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Opinion

A place where there is no antisemitism

Azerbaijan can serve as a model of a multicultural society where Jews are free from persecution.

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen (right) greets his Azerbaijani counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov in Jerusalem, March 29, 2023.  Photo by Miri Shimonovich/Israel Foreign Ministry.
Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen (right) greets his Azerbaijani counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov in Jerusalem, March 29, 2023. Photo by Miri Shimonovich/Israel Foreign Ministry.
Israeli Minister of Communications Ayoob Kara.
Ayoob Kara
Ayoob Kara served as Israel’s minister of communications.

When Jews around the world celebrate Passover, they commemorate their liberation from slavery and bondage. Yet in many parts of the Jewish Diaspora, are the Jews truly free? After all, the Anti-Defamation League reports that antisemitism is at a record high in the United States, with a 36% increase in antisemitic incidents compared to the previous year. The situation in Europe and much of the Islamic world is even worse.

Not long ago, an article was published in the Qatari media inciting violence against Israelis. In Al Watan, the writer proclaimed, “Make sure that they are never safe, not in Tel Aviv and not in Jerusalem and not in their settlements.” The Jordanian daily Al Dustur published an article saying that relations must be severed “with the treacherous Jews.” The Falasteen Daily, a Hamas outlet, described the rising joy and adrenaline that erupt in the Palestinian street following every terror attack against Israelis and stressed that this proved the glory of the Palestinian people.

Articles like this, accompanied by antisemitic sermons given by clergy, antisemitic books and TV series, antisemitism on social media and so on, lead to antisemitic violence against Israelis. See, for example, the recent terror attack in Beit Ummar, where three Israeli soldiers were wounded; the Iranian plot to attack Jews and Israelis in Athens, which was luckily thwarted; and the earlier terror attacks in Huwara and Tel Aviv.

In the West, antisemitic indoctrination has led to attacks on synagogues in Pittsburgh, California and Texas. In Europe, it led to an attack on a synagogue in Germany and the murder of innocent Jewish civilians in France.

It is important to note that such indoctrination is not confined to the radical Islamist world in the Middle East. It is common among radical Muslims in the West, far-right neo-Nazis and the far-left.

This creates a dangerous situation for Jews around the world.

However, there is one place in the world where it is safe to be Jewish and these kinds of things do not happen—Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan is the only country where synagogues remain unlocked at night. It is one of the few places in the world where religious Jews feel free to walk the streets in religious garb without fear of harassment.

Many might find it hard to believe that Azerbaijan is one of the few places in the world where Jews live in complete freedom and are not condemned to live in fear of the next terror attack or antisemitic incident. But when I was in Azerbaijan, I met with Rabbi Zamir Isayev, who told me that antisemitism is alien to Azerbaijani culture.

“We do not know what is a blood libel, what it is like to have our synagogues attacked and what it is like to fall victim to antisemitic attacks or terror attacks,” he said. “We live in complete freedom which is unparalleled in other parts of the world.”

As Jews celebrate Passover, they should not just celebrate freedom from Egyptian bondage but also aspire to be liberated from the plague of antisemitism.

To eliminate antisemitism, we should all learn from the Azerbaijanis how to build a successful multicultural society. They have succeeded in creating a place where there is no antisemitism, where people celebrate Passover, Easter and Novruz in unison and celebrate rather than persecute others.

The Haggadah reads, “Next year in Jerusalem,” but we should add, “and may we be free of antisemitism like they are in Baku.”

Ayoob Kara served as Israel’s minister of communications.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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