Israel’s most valuable Muslim ally


Jews worldwide will soon mark the onset of a Jewish New Year with the specter of rising anti-Semitism in Europe and the Middle East. Amid the preponderance of daily bad news, it is uplifting to celebrate narratives of tolerance and respect. Earlier this month, I was one of 12 rabbis meeting with two distinguished Los Angeles-based diplomats, Consul General of Israel David Siegel and Consul General of Azerbaijan Nasimi Aghayev. We broke bread together and discussed our shared goal of shining a positive light on the unique story of Azerbaijan, a Muslim nation that enjoys positive relations with the United States, Israel and its own Jewish community.

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Iranian denies plan to attack Israeli embassy in Azerbaijan


An Iranian man arrested on suspicion of planning an attack on the Israeli embassy in the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan denies the allegation, an Iranian diplomat said on Thursday.

Hassan Faraji, 31, is the latest in a number of Iranians to be accused of criminal plots in recent years in Azerbaijan, which has tense ties with its larger southern neighbor.

Faraji was detained near the Israeli embassy in the capital Baku on October 31 but his arrest was made public on Wednesday, when state TV showed footage of police raiding an apartment.

“Faraji had a detailed plan of an attack on personnel of the Israeli embassy…He put up a resistance to the police during a detention,” police said in a statement.

A court in Azerbaijan sentenced him to one month pre-trial detention, while Azeri and Israeli media reported that he had connections with Iran's Revolutionary Guards, an allegation an Iranian official denied.

“This information does not correspond to the reality,” the Iranian embassy spokesman, who did not want to be named, told Reuters.

Iranian embassy officials met Faraji in custody.

“He denies all charges and believes that his innocence will be proved during an investigation,” he said.

The case is a part of wider diplomatic tensions between the neighbors, which share a religion but have sharply different political systems.

Some 15 percent of Iranians are ethnic Azeris and there are strong linguistic and family ties straddling the border, adding another strain to ties.

Iran has accused Azerbaijan of assisting Israel in the killing of Iranian nuclear scientists.

Azerbaijan, for its part, has arrested dozens of people last year on suspicion of connections with Iran's Revolutionary Guards, and of plotting attacks, including on the Israeli ambassador to Baku.

Iranian citizen Phaiz Bakhram Hassan was sentenced last month to 15 years in prison for an attempt to attack the Israeli embassy in Baku. He was arrested last year.

Iran closed two check-points on the border with Azerbaijan this month in response to the closure of another border check-point by the Azeri side after a gunman opened fire from the Iranian side of the border on a tractor, officials said.

Additional reporting and writing by Margarita Antidze; Editing by Angus MacSwan