BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
Prominent Jewish Groups to Boycott
A day after a visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Baku, where he proclaimed ties between his country and Azerbaijan as a beacon of “Jewish-Muslim Coexistence,” the Azerbaijani Embassy in Washington is hosting a Hanukkah party at the newly-christened Trump Tower, a stone’s throw away from the White House.
But not everyone is in a celebratory mood for a “Hanukkah party celebrating religious freedom and diversity” cohosted by the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations. In fact, several American Jewish organizations, among them the ADL—Anti-Defamation League—are boycotting the event, calling it a “tone deaf” because of the choice of venue or “unthinkable” due to Azerbaijan’s abhorrent human rights record.
“Your decision to hold a ‘party’ with the Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan implicitly legitimizes a corrupt country where freedoms have been suppressed ,” said Peter Pepper and Ann Roback president and executive director, respectively, of Workmen’s Circle, one of the Jewish organizations boycotting the event, in conference’s executive vice chairman Malcolm Hoenlein.
Other groups have cited President-Elect Donald Trump’s statements, which they say are anti-Semitic, as the reason for the boycott.
But the main question is: Why is Azerbaijan, a Shiite Muslim country, hosting a Hanukkah party in the nation’s capital.
In an article entitled, “Israeli Arms Sales, Big Oil and the Mossad: Why Is Azerbaijan Hosting a Hanukkah Party at Trump Hotel?” posted on Haaretz.com on Wednesday cited several factors, including a Wikileaks revelation that the two countries’ relations stem from similar “geopolitical difficulties.”
“Binding the two countries together on a practical level are the massive sales of Israeli-made weapons and defense systems that Aliyev alluded to, crucial to his country’s ongoing border conflict with Armenia,” wrote Allison Kaplan Sommer and Taly Krupkin in the Haaretz article.
“For its part, in addition to benefitting from the sales, Israel is heavily dependent on the Azeris in the field of energy. Azerbaijan is one of Israel’s largest suppliers of oil and gas,” added Haaretz.
The article also cites a 2009 US State Department cable from Wikileaks, which notes that “each country finds it easy to identify with the other’s geopolitical difficulties and both rank Iran as an existential security threat. Israel’s world-class defense industry with its relaxed attitude about its customer base is a perfect match for Azerbaijan’s substantial defense needs that are largely left unmet by the United States, Europe and Russia for various reasons tied to Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.”
Haaretz says commentators see US-Azerbaijani relations as the main reason for this gesture by Baku.
“Azerbaijan spends millions each year lobbying the American government – but every little bit helps and a friendly Hanukkah party in the Trump International Hotel certainly can’t hurt,” said Haaretz.
“It is an unspoken, but commonly acknowledged reality that many countries nurture their relationship to Israel in hopes of finding favor with influential American Jewish organizations who will in turn speak well of them to the U.S. government. The Conference of Presidents visited Baku last March and met with Aliyev,” added Haaretz.
When Azerbaijan overtly and blatantly used weapons it purchased from Israel against Armenian military and civilian targets during the April war, it engaged Israel as a player in the complicated Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Tel Aviv’s traditionally anti-Armenian posturing, coupled with the fact the both Israel and Azerbaijan have a common regional foe in Iran, makes it easier for Israel to slither its way into the Karabakh conflict.
At the same time, with Trump’s election last month, Azerbaijan’s paid mouth pieces are increasing their presence in conservative and right-wing circles and have already begun spewing their anti-Armenian banter in various publications that have a wide conservative following.
One such piece authored by the Azeri oil-lubed Jason Katz was published before Thanksgiving in americanthinker.com.
“President-elect Trump, owing nothing to the Armenian-American lobby, yet on record as having positive views vis a vis Azerbaijan, may take his characteristically pragmatic, national interest-based approach to Nagorno-Karabakh and move the conflict to finality,” said Katz, in an apparent advise to Trump and his advisers.
Aside from an official yet tacit rebuke of Israel for selling arms to Azerbaijan, Armenia’s policy vis-à-vis Israel has mainly focused on establishing relations with Israel, whose ambassador to Armenia operates out of Tbilisi. It is time for Yerevan to take a closer look at this unholy alliance of Israel and Azerbaijan and rethink its diplomatic overtures to Tel Aviv, as it is becoming deeply engaged in Karabakh—a matter that does not concern the Jewish State.