30 July 2006
It is common knowledge that Azerbaijan, following Turkey’s footsteps, tries to use the political clout of Israel and American-Jewish organizations in Washington, D.C. to counter Armenian interests. Israel obliges the Azeri demands out of an interest in importing oil and gas from Azerbaijan and exporting various products, possibly including weapons. Israel also needs access to Azerbaijan in order to collect intelligence on neighboring Iran.
The details of this close cooperation, more aptly described as “mutual exploitation,” are not usually made public. The July 10, 2006 issue of The Jerusalem Report, however, published a 13-page article by Netty C. Gross disclosing some of the ties between Azerbaijan, Israel and American Jewish organizations. The Report covered the visit to Baku of “a delegation of Israeli dignitaries and Russian Jewish functionaries” in mid-May. The article titled, “The Azeri Triangle,” started with a straightforward statement: “Israel and Diaspora Jewry are deepening their own links with oil-rich Muslim Azerbaijan and helping the Azeri regime win friends in Washington.”
Describing “a strong Azerbaijani-American-Israel-Jewish connection…[that] benefits everyone,” Gross wrote that Israel “is deeply interested in consolidating its relations” with Azerbaijan. “Israel has seen it in its interest to encourage U.S. Jews to take up the Azeri cause in the Washington corridors of power, at the same time reinforcing the notion held by many Azeris and others in the Third World that the way to Washington leads through Jerusalem.” It is noteworthy that Gross implicated “U.S. Jews” in carrying out the instructions of Israel -- a foreign power -- in the United States to serve the interests of Azerbaijan.
In addition to its connections in Washington, Gross reported that Israel is using the services of “rich and influential Russian Jewish businessmen, some of whom have powerful contacts from the old Soviet days -- and who proudly point out to me that [Pres.] Ilham [Aliyev]’s son-in-law has a Jewish mother and a Muslim father.”
Gross provided the list of visits made to Azerbaijan earlier this year by various Jewish individuals and groups: “In recent months, a parade of several high-level Israeli and Jewish delegations, who have been mobilized to help Azerbaijani interests in the U.S., passed through Baku…. In early February, a 50-strong delegation from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Organizations was received by Aliyev. In April, the Azeri president welcomed Israeli tycoon Lev Leviev…. And in early June, Israeli National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer arrived in Baku, to explore the idea of purchasing Azeri oil or gas at some time in the future.… Underscoring the close ties between the Russian Jewish machers and the locals, EAJC [Euro-Asian Jewish Congress] operatives move about Baku’s corridors of power like kings, freely initiating press conferences and government meetings….”
Gross gave the details of some of the links between the two countries as relayed to him by Israel’s ambassador to Azerbaijan, Arthur Lenk, a native of New Jersey: “The weekly Azerbaijani Airlines flights between Tel Aviv and Baku are packed, and there are Jewish studies programs, with local and Israeli students and some Israeli faculty, at Baku State University…. Israeli agro-businesses recently visited Baku for a bilateral trade forum and Israeli technology in telecommunications and waste management is being used in Azerbaijan. (In the past, Israelis have had financial interests in, among other things, Azerbaijan’s second-largest cell phone firm, a hospital project and a turkey farm).”
Gross then disclosed the political connections between Azerbaijan, Israel and American Jews regarding Armenian issues: “Israel’s main selling point with Azerbaijan is not Israeli. Rather, it’s the American Jewish lobby, which, encouraged by Israel, has helped Azerbaijan in Congress. The background to the story is the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict…. A particularly painful sore point is Section 907, a U.S. congressional amendment to the 1992 Soviet [sic] Freedom Support Act, aimed at boosting economic and humanitarian aid to all of the 15 emerging former Soviet republics except Azerbaijan. Passed at the urging of the Armenian-American lobby in 1993, when the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was flaring, 907 barred the U.S. from military or other cooperation with Azerbaijan…. Encouraged by Israel, influential American Jewish groups have since acted on behalf of Baku as a bulwark against the powerful American-Armenian lobby in Congress and have tried to get 907 repealed. Since 2002, when the U.S. needed Azeri airspace to reach Afghanistan, the U.S. has agreed to annual presidential waivers of 907, which lift restrictions.”
Gross then specifically cited Mark Levin, the executive director of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, a Washington-based organization that is “a member of the coalition of Jewish groups that have worked on behalf of Azerbaijan’s interests on Capitol Hill.” Levin, who traveled to Baku with the Conference of Presidents in February, told Gross that the organized Jewish community has “worked closely with the administration to implement the presidential waiver of 907 in 2002,” and that the coalition “continues to express support on a regular basis for the waiver.”
Gross quoted Levin as stating that the American-Armenian lobby in Washington “is very strong and organized, and speaks in a unified voice. On other political issues, we have partnered with [the Armenians], but when it comes to Azerbaijan, we are on different sides of the fence.” Levin acknowledged that, on the whole, American Jewish policymakers feel comfortable in their strong support of Azerbaijan on the Hill and take their cue from the U.S. and Israel.
Various Azeri officials confirm the value of the Jewish lobby in countering Armenians: “American Jews have helped us lobby in Washington against the Armenians and their help is very important. We are very appreciative,” Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov told Gross. Sheikh Alla Shukur Pasha Zade, the Spiritual leader of Azerbaijan, is also quoted telling the gathered Jewish delegation in Baku: “I know that Jewish groups have played a role against the Armenian lobby in trying to find a positive alternative to the conflict. I would like to express my gratitude to these groups for lobbying on Azerbaijan’s behalf.”
Regrettably, Gross misleads his readers by not pointing out that not all Jews sell out their souls to Azerbaijan or Turkey. As it has been repeatedly documented in previous columns, many Jewish individuals and organizations in both Israel and the United States are strong supporters of Armenian issues, despite the pressures from the government of Israel!
Gross balanced the effusive pro-Azeri comments in his article by including statements that accuse Azerbaijan’s leaders of “corruption and political repression.” He referred to critics who said that the cozy relationship between Israel and Azerbaijan “will unravel just as Israel’s romance with Iran did.” He quoted Dr. Asim Mollazade, the chairman of an Azeri opposition party, as saying that the United States, Israel and Jewish Americans would someday be “deeply disappointed” for supporting the undemocratic and corrupt regime in Azerbaijan. Gross also pointed out the double standards practiced by Azeri leaders who present themselves to Jews as being pro-Israeli while distancing themselves from Israel in front of the Muslim world. He mentioned, for example, the fact that Israel opened its Embassy in Baku in 1993, and yet Azerbaijan has not opened its Embassy in Israel in order to appease fellow Muslims. Last month, Azerbaijan assumed the chairmanship of the Organization of Islamic Countries which held its annual conference in Baku.
Furthermore, Gross reported that the Jewish community in Azerbaijan has dwindled from 80,000 to around 10,000 during the past decade. He also pointed out another telltale sign of potential trouble in “paradise” when he revealed that “all the Jewish institutions in Baku appear to be protected by armed guards.”
Obviously, Israel is free to establish economic and political ties with any country, including Turkey and Azerbaijan. American Jewish organizations are likewise free to send delegations to various countries. But when they agree to place their considerable political clout at the services of Azerbaijan or Turkey against Armenia’s interests, Armenians worldwide then have the perfect right to expose their sinister arrangements and counter their every move.
By Harut Sassounian Publisher, The California Courier