(August 14, 2020, JNS Wire)
BAKU, August 13, 2020 — The Jewish community of Azerbaijan is calling for more American Jewish organizations to condemn the alleged hate crimes committed at a recent Armenian-organized protest outside the Azerbaijani Consulate General in Los Angeles.
On July 21, some of the 3,000 Armenian protesters in the Brentwood neighborhood attacked a group of two-dozen Azerbaijanis, causing injuries which required urgent medical care. The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) subsequently launched a hate-crime investigation into the incident, and the American Jewish Committee and the Simon Wiesenthal Center condemned the violence. The Los Angeles demonstration was organized by the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) lobby’s Western Region, which recently called on Israel to “rethink its relationship with Azerbaijan” in an op-ed in The Jerusalem Post. On August 12, the LAPD announced that it is seeking help identifying a man who police say was involved in an assault during July’s protest.
The protest followed last month’s attack by Armenia across the border with Azerbaijan, which killed 12 people and threatened Azerbaijan’s pipeline infrastructure, a vital source for Europe’s energy security. It marked the latest flare-up in the protracted three-decade long Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict. Despite mediation efforts co-chaired by France, Russia, and the U.S., Armenia continues to occupy approximately 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized territories in violation of four U.N. Security Council resolutions and numerous other international documents.
Given Muslim-majority Azerbaijan’s pioneering cultivation of deep ties with Israel as well as the presence of a thriving community of “Mountain Jews” in Azerbaijan for centuries — a Jewish community which reports that it has not encountered anti-Semitism — Azerbaijani Jews are urging American Jews to express increased solidarity during these tense times both in the South Caucasus region and in U.S. cities where Armenians organize anti-Azerbaijan protests.
“While it is instinctual for American Jewish groups to take a neutral position toward the Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict in Eurasia, these organizations must not ignore the facts about both countries,” said Anatoli Rafailov, Member of the Parliament of Azerbaijan. “Azerbaijan is a highly strategic Muslim-majority ally for Israel and an inspirational paradigm for fruitful Jewish-Muslim ties. At the same time, Armenia’s close relationship with Iran and the deep-seated anti-Semitism among the Armenian population should be highly concerning for the U.S. Jewish community.”
Anatoli Rafailov continued, “We understand that in a perfect world, American Jews would want to avoid ‘choosing a side’ in the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict. Nevertheless, they should still speak the truth. In line with the Jewish value of ‘tikkun olam’ (repairing the world) and the U.S. Jewish community’s historic role in working to counter all forms of bigotry, American Jews should condemn Armenian hatred whenever it rears its ugly head. They should also vocally support Azerbaijan, a crucial ally of Israel, when its territorial integrity is blatantly violated and when its citizens are attacked.”
Armenian society displays systemic anti-Semitism. A Pew Research Center survey found that 32 percent of Armenians would not accept Jews as fellow citizens. The Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) “Global 100” study documented that a majority of Armenians believe a variety of anti-Semitic stereotypes are “probably true” — including that Jews have too much power in the business world (72 percent) and financial markets (68 percent), are more loyal to Israel than to the country where they live (68 percent), have too much power over global affairs (51 percent), and have too much control over the American government (51 percent). In fact, Armenians (58 percent) agree with anti-Semitic stereotypes at a higher rate than Iranians (56 percent), according to the ADL study.
Another indicator of Armenian anti-Semitism is the monument erected in the country’s capital of Yerevan which honors Garegin Nzhdeh, a Nazi collaborator and commander of the Wehrmacht’s Armenian Legion. That unit fought in Crimea, the Caucasus, and southern France as the Nazis rounded up Jews and resistance fighters and marched them to death camps. In 1945, Nzhdeh was sentenced to 25 years in prison by a Soviet court for his war crimes and collaboration with the Nazis.
Additionally, the ANCA has promoted age-old anti-Semitic tropes on Twitter, including the blood libel accusing Jews of murdering Christians.
In regard to Iran, Armenian banks have historically helped Israel’s archenemy circumvent American and international sanctions, particularly by allowing Tehran to obfuscate payments to and from foreign clients. In 2019, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned Armenia-based Flight Travel LLC for its connection to Iranian Mahan Air, which is linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Further, Armenia has partnered with Russia on Moscow’s military mission in Syria, aligning itself with Iran and Hezbollah in their backing of dictator Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Head of the Community of Azerbaijan’s Mountain Jews in Baku
Chair of Baku Religious Community of European Jews
Chair of the Community of Georgian Jews