It comes as no surprise that Israeli weapons are driving the violence in Gaza. But it is less well known that a similar scenario has unfolded in Artsakh [Nagorno-Karabakh], a majority-Armenian region surrounded by Azerbaijan. Following a ten-month blockade, Azerbaijan, armed with weapons purchased from Israel, launched an attack on civilians in Artsakh. In just a few days in September, nearly the whole population of 120,000 faced ethnic cleansing. After a seventeen-year Israeli blockade, bombs are also raining down Gaza. Just as hundreds of thousands fled Artsakh, 1.5 million are being displaced in Gaza. Beyond the tragic circumstances, Armenians and Palestinians share a common struggle. Both groups are subjected to colonialism and slaughter supported by Western states.
Shared History Between 1915 and 1923 the Ottoman Empire perpetrated the Armenian Genocide, resulting in the deaths of between 664,000 and 1.2 million Armenians. Armenians were forcibly expelled from their homes, massacred and buried in mass graves, and subjected to death marches across the country. After living in Anatolia for two thousand years, almost the entire Armenian population was eradicated. A year after the Armenian Genocide began, the Arab Revolt erupted against the Ottoman Empire. The Arabs received support from the British and French, who promised Arab independence. However, this promise was broken by the end of World War I when France and Britain were appointed colonial administrators of multiple Arab states by League of Nations mandates. Despite this, due to their shared opposition to the Ottomans, many Arabs provided refuge to Armenians fleeing persecution. Thanks to Arab hospitality, hundreds of thousands of Armenians still live in Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria. In 1920, as the Armenian Genocide neared its end, Azerbaijan was integrated into the Soviet Union. Artsakh, with a predominantly Armenian population, resisted joining Azerbaijan and declared its integration with Armenia. Despite receiving approval from the Central Committee of the Communist Party, Joseph Stalin intervened and stopped this incorporation. Consequently, Artsakh was designated an “autonomous region” but remained under Azeri rule. Similar to Armenians, Palestinians also faced foreign rule when, in 1948, Israel declared its independence. During the Nakba, that same year, Zionist militias forced seven hundred thousand Palestinians from their homes, including thousands of Armenian Palestinians who, once again, were forced to flee for their lives.
Post–Cold War Imperialism In the 1950s, the Soviet Union formed alliances with Arab states such as Egypt and Syria. Following the Six-Day War in 1967, the Soviet Union provided support and arms to the Palestinian Liberation Organization. However, when the Soviet Union collapsed, so did this support, and the Russian Federation restored relations with Israel. As the United States emerged as the sole superpower, Palestine became more vulnerable. Under pressure, the Oslo Accords were signed, but instead of fostering peace, the agreement led to much of the West Bank falling under Israeli rule, further fragmenting Palestine. This not only impacted Arabs, but also Armenians under Israeli rule. In the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem, Armenians are prohibited from constructing new buildings, while Israelis freely purchase properties in the area. Israel settlers routinely harass Armenians. Notably, Israel refuses to recognize the Armenian Genocide. Despite their victory in the First Karabakh War, Armenians soon faced a situation similar to their counterparts in Israel and Palestine. After the war ended, Azerbaijan discovered large deposits of natural gas, leading to a fivefold growth in its economy between 2004 and 2008. In the post-9/11 era, Azerbaijan, situated halfway between Europe and Afghanistan, became a strategic hub for the American military. More than one-third of nonlethal equipment destined for Afghanistan passed through Azerbaijan. Consequently, Azerbaijan became allied with the West. Armenia’s strong alliance with Russia deterred any invasion from Azerbaijan. However, when Russia invaded Ukraine, Armenia found itself isolated. In an effort to circumvent Western sanctions, Russia supplied gas to Azerbaijan, which was subsequently sold to Europe. This shift in dynamics led to Russia aligning itself with Azerbaijan. Since 2007, Gaza has faced a land and sea blockade imposed by Israel, restricting the movement of civilians and essential goods, such as food and medicine. Following Israel’s example, Azerbaijan implemented a blockade on Artsakh in December 2022, resulting in starvation and miscarriages. In September 2023, Azeri cargo planes flew to Israel to load drones, rocket launchers, and missiles. Shortly after, these weapons were deployed to invade Artsakh, prompting the rapid displacement of 120,000 people within days. Civilians, including women and children, were killed and tortured. It was not the first time Israel assisted Azerbaijan. Cluster munitions, explosive weapons that release smaller bombs, pose a significant threat to civilian populations as they often scatter widely and may not explode immediately, functioning as de facto land mines. In 2006, Israel used cluster munitions against Lebanon. Subsequently, Israel supplied these munitions to Azerbaijan, which were later used in 2020 to bombard Stepanakert, Artsakh’s capital. According to recent figures, 70 percent of weapons Azerbaijan imports comes from Israel.
Mapping Displacement A widely circulated map illustrates the gradual reduction of Palestine, from Zionist settlements to the UN Partition Plan, the 1949 Armistice borders, and finally the Oslo accords. This pattern draws parallels with the United States’ historical westward expansion, which began with the thirteen colonies and resulted in the confinement of indigenous people on reserves. Similarly, the map reflects the history of Armenia. Before the genocide, majority-Armenian areas extended from Eastern Anatolia (Western Armenia) to Azerbaijan. Western Armenia was ethnically cleansed during the Armenian genocide, Armenians in Azerbaijan were expelled after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and Armenians are now being displaced from Artsakh. This pattern mirrors the situation in Palestine and the historical displacements in North America. In 2021, Azerbaijan began extending its control over Armenia, occupying 250 square kilometers without facing consequences for ethnic cleansing and illegal occupation. Azerbaijan ambitions continue as it is demands that Armenia surrender eight villages and the Zangezur corridor, a land strip connecting Azerbaijan with its exclave, Nakhichevan. It appears Azerbaijan is once again preparing for conflict. Just as Palestine approached the West after it lost the Soviet Union’s support, so too is Armenia turning to the West as Russia focuses on Ukraine. Armenian prime minister Nikol Pashinyan visited the European Union Parliament, while his wife visited Ukraine. France is sending military equipment to Armenia and Canada has opened an embassy in the region. To gauge Armenia’s future with the West, however, one should look to the West Bank. Despite the West’s professed support for a two-state solution, Palestinians in the West Bank face persistent and ongoing violence and the indignity of daily security checkpoints. Israeli settlers, who have been relocating to the region since 1967, continue to encroach upon Palestinian-owned land. While Western leaders have warned of severe consequences if Azerbaijan invades Armenia, a similar stance was taken before Artsakh was ethnically cleansed, with no sanctions imposed, and Azeri gas continues to flow to Europe.