Azerbaijani President Aliyev Is Laying the Foundations of Friendship with Israel and The Jews

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, as the secular leader of the country, is the one who openly said that close friendship with Jews is the “Azerbaijani way of life”. Because of that, and because of his unwavering policy of strategic cooperation with Israel, the Iranian regime personally threatened him, calling him “Rabbi Ilham Alef“, and publishing antisemitic caricatures depicting Aliyev as a Jew. 

Aliyev is laying the foundations of friendship with Israel and Jews against the backdrop of a common threat from Tehran. And the people support him, as for many centuries they peacefully lived with the Jews and even protected them.

Undoubtedly, such a blossoming of relations cannot but cause acute irritation to the enemies of Israel and Azerbaijan, who are making a lot of effort to drive a wedge between them. In recent weeks, several Israeli and Jewish news outlets abroad have published odd articles claiming that Azerbaijan, Israel’s major ally against Iran, is not a good partner. These articles argue that Israel should end or limit its alliance with “Islamic” Azerbaijan and instead become friends with another country in the region – a “Christian” Armenia. 

These articles present a version of Armenia that is very far from its true image, and the authors hope that the readers have less knowledge of the region and of its history.

Some US outlets suddenly claimed that Azerbaijan is a “Russian ally” while Armenia is a Pro-Western democracy. But this is as far from the truth as it is possible.

A substantial number of Western publications and statements by Western politicians shows, that Armenia is an integral part of the Russian-Iranian Axis. It is Armenia that is the key element in evading sanctions.

According to data from the US Bureau of Industry and Security, The New York Times reported a significant increase in Armenia’s imports of chips and microprocessors from the US and the EU between 2021 and 2022. The imports from the US saw a staggering 515% surge, while those from the EU rose by 212%. Notably, 97% of these products eventually found their way to Russia, where they were intended for military applications. As a consequence of this situation, several Armenia-based companies were subjected to sanctions by the US Department of Treasury. These companies were identified as part of a transnational network involved in procuring technology that supported the Russian military-industrial complex.

Armenia’s exports to the EU doubled in 2022, from €753 million to €1.3 billion. This was not due to an increase in productivity or innovation, but rather to Armenia’s role as an intermediary for Russian exports. Armenia is helping Russia bypass sanctions by shipping goods to Russia that are otherwise prohibited. Trade between Armenia and Russia increased by 2.4 times between January and March 2023 (Polish news outlet Salon24). Armenian exports to Russia also increased by 185.7% in 2022, reaching $2.4 billion. This growth is likely due to Armenia’s role in facilitating the illegal shipment of sanctioned goods to Russia.

In March 2023, the US Department of Justice, the Department of Transportation, and the US Treasury Department designated Armenia as a “trans-shipment point commonly used for the illegal shipment of (sanctioned) restricted goods to Russia and Belarus.”

Iran, the archenemy of the Jewish and Azerbaijani people, is another one of Armenia’s old allies and supporters. In 2018 the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on several Armenian individuals and entities for their involvement in a scheme to evade U.S. sanctions on Ayatollahs. According to the documents, they used “a network of shell companies and intermediaries to establish a secret supply chain” to Tehran.

The Newsweek wrote that “recently, numerous publications in Western and Eastern Europe have extensively reported on Armenia’s role in the Russian-Iranian coalition and in the illegal import of equipment, including military, which was later exported to Russia.”

Today Russia uses Iranian UAVs “Shahed” against Ukrainian civilian infrastructures. Iran ships them to the Russians via Armenia. According to many sources, including a Polish-based NGO think tank, Armenia allowed Iran Air Cargo, a subsidiary of Iran Air, to fly to and from Yerevan’s Zvartnots International, a civilian airport, to Moscow. Iran Air Cargo, Safiran Airport Services, and their parent company Iran Air are under US sanctions for transferring, with the help of Armenia, Iranian drones to Russia.

Iran hasn’t made any attempt to hide its newly-blossoming relationship with Armenia. Iranian President Raisi expressed that “Iran considers Armenia a close and friendly country.” Subsequently, Armenian Prime Minister Pashinyan echoed this sentiment, affirming Armenia’s commitment to fostering strong relations with Iran “as much as possible and in all areas“. The bond between the two nations deepened when Iran’s Foreign Affairs Minister declared, that Armenia’s security is intertwined with Iran’s security. Later, the Armenian Defense Ministry acknowledged the receipt of attack drones from Tehran, and after that, Iran generously donated 600 missiles to Armenia.

It’s worth noting that Armenia recently utilized Iranian drones in its operations against Azerbaijan, the same drones that are used by Russia in Ukraine. This alliance and cooperation between Armenia and Iran have raised interest and observation from the international community. Some Iranian politicians spoke out for establishing an Iranian military base in Armenia because Yerevan is interested in such a base to counter Baku and its “Zionist allies”.

Another issue is anti-Semitism. According to the ADL’s study, more than half (58%) of the adult population of Armenia held anti-Semitic stereotypes. 63% and 53% of respondents, respectively, shared the most odious anti-Semitic stereotypes — that “Jews are guilty of anti-Semitism themselves”; and that “Jews always believe they are better than others”; and 45% thought that “Jews still talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust”.

When the Pew Research Center did their survey in Armenia in 2015-16, 32% of Armenian respondents were hardly ready to accept Jews as fellow citizens – the highest percentage of any of the 18 European countries included in the survey. Which also puts Armenia firmly next to one of the most antisemitic countries on Earth – Iran.

The US Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy states, that since the end of 2022, Armenian Telegram channels and forums have been overflowing with statements calling to “join struggle with Iran or Palestinians against Jews and Israel” and picturing Iran as the only hope for Armenian statehood. They became even more prevalent than previously trendy discussions on the “theft of the word “Holocaust” by Jews from Armenians” and other outbursts of everyday anti-Semitism.

It is not surprising for those who know that Armenia’s national hero, revered and praised “statesman and military strategist” Garegin Nzhdeh was a Nazi collaborant. He was known to coerce Armenian POWs to join Hitler’s army to avoid prison camps. In 2016, the Armenian President unveiled his monument in Yerevan.

The National Hero of Muslim Azerbaijan is a Jew Albert Agarunov. Azerbaijani tank commander was posthumously honored to become the only Jewish National Hero in an Islamic world. Since his death in 1992, he has been praised and remembered as a Jewish Azerbaijani hero. A monument dedicated to him was unveiled in 2019 in Baku. His grave in the central cemetery for War Heroes is decorated with the Israeli flag.

There are 30,000 Jews in Azerbaijan. The country is home to three distinct Jewish communities: European Jews, who settled in the area during the late 19th to early 20th centuries, and during World War II; Jews from the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, who settled mainly in Baku during the early part of the 20th century; and Mountain Jews, the most sizable and ancient group. A Jew can walk the streets in kippah freely, without hiding his identity.

Just a few months ago, dozens of ministers and members of Knesset from all factions of the House of Representatives in Israel sent a letter of congratulation and support to the speaker of the parliament of Azerbaijan, in which the members of parliament express their bewilderment at the decision of the French Senate that called on the European Union to promote an embargo on the purchase of gas and oil from Azerbaijan and called on them to reconsider you decided.

The Chabad emissary and rabbi of Azerbaijan, Rabbi Shneor Segal, also said upon the publication of the letter that “the letter from the ministers is a significant encouragement in view of the president Ilham Aliyev warm and heartfelt attitude towards the Jewish community and the people of Israel.”

Truth, facts and research are the best weapons against lies and manipulations by those who seek to harm the Jewish state and Diaspora by severing ties with those who embrace our people, respect our beliefs, and honour our heroes. We must protect our friends and allies, sending a clear message: Iranian propagandists have no chance to drive a wedge between us. 

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