Congratulations to Rob Gloster for his measured account of the Commonwealth Club event featuring a Jewish leader from Azerbaijan. When I visit Armenia, I attend the annual conference of Democracy Today, an organization that promotes the work of women peace-builders in active conflict zones, mostly in the South Caucasus. Women peace activists from Azerbaijan have not attended the conference due to fears of Azeri government reprisals. A list of such reprisals can be read in the 2017 Azerbaijan Human Rights Report, to which there is a link in Gloster’s account.
The religious leaders who spoke at the Commonwealth Club may very well believe there is no anti-Semitism in Azerbaijan. However, it would be an interesting exception were this to be the case, given the history of the former Soviet Union.
Politics makes strange bedfellows and geopolitics can distort narratives beyond recognition. Azerbaijan is a major client of Israeli weaponry and quid pro quo is a strategic tool for ongoing sales. Placing autocratically controlled Azerbaijan in a positive light to American Jews helps obscure the continuing 27-year Azeri-Turkish blockade of Armenia when the latter recaptured the territory of Nagorno-Karabagh (Artsakh to Armenians) in 1992, which was ceded to Azerbaijan by Stalin in 1921. And the positive posturing of Azerbaijan reinforces Azeri-Turkish collusion in denial of the Armenian genocide. Ironically, the situation is becoming more complex, as Israel’s official collusion with Turkey in denial of the Armenian genocide is currently challenged by increased tensions between Israel and Turkey.
The Armenian National Committee members’ exit from the Commonwealth event can be understood in terms of the vulnerability of Armenian soldiers and villagers in the ongoing dispute with Azerbaijan over Artsakh, and the profound frustration Armenians have with Israel and the Jewish community over Israeli and U.S. denial of the Armenian genocide.
Incidentally, 48 U.S. states have recognized the Armenian genocide, as has the Anti-Defamation League.