BY HARUT SASSOUNIAN
For three decades, the government of Israel and Jewish-American leaders have been showering Azerbaijan with excessive and undeserved praise for its alleged tolerance for its Jewish community and friendship with Israel. There have been several visits by Israeli leaders and prominent Jewish-Americans to Baku, glorifying the government of Azerbaijan and flaunting the special affinity between them.
This is hypocrisy of the highest form. The truth is that relations between Azerbaijan and Israel have nothing to do with the treatment of Jews in Baku. The two countries are basically engaged in mutual exploitation, ignoring all humanitarian and ethical concerns. Azerbaijan has purchased billions of dollars of advanced lethal weapons from Israel in exchange for the sale of Azeri oil to Israel, which imports 40% of its oil from Azerbaijan. It is disgraceful that descendants of the Holocaust are arming Azerbaijan to kill survivors of the Armenian Genocide for a fistful of dollars!
Israel has two other reasons for maintaining good relations with Azerbaijan. The first is Israel’s interest in gathering intelligence on Iran and having access to Azerbaijan’s airfields in case of an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear stockpile. This is probably what Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev meant when he compared his country’s relations with Israel to an iceberg: “Nine-tenths of it is below the surface.” Israel’s second reason is to cultivate good relations with a Muslim country, given the Arab-Israeli conflict and its isolation from the Muslim world. However, in light of the recent rapprochement between Israel and several Arab nations, the value of Azerbaijan to Israel in this regard is diminishing.
On the other hand, Azerbaijan expects to maximize its political interests in the United States by benefiting from the influence of Israel and Jewish-Americans in Washington, to counter the Armenian-American lobby.
Nevertheless, Azerbaijan and Israel are concealing some of the irritants in their relationship. First of all, Israel has opened its Embassy in Baku in 1993, whereas Azerbaijan has refused to open its Embassy or even a Consulate in Israel, out of concern for its relations with Arab and Muslim nations, particularly Iran. This fact alone belies the supposed friendly relations between the two countries.
Another contradiction is Azerbaijan’s anti-Israel votes and speeches at the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Azerbaijan’s most recent critical action of Israel occurred at the United Nations Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, Switzerland on March 18, 2021.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a frequent apologist for Azerbaijan, quickly condemned the Azeri Representative’s remarks at the UN by harshly accusing Azerbaijan of committing “a virtual ‘blood-libel’ against the Jewish state.”
Speaking on item 7 of the Council’s agenda, “human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories,” Kamran Seyfullayev, Third Secretary at the Permanent Mission of Azerbaijan to the UN in Geneva, gave a three-minute speech on March 18, in which he severely criticized the treatment of Palestinians by the State of Israel. Here is what he said:
“I have the honor to deliver this statement on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) [Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev is the Chairman of the movement which is composed of 120 countries].
“For many years, the Non-Aligned Movement has maintained a firm position of solidarity with the Palestinian people and their just cause, and the condemnation of massive, flagrant and systematic violations of human rights and of international humanitarian law committed by Israel.
“The NAM also underscores the need to continue providing political, economic and humanitarian support to assist the Palestinian people and to bolster their resilience and efforts aimed at achieving their legitimate national aspirations, including their inalienable right to self-determination and freedom in their independent State of Palestine.
“We recognize and commend the efforts of the United Nations and its agencies and particularly the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees in the Near East and the Committee of Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian people. The Movement encourages continuation of their support. The NAM takes note with appreciation of the report of the Secretary General presented to the 43rd Session of the Human Rights Council on the Israeli settlements in the occupied Syrian Golan.
“The NAM expresses its grave concern at the continuing Israeli settlement policy and related activities, including the expansion of settlements, the expropriation of land, the demolition of houses, and the confiscation and destruction of property, which has changed the physical character and demographic composition of the occupied territories and the occupied Syrian Golan.
“The General Assembly, the Security Council and the Human Rights Council have all confirmed that the construction and expansion of Israeli settlements and other related activities in the occupied Palestinian Territory and the occupied Syrian Golan are illegal under international law. The NAM is also deeply concerned over numerous UN official reports, particularly by the recent report of the Secretary General, which have reaffirmed the continued human rights violations of the Palestinian people by Israeli force, throughout the occupied State of Palestine.
“In this regard, the NAM urges the international community to exert its pressure in order to cease immediately the continuation of this illegal trend by Israel which is a blatant violation of international law.
“Furthermore, the NAM strongly believes that Israel, as the occupying power, has to be held accountable for its continued grave and systematic violations of both international human rights law and international humanitarian law in all occupied Arab territories, including Syrian Golan.
“The NAM emphasizes that Israel, as the occupying power, should immediately release all Palestinian prisoners, particularly children and women. It should also cease serious violations of international law and fully lift the blockade of Gaza to remedy the ongoing punitive measures against the civilian population and release Palestinian children in detention in accordance with international standards, in particular the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
“In conclusion, the NAM extends its full support to the Government of the State of Palestine in its ongoing efforts to put an end to the occupation of the land of the State of Palestine and realize the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.”
It is ironic that the Simon Wiesenthal Center officials, after years of kowtowing to Azerbaijan, repeatedly visiting that country, and praising it as a close friend of Israel, are now complaining about Baku’s harsh criticism of Israel. I hope Jewish and Israeli leaders realize that they have been fooled by Azerbaijan all these years and learn the valuable lesson that a wolf in sheep’s clothing cannot be trusted. They should also realize that, as the saying goes, when you go to bed with dogs, you wake up with fleas. Israeli and Jewish officials do not seem to have learned anything from their experience of being deceived by Turkey. After decades of backing Turkey, even going as far shamefully blocking the congressional recognition of the Armenian Genocide, Israeli and Jewish officials are now accusing Turkey of anti-Semitism and hostility to Israel.
Armenians kept warning them for years, to no avail, not to trust Turkey and that they will be stabbed in the back when they least suspect it. In this vulgar game of mutual exploitation, Israelis and Jewish Americans got the short end of the stick. The same thing is happening now in their relations with Azerbaijan. It will only get worse, unless they quickly come to their senses.
Not everything should be measured by oil, weapons and money. There is something much more valuable like humanity, justice and truthfulness than financial gain and self-interest. But in this selfish world, it is too much to expect such decent behavior!