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David and Goliath in the Caucasus

by Yair Auron

Battle scenes in the Caucasus

Battle scenes in the Caucasus

The Professor at Israel's Open University, author of numerous books about genocide cases and founder of Gariwo Israel, published in Haaretz a reflection on the difficult issues of Armenian identity and the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh. He dares challenge the Israeli government by issuing petitions and demanding it to stop selling weapons into this conflict, where major humanitarian tragedies are likely to unfold. 

... not a single country in the world recognizes the Nagorno- (Russian for “mountain”) Karabakh Republic. Even Armenia cannot recognize the de-facto independent state, because then Azerbaijan would cut off the tenuous channel of communication it maintains with Armenia in the hope of furthering conciliation, via mediating parties.

The republic was established on May 12, 1994, following a cease-fire agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Its total population is 140,000 – 98 percent of whom are ethnic Armenians. (The total population of Armenia is approximately three million.) The cease-fire ended a bloody war that had begun in 1988, and that ended with the Azeris being driven out. At the time, military observers and experts assessed that Armenian Karabakh would not survive for long. They estimated that it would vanish within days and that the region would be reoccupied by the army of Azerbaijan, a force that is better equipped and more advanced than that of Armenia. 

After describing the origins and unfolding of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan  Prof. Auron told about his efforts to get Israel to recognize the Armenian genocide. 

I have no doubt that I am being subjective, and also probably partisan: My prolonged efforts in favor of the State of Israel’s recognition of the Armenian genocide have forged deep bonds between me and the Armenian people.I am currently teaching at the American University of Armenia in Yerevan, and enjoying myself immensely. From my first day here, I have felt at home.

I decided to go to Karabakh for a few days. I am an “official visitor,” if that can be said about a state that has no official visitors. For even when senior-level visitors from other countries arrive, they take pains to emphasize that they are on a private visit, so as not to antagonize neighboring Azerbaijan. I was received by the president, Bako Sahakyan and the head of parliament; I toured the border zone and spent a few hours in an Armenian bunker, where I was able to speak with complete freedom with the soldiers.

A sign at the entrance to the bunker read, roughly: “If we lose Artsakh [the Armenian name for Karabakh], we will be sealing the fate of Armenian history.” This feeling is shared by many of the Armenians with whom I spoke.

Auron sums up this sweeping feelings as follows: 

A “prolonged war” – or “soft war” – is now under way, one that is liable any day to develop into a full-scale conflict. This is the tensest and most difficult period since the cease-fire was declared, 21 years ago. Twelve Armenian soldiers were killed in January alone, and farmers working their land along the border are also killed every so often. Thirteen soldiers serve in the military position I visited; the Azeri military post is a mere 200 meters away. The Armenian outpost was clean and orderly and heated; the temperature outside was below freezing.

Then he tries to figure out a possible comparison with Israel's situation: 

Often, during my visit, I thought of my own country, Israel, in its early years, during the 1948 War of Independence. And in the 1950s and the early 1960s, times when the nascent country fought for its existence. The pre-1967 years eventually gave way to an extraordinary military victory, which has been leading us to the brink of an abyss ever since. Today Israel’s is no fighting for its existence, but is rather in a struggle over control of territory. I am nagged by the thought that we Israelis, too, are fighting a David and Goliath war, only with the roles reversed from what they were a half-century ago.

The issue involves reasoning on alarming news about Israeli weapon sales to Azerbaijan, which does not let the author sleep at night. Genocide prevention is not a matter of good intention, but rather of knowing how to deal with difficult policy issues and proving our civil courage everyday.  

22 April 2015

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Crimes of genocide and against the humankind

the denial of the individual's value

The first legal definition in the domain of mass persecution dates back to 1915 and concerns the massacres of the Armenian populations perpetrated by the Turks, which were followed by the trials of the perpetrators before the Martial Court. In the Treaty of Sèvres in 1920 the Great Powers use the terms "crimes against civilization" and "crimes of lèse-humanity". In the aftermath of Second World War, face the Holocaust tragedy, the Military Tribunal of the Nurnberger Trials against Nazi officials started the proceeding by stating the crimes on which it was competent... On 9 December 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations unanimously approved the Convention for the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide, which is considered as the most heinous crime against Humanity. 

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