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Violence against Azerbaijan: The deep implications for our community

“For if they fall, one will lift up his friend, but woe to the one who falls and has no second one to lift him up.”
Kohelet/Ecclesiastes, Chapter 4, Verse 10

Today, we approach the week before Passover and reflect on the costs and worth of our own struggle to live in freedom and in peace. This Passover comes amidst troubled times, with rising anti-Semitism, high tides of extremism and sectarian violence, and horrific acts of terrorism are occurring in more places, with increasing frequency. As we once sought for far-fetched resources to carry us through the desert and into our own homeland, today we stand as more educated, resourceful, and have at our fingertips more information than ever before. Today, we can do plenty to support the security and sanctity of peaceful nations. For the Jewish people and all people across the globe, this is perhaps our greatest responsibility, and our greatest chance for survival.

The international community has repeatedly stated that the ongoing Armenian occupation of over 20% of the sovereign Republic of Azerbaijan, is completely illegal, designating the massacres committed against Azerbaijani people in the early 1990’s, at the start of the same occupation, as crimes against humanity. Since then, a powerfully funded effort to assure the general public remain in the dark has been highly successful, supporting a continued occupation, violence and human displacement, committed against an entire region, within a nation known as one of the United States’ and the State of Israel’s greatest allies and a model for multifaith harmony and peace. The atrocities of the 1990’s have resulted in over 750,000 Azerbaijani natives of Karabakh living as refugees ever since, unable to return home.

It nearly broke my heart to read the news last week, of the Armenian attacks, of the spraying of bullets against unarmed Azerbaijani civilians in the same place where invaders committed massacres so recently, and without substantial recourse to date.

Azerbaijan’s longstanding and unabashed support for the State of Israel is a worthy enough reason to raise our community alarms for their current crisis. Jewish people across the world, and especially in Israel, face a familiar uncertainty from forces of hatred that have proven powerful enough to be rightfully feared. Many here are troubled by what they perceive as an unprecedented shakiness for the future of security in the Jewish homeland, and question the state of American support, long considered unwavering. Time will tell the future story of  American loyalty to Israel, yet we know with certainty that Azerbaijan and Israel share over 20 years of deep, strategic alliance, and we know with certainty that Israel needs her allies intact.

Even if we put loyalty to Israel and the United States aside, we have a moral imperative to stand in solidarity with the people of Azerbaijan. Only 25 years ago, in the same region of Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijani people were subjected to what Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin likened to genocide, at the hands of the same invaders, in the name of the same occupation that is still continuing. Knowing the history, and the vulnerability of history in the hands of revisionists and how that has perpetuated this conflict, I can’t help but see the effectiveness of the Armenian propaganda and lobbying effort, rumored to cost over $10 million a year to produce, in the U.S. alone. The media, U.S. Congress and various state legislatures are clogged by Armenian special interests, and in the process, a precious and incomparable ally faces an ongoing campaign of brutality, while the world essentially sits and does nothing, if not making it worse.

As propagandists the world over have long known, advantageous hate-mongering works to an unfortunately great extent, and the invaders of Karabakh have also invaded the nexus of our global dialogue. Their weapons are denial and revision; messages designed to confuse, mislead, and elude responsibility and justice, and for their victims, the chance to return home and to heal. The effectiveness of the denial and revisionist campaign brings to mind the words of General Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1945,  on the future of Holocaust denial: “Get it all on record now – get the films – get the witnesses – because somewhere down the track of history some bastard will get up and say that this never happened.”

Jewish communities have a responsibility to educate and advocate for the protection and preservation of our rare and brave ally. A majority-Muslim nation and the peaceful home to 30,000 Jews and half a million Christians, Azerbaijan is the only truly secular democracy in the entire Muslim world, and has an iconic history, upholding multi-faith harmony for centuries. Azerbaijan proves to the world that Jews, Muslims and Christians can live in absolute and lasting peace. I am challenged to think of anything more promising and hopeful than that.

While we pray and hope for safety here in the U.S. and for Israel, and for the free world to remain free and to become a safe and peaceful home for people of every faith and every culture, our unified voices and outcry must include those that have done the same for us, and suffered in similar ways to us, for far too long. As Azerbaijan faces another siege of violence today, let us stand beside our great friend, and support their hope and fight for freedom and peace. That dream is indistinguishable from our own.

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