All Hate Crimes Must Be Strongly Condemned. Without Exception.

Such hate crimes have no place in a city as diverse and multicultural as Los Angeles.
July 29, 2020
A small group of Azerbaijani-Americans in front of Azerbaijan’s Consulate General in Los Angeles on July 21, 2020. Photo by Durdane Agayeva

I just wrote about the recent outrageous and unprovoked attacks against my country —Azerbaijan.

To make matters worse, there was a violent protest on July 21, staged by the Armenian National Committee of America and the Armenian Youth Federation in front of Azerbaijan’s Consulate General in Los Angeles, as if to say that attacking our country is not enough. A counter protest, of approximately 50 Azerbaijani-Americans stood peacefully across the street. Yet, the radical Armenian organizations wouldn’t allow it. Crossing the street and moving the police barrier aside, the mob brutally attacked the small group of Azerbaijani protesters, which has led to nine injuries, including a young woman, and five hospitalizations. One of the protesters also assaulted a police officer and was detained. The Los Angeles Police Department is now investigating this incident as a hate crime.

Even though the less than accurate media coverage of the protest by the mainstream media has been disheartening, I know that we are not alone. Azerbaijan is privileged to have strong friendships with nations and communities across the globe, including many that celebrate Azerbaijan’s unique success with multicultural harmony, and its loyalty to protecting oppressed people from around the world, offering shelter to Jews and Christians throughout the centuries, and a beacon of hope for a world overrun by intolerance and prejudice. Especially in Los Angeles, where this shameful violence took place, we have deep and lasting supporters that are speaking out on our behalf, lifting the veil for the media, for elected officials and all other victims of a distorted campaign to take life and land from a sovereign nation, and one that thrives as an oasis of peace in an otherwise turbulent region.

I was delighted to learn of the public condemnation of this violence by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, American Jewish Committee, Israeli-American Council, many influential rabbis such Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple, Rabbi Kalman Topp of Beth Jacob Congregation, Rabbi Elazar Muskin of Young Israel of Century City, Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky of Congregation B’nai David Judea, Rabbi Pini Dunner of Young Israel of North Beverly Hills and Rabbi Yonah Bookstein of Pico Shul. I had the pleasure of meeting many of these distinguished rabbis and institutions during my several visits to Los Angeles. Thank you for your solidarity and friendship in these difficult days.

My hope, as a survivor of this same kind of violence, as an advocate for justice and peace, and as a friend to so many in the Jewish community, is that we can count on more and more  leaders in our communities to speak out against these attacks. We may be far less than those that seek to destroy us, but in our broader community, represented well beyond any borders, we have the strength and the hope to carry on and strive for a day when justice will be restored, a day when I, and the over 1 million Azerbaijani forcibly displaced, can return to our homes and lands.

I commend the Lieutenant Governor of California Eleni Kounalakis for condemning this violence. I also call on Los Angeles elected officials to step forward and strongly condemn this hate crime. They have no place in a city as diverse and multicultural as Los Angeles. The silence from elected leaders in the face of physical violence targeting any group because of their ethnic, religious or other background, enables more violence.

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