By Hagop Hagopian, Toronto, 18 May 2023
If you believe the moon rises every morning in the west to illuminate us… If you believe Armenians and Greeks set their Izmir hometown on fire… if you believe Bush I and Bush II invaded Iraq to establish democracy to that country… then you will probably believe the facile lies uttered by Patriarch Nourhan I of Jerusalem.
It’s as clear as Jerusalem’s blue skies that the so-called Patriarch knowingly signed the illegal real estate transaction with the Israeli front-man Danny Rubenstein regarding Goveroun Bardez (“Cows’ Garden”). In his protest letter for being defrocked, Rev. Baret Yeretsian (now Khachig) wrote that he had advised Nourhan to have the “lease” checked by the General Assembly. Nourhan had replied the issue had been postponed for far too long. He then signed the document. The 8-acre land covers one-fourth of the Armenian Quarter. Yeretsian, although a deplorable character, is credible in this instance because he has a witness and admitted that he had supported the misbegotten deal. He has said he is considering to sue the Patriarchate.
“Since the scandal became public, Nourhan has been doing the Three Monkeys routine with an unconvincing addition (“I didn’t see, I didn’t hear, I didn’t say, and I didn’t do.)
Nourhan is so out of touch with reality that he believes defrocking his brother-in-crime (Yeretsian) absolves him of the crime which threatens the 1,800-year presence of Armenians in Jerusalem.
Nourhan also has the temerity to assume people would give credence to his decision to conduct an internal investigation of the scandal. What “internal investigation” when the crime is the work of the man heading the investigation? That is, the criminal, the prosecutor, and judge are the same person. It’s a case that belongs to the annals of jurisprudence.
Nourhan claims he was misled by Yeretsian who was director of the Patriarchate’s real estate office when the dirty deed was done. A likely tale. During his fifty-plus years as clergyman, Nourhan has been pastor (twice) of Geneva, once in Almelo (Netherlands), Philadelphia, Springfield, and Houston plus Haifa and Jaffa. He has attended theological academies and won a doctorate in theology from a famed Manhattan theological academy. He has held various jobs since he became a bishop 1998 and Patriarch on 2013. He is fluent in several languages and writes long religious-theological articles in the Patriarchate’s “Sion” journal. How could a man like Nourhan be consistently bamboozled to by callow, undiplomatic, rough-hewn, often ill-mannered, and ill-educated Baret?
Doublespeak is an Orwellian word Nourhan must be familiar with. A good example can be seen in a recent communiques where he vowed to “protect the interests of Armenian Convent and community” although he has done more harm to the Jerusalem Armenian Church than any of the 96 patriarchs who preceded him.
“Doublethink” is another Orwellian coinage. It’s the act of simultaneously accepting two mutually contradictory beliefs as correct: Thus, although Nourhan gave away our precious patrimony, he maintains he is as clean as…. driven slush. Doublethink results in paralysis.
There are other verbal gimmicks (deliberate ambiguity, opacity, obfuscation, gobbledygook, deflection, distraction, digression…) Nourhan has deployed. Note his cagey reply to the Jordanian and Palestinian governments for freezing their recognition of Nourhan’s Patriarchate. Nourhan’s communique said it was disconcerting that the two governments had condemned Nourhan when the ‘main person responsible’…had been defrocked. Note that the “not main” party or parties are not mentioned. Can perchance the unknown party be none other than Nourhan?[It’s revealing that although the conspiracy is several years old, there has been no mention of the amount of money Rubenstein paid.]
While Judas I fled to Turkey, Judas II is still mismanaging the Patriarchate. As an Armenian businessman said of the pair: “He [Baret-Khachig] is the mouse, but the rat is still at home.” We and others have demanded the resignation of Nourhan. While his toppling would be step in the right direction, it wouldn’t solve the problem (how to reverse the illegal lease/sales contract.)
In May there were two positive developments. In addition to Jerusalem Armenians’ spontaneous outburst against the land deal and the dramatic flight of the execrable Baret-Khachig, Jerusalem millionaire Tsolag Momjian offered to cover all expenses related to the legal case against the sale of Goveroun Bardez. The second good news was the offer by a highly-reputable Chicago law firm to take on the case. The company has had extensive international experience, including in Armenia and Artsakh.
Although admittedly in the dark because we haven’t seen the notorious contract [Nourhan will not show it to anyone for obvious reasons), we venture the following legal advice and backgrounder
- In 2002, 2006, and 2015 the Sts. James Brotherhood voted that real estate agreements covering one to 25 years should be ratified by the Holy Synod while agreements covering 25 to 49 years be approved by the Holy Synod and the General Assembly. Since these two bodies were not involved in the land deal, Nourhan’s signature is null and void. The contract is illegal and of no consequence.
- The contract isn’t just a real estate matter. It’s politics at the highest level. The agreement makes mockery of international law: Boghos Manougian of Aleppo, who as a young man found sanctuary in the Sts. James Brotherhood of Jerusalem, eventually becoming Patriarch, didn’t realize his approval of the land deal violated relevant international covenants and decisions which aim to preserve the status quo governing Jerusalem. That international covenant protects the rights of the Armenian Church and community.
The Israeli judge can’t brush off the above arguments.
Armenians of Jerusalem protesting against land deals