From the pro-Azerbaijan representative:
To the Honorable President of the State of Israel Mr. Isaac Herzog
Dear Mr. President,
It recently came to my attention that a group of pro-Armenian activists published a petition (see below, ed.), calling upon you to demand that Azerbaijan remove its “blockade of the Lachin Corridor.” It should be noted that more than one of the signatories is a member of the Rabbis for Human Rights organization, which NGO Monitor claims “is listed as a partner by the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). EAPPI promotes BDS campaigns and utilizes demonizing rhetoric accusing Israel of apartheid, collective punishment, and war crimes.”
Therefore, it should not come as a surprise that the same individuals who oppose the continued existence of Israel’s Security Barrier also oppose Azerbaijan’s “blockade of the Lachin Corridor.”
As a journalist who attended your historic speech at the Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku and who has visited Azerbaijan five times, including four visits to the Karabakh region, I strongly advocate that you ignore this petition. Azerbaijan finds itself in a very similar position to the State of Israel. Just as pro-Armenian activists call upon Imagine Dragons not to perform in Baku and urge action against Azerbaijan, both at the UN Security Council and in the US Congress, among other places, BDS activists behave similarly toward the State of Israel.
Indeed, if you examine the petition, one can see the resemblance to many of the anti-Israel petitions put out by the BDS Movement. During the Second Intifada, we were accused of starting a massacre in Jenin, when we wanted to stop the suicide bombings. Whenever Israel defends itself against qassam rocket attacks and incendiary balloons fired from Gaza, we are accused of creating anti-Semitism in America and Europe. In some circles, there are even those who accuse the Jewish people of slaughtering an innocent Palestinian Arab named Jesus Christ, even though the history books all note he was killed by the Romans and that Jesus was a Jew, not a Palestinian Arab, as the Palestinian Arabs did not exist at that time.
For this reason, we can relate to what the state of Azerbaijan is dealing with and have sympathy for them, as both countries are facing a biased West, who sides with the perpetrators rather than the victims and fabricates false accusations against Azerbaijan, such as the existence of a fictional humanitarian crisis and starvation. I can attest that these claims have about as much merit as those which claim the people of Gaza are starving and facing a humanitarian crisis. As someone who has visited Karabakh four times, I can say that there is a humanitarian crisis in Karabakh, but the victims of this humanitarian crisis are Azerbaijanis, not Armenians. I was in Shusha twice. It is located very close to the Lachin Corridor. Everything that I witnessed shows that the Armenians were anything but victims.
I personally witnessed how the Armenians during their thirty-year occupation of Karabakh destroyed the entire city, from mosques to local government offices, to newspaper offices, to banks, schools, etc. They did not even spare the nature and cultural heritage sites. Along the road to Shusha, we saw numerous uprooted trees, polluted rivers, and agricultural fields that were set ablaze. We traveled along zig-zagged roads, which were surrounded by landmines. Together with former Israeli Communication Minister Ayoob Kara, we were stranded in such landmine infested areas, fearing for our lives, after our bus broke down. We passed by many vehicles who broke down and did not survive the journey. This was six months after Karabakh was liberated.
After that, I returned to Karabakh three more times. Each time, Karabakh looked better, but it was thanks to Azerbaijani and not Armenian efforts. While the Armenians engaged in weapons smuggling and the planting of landmines, the Azerbaijanis built the Fizouli Airport, the five-star Karabakh Hotel, the Aghdam Convention Center and restored many historical sites, such as the Shusha Fort. They are also working around the clock to remove landmines, which indiscriminately target all civilians in the area. Yet, there is still much more work to be done. I am proud of the fact that Israeli companies are helping Azerbaijan to rebuild Karabakh as a green zone. It is just more proof of how Israel helps other nations around the globe in their hour of need. This should be applauded, not condemned.
Sadly, like in the Ukraine, Russia’s influence over Karabakh has been damaging. After Azerbaijan liberated its territories, the Russian authorities didn’t permit Azerbaijani ecological monitors to examine how Armenia committed ecological crime in the areas that they control due to Armenian objections. This is because they are using their mandate as peacekeepers in order to continue to seize Azerbaijan’s natural resources and to sell them in Yerevan and Moscow. Many people in Azerbaijan protested against this along the Lachin Corridor, until the blockade was imposed in order to stop Armenia from planting landmines in the area and smuggling weapons.
However, just because the road had a checkpoint does not mean that there is a humanitarian crisis. After all, Russian peace keepers still control the roads and are delivering humanitarian aid to the Armenians who remain there.
In fact, between December 12, 2022 and January 5, 2023, a total of 370 vehicles passed in both directions along the Lachin Corridor. 330 of these vehicles belonged to the Russian Peace Keepers, 31 were ambulances from the International Red Cross and another three belonged to local Armenian residents. During this period, Russian Peace Keepers provided the local Armenian population with transports of food that included rice, canned meat, pasta, flour, potatoes, onion, chicken, vegetables, cabbage, sugar, coffee and other types of food. And the humanitarian aid has not stopped.
The only thing that the blockade stops is the continued exploitation of Azerbaijan’s natural resources and weapons smuggling, which has led to Armenians planting fresh landmines to undermine Azerbaijan’s demining efforts and the handing over of heavy arms to separatist rebels in the region in order to take actions that sabotage the potential for peace between both peoples. To tell Azerbaijan to put a halt to such a checkpoint to stop weapons smuggling is like telling Israel to ease the blockade on the Gaza Strip, where similar weapons smuggling occurs. The Armenians put forward arguments that are very similar to those of the Palestinian Arab terror groups.
In fact, the Palestinian Arabs and Armenians have a long history of cooperating with one another. As Michael Gunter noted about the Armenian terror organization ASALA, which targeted Turkish diplomats in the 1970’s and 1980’s: “A Spanish journalist Jose Antanio Gurriarian who came to know the terrorists after being maimed by one of their bombs wrote that Hagop Hapopian, the leader of ASALA, was a 24-year-old of Lebanese descent in 1973. Black September chief Abu Iyad had helped him form ASALA in 1975. Soon after joining the Palestinians, Hagopian found himself within the ranks of Wadi Haddad’s splinter PFLP which was George Habbash’s faction in the PLO. It was during his activity with Wadi Haddad that he gained most of his experience, developed many personal friendships with Palestinian leaders and began to mimic the organizational and military tactics of Wadi Haddad, which intentionally caused innocent victims harm and thus served to discredit the Palestinian cause as terrorist.”
Sadly, not much has changed since then. In fact, Armenian author Varsen Aghabekian in two of his books even tied the Armenian national struggle to the Palestinian Nakba. When I did an undercover assignment for the Jewish Press in the Old City of Jerusalem, I spoke to many Armenians, who voiced rhetoric that had an uncanny resemblance to Palestinian Arab rhetoric. In fact, the Armenians do not believe that Jews have a right to purchase a hotel inside the Armenian Quarter, as this land “belongs to the Armenians for generations.” It does not matter if we legitimately purchased the land or not. Jews are not welcome to buy in the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem, just as Jews are not welcome to buy in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem.
Israel should continue to stand beside its ally Azerbaijan, one of the few nations on the planet with almost no history of anti-Semitism, and ignore pleas put forward by a nation that is noted for its anti-Semitism. Indeed, outside of the world of Armenian propaganda, there are no shared values between the Jewish and Armenian people, as the Armenians have a long history of supporting the Palestinian Arabs.
Let’s not let them be successful in their efforts, and ignore uninformed and brainwashed useful leftist idiots who are trying to harm a nation that is Israel’s eyes and ears on the Islamic Republic of Iran, our number one foe, and who supplies Israel with 40 percent of its natural gas. Therefore, Mr. President, I urge you to keep up the great work you are doing to promote the Azerbaijani-Israeli friendship and treat the petition below just as you would treat any petition put forward by the BDS Movement by throwing it in the dustbins of history. Thank you.
Rachel Avraham is the CEO of the Dona Gracia Center for Diplomacy and an Israel-based journalist. She is also the author of “Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab Media.”
Petition sent to President Herzog by pro-Armenian activists::
To the Honorable President of the State of Israel Mr. Isaac Herzog
Dear Mr. President,
Requesting your assistance to end a severe humanitarian crisis and prevent a humanitarian disaster
We, the undersigned, academics, and spiritual and cultural leaders from a variety of fields, turn to you out of our grave concern regarding the severe humanitarian crisis that poses a clear and present danger to 120,000 men, women and children in Nagorno Karabakh (referred to by residents as the Republic of Artsakh). The State of Israel enjoys close ties with Azerbaijan, the state which is responsible for this crisis, and has the ability to resolve it. These ties obligate the State of Israel to take a clear stand, and not to stand idly by.
Eight months ago (on December 12, 2022), government-supported Azerbaijani activists laid siege to the only road that connects Armenia to the Armenian enclave of Nagorno Karabakh. In April, the Azerbaijani army itself established a military checkpoint on the road, despite the fact that according to the terms of the cease-fire they had signed, the responsibility to maintain access to this area was entrusted to the Russian forces. The ongoing siege has prevented critical supplies to residents for months, and last week, many organizations and international bodies, including a number of UN experts, as well as Anthony Blinken, the United States Secretary of State, warned of the real danger to the lives of residents of the area should the siege continue, and expressed the urgent need that Azerbaijan allow humanitarian assistance to enter.
Azerbaijan’s blockade of the road is a violation of the Russian-brokered November 2020 ceasefire that it signed with Armenia, ending fighting that placed most of the surrounding territory under Azerbaijani control. This agreement had left a single road, the Lachin corridor, that connected Armenia with the Armenian enclave in Nagorno Karabakh, and its closing caused the residents of the area tremendous suffering. Should the siege continue, masses of people are likely to die of starvation and disease.
Israel’s relationship with Azerbaijan has significantly improved in recent times, as expressed by the opening of an Azerbaijani embassy in Tel Aviv, and the stream of visits by many Israeli dignitaries, including by the President himself. This warming of the relationship is thanks in no small part to the significant defense support that Israel provides to Azerbaijan, which was a deciding factor in the hostilities in the fall of 2020.
While Azerbaijan acts in defiance of the ceasefire agreement that it signed at the end of those hostilities, thus creating a severe humanitarian crisis, the aid that we provided means that we have a special responsibility not to be a bystander, and also gives us an important opportunity to have a positive impact. We cannot remain silent, especially in light of our historic and multilayered connection to the Armenian people. Both Jewish history and Armenian history can attest to the political excuses that come to justify inaction and apathy in the face of lives that hang in the balance.
Has Israel achieved what it has just so that it can provide the same excuses as we heard from other nations, Mr. President?
Our history and our identity as a nation committed to the Jewish value of humanity created in the image of God obligates you, as it obligates all of us, to act.
Therefore, we implore you, Mr. President, to make a personal appeal to your counterparts in Azerbaijan and demand their immediate removal of the blockade of the Lachin corridor. This is not a request to take a side in the ongoing conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia, but simply a humanitarian plea to save lives that are in danger, and to allow basic freedom of movement and the provision of sufficient supplies in order to live. We would be happy, if you are willing, to meet with you to present the dire situation in Nagorno Karabakh in greater detail.
Ora Ahimeir, author
Yaakov Ahimeir, journalist
Prof. Reuven Amitai ,Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies, Hebrew University Atty.
Nadav Argov, Combat Genocide Association
Prof. em. Yair Auron ,expert on genocide, The Open University of Israel
Dr. Rina Avner, Archaeologist
Rabbi Ruth Baidach, Rabbis for Human Rights
Avi Buskila, entrepreneur, and social activist
Prof. em. Israel W. Charny, Hebrew University, executive director of the Institute on the Holocaust and Genocide in Jerusalem and editor of the Encyclopedia of Genocide
Avi Dabush, executive director, Rabbis for Human Rights Nathan Daniel, Faculty of Humanities, Hebrew University Ruth Doron, ‘We Cannot Stand Silent’
Dr. Shlomi Efrati ,Researcher at Hebrew University and at KU Leuven
Rabbi Tamar Elad-Appelbaum ,founder of ZION: An Eretz Israeli Congregation in Jerusalem; and Vice President of the Masorti Rabbinical Assembly
Rabbi Avidan Freedman ,co-founder ,Yanshoof organization
Yisca Harani, lecturer, consultant and expert on Christianity
Pesach Hauspeter, Combat Genocide Association
Prof. Benjamin Z. Kedar, recipient of the Israel Prize in History; former vice-
president of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities
Motke Keshet, Classical and Armenian Studies
Yoav Loeff, lecturer in Armenian History, Hebrew University
Rabbi Michael Melchior, former Minister and Member of Knesset, founder and president of Meitarim educational network, founder and chair, Mosaica
Tanyah Murkes, CEO, Society for International Development, SID-Israel
Suzanna Papian, actress
Dr .Yakir Paz, The departments of Talmud and Classics, The Hebrew University
Yana Pevzner, journalist
Sari Raz-Biron, journalist
Prof. em. Elihu Richter ,School of Public Health, Hebrew University
Naama Ringel, architect and activist
Rabbi David Rosen, International Director, Interreligious Affairs, AJC
Leah Shakdiel ,educator and activist
Prof. Donna Shalev, Classical Studies, Hebrew University
Rabbi Dana Sharon ,Rabbis for Human Rights
Dr. Yoav Shemer-Kunz, Political Science
Dr. Oded Steinberg ,International Relations and European Studies, Hebrew University
Prof. em. Michael E. Stone, Armenian Studies and Comparative Religion, Hebrew University
Aurit Stone-Yaacov, biologist
Yaron Weiss, expert on the countries of the Caucasus
Roi Ziv, PhD Student, Hebrew University