al-Rashid coast in Gaza. He cries out in grief and horror – ya Allah – as his phone records a moving image of dead women and children, in pools of blood, left lying amongst their few earthly possessions in suitcases, broken and littered along the road like their bodies. As the Israeli government told residents of Northern Gaza to relocate to the South, some heeded the call in hopes that they might find safety there. They did not make it, killed by Israeli forces on the road.

I watched this scene on X, formerly Twitter, on the evening of November 3. I couldn’t breathe. I felt like I couldn’t quite exist. The world broke; it was not possible to be a human in a reality of such profound inhumanity. I sat crying, sobbing, the image continuously replaying. I did not want to watch it anymore. I could no longer bear it, hearing the cry ya Allah, but I felt paralyzed, unable to turn it off.

My reaction was only partially attributable to the video’s own objective display of horror. This could not entirely be the explanation, because since October 7, I have seen images of dead children pulled out of rubble and placed in a line waiting for burial; children who were alive and yet looked somewhere closer to death, whitened with the dust of their home that had just been bombed by Israel all around them; children in shock, unable to cry, unable to speak; children running after the caskets of their fathers, begging them not to leave; children wanting their mothers, but whose mothers could not be found or who had been found dead; mothers burying their children; mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles and grandparents wailing at the loss – their personal loss, their collective loss. While I have cried, while I have sobbed, while I have lived in rage for the last month that such an atrocity is taking place, something else happened to me in that moment. 

Protesters hold Palestinian flags and a banner reading, “Stop the Genocide. Free Palestine.” (Wikimedia)

The scene – bodies strewn, a cry of shock and disbelief, the display of humans outside of the space of humanity, as if there is no such thing as a humanity any longer – pulled out of me, out of my unconscious perhaps, scenes I never witnessed but read about. Scenes that I have only read in words and that have produced pictures in my head. I realized at that moment that the video – the documentation of this unfolding reality – was exactly how I had produced moving images of scenes of horror of the Armenian aghed, the catastrophe. Amid the daily images we are seeing of the horror caused by Israel in Gaza as well as in the West Bank and Jerusalem, that scene was what philosopher Roland Barthes called “the punctum,” that one part of the whole image that stings, that takes you somewhere else, that touches you in particular. The history of the aghed was no longer history, no longer in the past. It was happening right now, and I was witness to it.

What has been unfolding in Gaza is the ansahmaneli (infinite, limitless) suffering that Zabel Yessayan wrote about in Among the Ruins. Let us revisit Yessayan’s writing.

“The destroyed city stretches out under the generous and dazzling sun like an endless cemetery. Nothing but ruins on every side…Nothing has been spared. All the churches, all the schools and all the dwellings have been trans-formed into heaps of charred and deformed stones, among which rises here and there the carcass of an apartment building. From the west to the east, from the north to the south, all the way to the distant Turkish quarters, cruel and implacable hatred has burnt everything, devastated everything.”

In these words, how can one not see the rubble, the ruins of churches, hospitals, schools, homes and refugee camps, that Israel has made of Gaza in just a few weeks? In these words, how can one not see the red skies of constant explosions as bombs are dropped all across the land? In these words, how can one not see the skeletal remains of apartment buildings collapsed, sometimes on their sides, sometimes as if inside out, sometimes in the midst of scenes of people desperately digging to find the dead and, by summoning up all superhuman hope, the surviving? “Are you taking me to the cemetery?” asks a young girl as she is pulled out of rubble. “No, my darling, you are living and beautiful like the moon,” responds a man carrying her out. While there is celebration of having saved one, all those involved know quite well that there is no safety anywhere, for any of them.

Every Armenian who has been watching the mass deportation – the ethnic cleansing – of Armenians from Artsakh in devastation, in horror and in rage should be called to this cause as their own cause. The genocide – the senseless catastrophe – that Israel is doing to Palestinians today is a part of the Armenian cause.

More words from Yessayan:

“When I saw for the first time these pale orphans with their haggard appearances, gathered together by the hundreds, I was unable – despite superhuman efforts – to grasp the totality of their misfortune, and still today I cannot. Particular details and images come to mind, certainly, but never have I been able to take account of the infinite (ansahmaneli), bloody history that each of these children represents. For a long time I was incapable of attending to any one of them in particular. I heard a confused, uncertain, indefinite (ansahmaneli) tragic ululation, expressed by the totality of these still childish, still distracted gazes that had not yet understood what had happened. This bloodbath, this stream of spilled blood, this despair of a humanity driven mad, caught between fire and blade, all this remained beyond my imagination, and I believe this was the case for everyone involved.”

In these words, how can we not see the ungraspable, a violence without any sense or possibility of sense, a violence without mourning and possibility of mourning, that is unfolding right now, every day? Surely, we can see the reality beyond imagination that Yessayan writes about in the fact that 825 families from Gaza have now been erased from the civil registry. That doctors now have a new acronym, one that became necessary in the practical work they have been trying to do in Gaza: WCNSF – Wounded Child No Surviving Family.  

I write this not to navel-gaze, not as an exercise in exploring my own feelings. I write this as a plea. Every Armenian, whose sense of history and identity has been shaped in one way or another by the mass slaughter that took place in the hands of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries, should be called to this cause as their own cause. Every Armenian who has been watching the mass deportation – the ethnic cleansing – of Armenians from Artsakh in devastation, in horror and in rage should be called to this cause as their own cause. The genocide – the senseless catastrophe – that Israel is doing to Palestinians today is a part of the Armenian cause. To speak about this and to act against this in any way we can is our responsibility as survivors. 

Tamar Shirinian

Tamar Shirinian

Tamar Shirinian is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Her work explores nationalism, gender and sexuality.

16 Comments

  1. Bravo to Tamar! Indeed, the Palestinian and Armenian causes converge. The Palestinians are resisting the Zionist entity that supported Azerbaijan in its war against Artsakh. We shall never forget that. Yet, the government of Armenia still maintains diplomatic relations with the entity while distant countries in Latin America have broken off their relationships when horrific mass killings are being committed against the Palestinians. Armenia should do the same when Genocide is perpetrated against any people; otherwise Armenia may be accused of hypocrisy. Let’s call the Armenian embassy in the US or anywhere in the world and express our disdain for their government in Armenia being silent about the atrocities committed against the Palestinians while maintaining diplomatic relations with the Zionist entity.

  2. At the risk of seeming heartless, this is not our fight. For one, this is not genocide unless Lemkin Institute declared it as such and I missed it. Please dont make up your own definition. Also, like it or not there is always some expectation of quid pro quo. The Palestinians have not cared one iota about Armenians. Israel hasn’t either, but numerous individual Jews have publicly and privately expressed horror and dismay at the behavior of the Israeli government. Have we heard a single note of sympathy from Palestinians? The clearest rule-of-thumb might be that if Turkey is FOR somehting, Armenia and Armenians should probably be AGAINST. Seems simple enough and yet Pashinyan, idiot in chief, and his dwarfs dont get it.

    • Dear Pro-Armenia,
      Your first sentence is wrong. Killing 10,000 palestinians or any ethnic group is Genocide, just as in Rwanda , Darfur, Artsakh and Palestine, and many more. I agree with you about the fact that Palestinians did not care about Armenia or Artsakh, but we should not in the same talk stand with the perpetrators, Israel, who stole the lands of Palestinians who have been living there for thousands years, just like Artsakh Armenians and populated the west bank ellegaly with Israeli citizens just as
      Azerbaijan did to Armenians in Artsakh and that’s what prompted this genocide. Palestinians have been under occupation for more than 50 years, and wanted their free land, Palestine. However, Israel wanted to take over all of the West Bank, and that’s is why they committed the crimes on Oct. 7. I do not condone what they did, that is wrong and I am against it and against killing any one, especially children from either side. We are all human and no one has the right to murder. Let me remind you, that few years back, the Israeli ambassador to Armenia, Rivka Cohen open stated that the Armenian Genocide can not be compared to the Jewish Holocaust. In Israel, thousand of Armenians were kicked out of their homes after the 1967 war. There is hardly any Armenians left there, not to mention that Armenians are constantly being harassed by Jewish rabbis and spit on, and don’t forget that American jewish organizations stood against the acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide in the USA, thus to support Turkey so that Israel will appease Turkey, mainly by ADL and Abraham Fox. DO you remember all this? Again, remember Bush when he said, “You either with us or against us”. ANother point if you allow me: you see the jews stand on both sides of the isle, some pro and some against so that they cover all the bases and so it is hard to trust, but Armenians shoot straight, either with or against, clear cut. May be we should play the game just like the politicians, cause Politics is perfectly defined as the most Honest Form of PROSTITUTION.
      And I hope you and I can sit together and help Armenia, cause United we stand and Divided we fall.

    • “Who Remembers the Armenians?”

      I remember them
      and I ride the nightmare bus with them
      each night
      and my coffee, this morning
      I’m drinking it with them

      You, murderer –
      Who remembers you?

      Najwan Darwish (Palestinian poet)

  3. If grandchildren of survivors of Armenian Genocide can’t feel the pain of the Palestinians, then nobody can.When I see these unbearably cruel photos from Gaza, I can only think of our Armenian ancestors in Turkey.Considering the crimes that have been laid upon the Armenian nation,it would be impossible for us to ignore this issue.

  4. You’re always on the wrong side, if you think the Palestinians have claim to the land that Israelites are on,
    then maybe then the Turks have claim to Armenia??? What do you think the saying the Palestinians say
    “ …from the river to the sea” actually means?

  5. To my knowledge, Tamar Shirinian is the only Armenian academic who has broken the deafening silence of scholars much more senior than her in rank and fame in commenting collectively or individually on the carnage taking place in Gaza. For speaking out, she deserves our thanks and support. Through intent or indifference, the entire Armenian Studies establishment–the Chairs, Centers, Institutes–has simply been absent from the world-wide condemnation of Israel’s crimes of ethnic cleansing. Add to that the cultural, artists, media, and charity organizations, and you have a pervasive syndrome: if it’s not “our genocide,” it’s not worth our time or effort. We often express excessive gratitude for those who show solidarity for our cause, but we don’t think of ourselves as active participants in world events and international solidarity movements, and then complain when the world does not react affirmatively to our collective adversity.
    It’s day 32, and only one voice out there.

  6. To everyone who is sympathizing with Palestinians, a silly hypothetical but there is a point to be made: if Sunni Turks from Anatolia were massacring Shiite Azerbaijani Turks, would you take a position? We have to choose our battles. If we think for a second that by doing the righteous thing it will be reciprocated in the future, with all due respect we’ve not learned anything.

  7. It should be clear to every Armenian by now that there is a “political” and “humanitarian” response to a catastrophic event. The political response always takes precedence and is worked out based on cold unemotional realpolitik considerations. As some of the comments above point out, the Jewish lobby in US supported Turkey because there was a strategic alliance between Turkey and Israel, especially from the 70’s to 90’s. In the same vein Israel supported Azerbaijan for two fundamental reasons a) a very lucrative ( several billion dollars) and mutually beneficial deal of arms for oil and b) Azerbaijan strategic location next to arch enemy Iran. If Armenian government can work out a political and commercial understanding with some Arab countries, then Armenia can support Arab and Palestinian causes. Armenia must figure out how to be “useful” to Arab countries to gain political/economic /military advantage. The humanitarian response is always a distant second to political considerations. Armenians experienced this first hand last month when Smantha Powers from USAID showed up in Armenia only after Artsakh was depopulated and taken over by Azerbaijan. There were no sanctions on Azerbaijan, no military aid for Armenia , just $M 11 dollars and some verbal “deep concern” . Armenians and their NGO’s can and should individually support Palestinians and provide humanitarian aid, but it would be better if there was a political understanding

  8. I support the Palestinian cause but that does not mean that I advocate it at the expense of Jews right to exist on the same piece of real estate along the Mediterranean coast in that part of the world. And for political and humanitarian reasons I do not seek Israeli recognition of Armenian Genocide and I reject Israeli recognition of the Armenian Genocide as long as Israel denies to the Palestinians what it uphold for itself.

  9. Accusing Israel of committing a genocide is libelous and wrong. Genocide has a strict definition. There has to be an explicit goal to exterminate a whole group and erase its identity for it to be a genocide. Describing some emotional anecdotes of people in Gaza suffering without any context at all, doesn’t prove a genocide. During WWII, the allies bombed German and Japanese cities killing many more civillian than Israel has ever killed Palestinians. But those WWII deaths don’t meet the specific definition of a genocide.

    Israel works scrupulously to avoid civillian deaths, but to avoid civillian deaths entirely is completely impossible because Hamas houses terrorists and weapons in around and underneath civillian areas, and they try to prevent their own civillians from escaping to safety. They built an underground tunnel network larger than the NYC subway, but use it to house the terrorists instead of the civillians.

    It’s obvious that many Armenians are angry with Israel over its support for Azerbaijan and its refusal to officially recognize the Armenian genocide, but that doesn’t give us the right to libel and slander Israel. Israel is a country Armenians should empathize with because like Armenia, it is a tiny country surrounded by its enemies, and its people are survivors of centuries of persecution and genocide. Additionally, Israel’s enemies like Hamas, have a lot in common with Armenia’s enemies. Hamas is a racist nazi Islamic extremist group hellbent on committing a genocide against Jews, just like the perpetrators of the Armenian genococide.

  10. Israel is driving Palestinians out of their homeland, many of them to their deaths. Whether that yet qualifies as genocide, it is exactly what happened to our ancestors in the Ottoman Empire, and to Artsakhtsi’s just weeks ago. If we advocate for Armenia’s survival, we must support the Palestinians’ right to exist! Hamas is a radical minority, not the entirety of the Palestinian population.
    I also agree that the Jewish people have a right to a homeland. Many of them don’t support Israel’s current policies. Armenians should support continued efforts at a peaceful solution. It won’t be easy, in Israel-Palestine or in Armenia-Artsakh-Azerbaijan, but it’s the only way we can all thrive going forward.

    • Israel is not driving Palestinians out of their homeland. 20% of Israel’s population are Arabs. The Palestinian population has increased five times over since 1967. A genocide would result in a population shrinking. On the other hand, Jews across the Muslim world, were pogromed and driven out of their homes as a response to the creation of Israel.

      You are sorely mistaken for thinking Hamas is a radical minority. Hamas enjoys support from the majority of the Palestinian population that elected it in 2006. Palestinian civillians were seen storming into Israel on 10/7, partaking in the massacre, looting Israeli homes, and spitting on the dead and defiled bodies of captured Israelis. Palestinian children are taught Islamic Jew-hatred since birth, in their UN funded schools, in their mosques, and on children’s TV shows. Every facet of life in Gaza is in the service of Hamas and its genocidal agenda, just like in Nazi Germany. The ideology of Hamas is an inseparable part of Palestinian society. It is absolutely NOT in Armenians’ interests to empower the Palestinians in any way. Their society is an absolute affront to the pluralistic democratic society that Armenians and all civilized people seek to have.

  11. Thank you, Tamar. You are not alone, not at all.
    Armenians and Palestinians have lived as friends, good neighbors, and khnamee’s for centuries, and in our darkest hour, Palestinians welcomed Armenians and gave far more than others did who had far more to give. A reminder to Mark and “Pro-Armenian”: the hottest place in hell is reserved for the sin of ingratitude.
    But even setting this aside, the fact is that a genocide is taking place in front of our eyes. If we do not speak up now, then why should we expect others to sympathize with the plight of our great grandparents?
    A couple of commenters mentioned Hamas. There are many political factions among Palestinians, just as there are among Armenians. But let us consider Hamas: Over the past several years, that organization has demonstrated that its leaders care more about preserving the Armenian presence in Jerusalem than does the Armenian Patriarchate itself. “Oh, but they do this for their own self interests …” It is interesting to compare Hamas’ “self interest” to the “self interest” of those who for the past four months have crushed and incinerated tens of thousands of children. To mention just two points: (i) the occupiers of Palestine have reduced the Christian presence in the Holy Land to 10% of what it had been before 1967, and (ii) today it is obviously in the “self-interest” of Israel to wipe out the Armenian presence in the Holy Land.
    Mark and “Pro-Armenian” are either ignorant bigots or they are liars on the payroll of our enemies.

  12. Markar, you want me to show gratitude to savages who r**e as a method of war, kidnap children, use human shields, and are motivated by an Islamist ideology that demands Islamic territorial supremacy accross all formerly Islamic controlled lands? The “palestinians” are unified behind Hamas. Hamas embodies the political aspirations of the “palestinians” in Gaza, Judea and Samaria, and their diaspora around the world. You have to be willfully blind not to notice this. The “palestinians” only use Christians as token allies/useful idiots and will quickly stab you in the back once you are no longer useful. Hamas and all other Islamists, view Christians indistinguishably from Jews, as inferiors to be subjugated. The alliance you have with them is a total one-way street.

    Hamas’ founding charter states “Israel exists and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it has obliterated others.” You ought to remember those words. Because you should know that by “others,” Hamas is referring to the many nations and peoples that have been wiped out in the past 1400 years. The Armenians are one of them.

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