Israel’s Ally Against Antisemitism

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By Ayoob Kara

As the war in Gaza continues, calls to boycott Israel are increasing. Activists in North America are calling for boycotts of Starbucks, Pizza Hut, Burger King and McDonald’s over their perceived support for Israel. According to Time magazine, McDonald’s locations have reported anti-Israel vandalism, with one U.K. location being targeted with live mice. Both McDonald’s and Starbucks have reported financial losses due to their perceived support for Israel.

In Europe, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz admonished Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a phone call, calling the situation of Palestinians in Gaza “very worrying.” He emphasized the urgent need to improve access to humanitarian aid. Germany, one of Israel’s strongest allies in the E.U., is now on board with sanctions against Israeli settlers, such as a visa ban. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen concurs with Scholz.

In the wake of these grave threats, Israel has a true ally against the BDS movement in the Caucuses: Azerbaijan. Israel is now the leading importer of oil from Azerbaijan and the Shiite country has kept its business with Israel fully operational despite the war in Gaza.

During the recent Munich Security Conference, Azerbaijan published its oil export data for January 2024. The data showed that exports to Israel totaled 523,500 tons with a value of around $297 million — significantly more than countries like Italy and Thailand. During a meeting between Israeli President Isaac Herzog and Azeri President Ilham Aliyev, the two world leaders discussed cooperation between Israel and Azerbaijan in various fields, including the oil sector.

They noted that the opening of an Azerbaijani embassy in Israel greatly assisted in the development of bilateral relations. This indicates that, despite the heavy pressure that is being exerted on Azerbaijan to cut ties with Israel, the Aliyev government refuses to do so.

At the conference, Israeli officials and Jewish leaders expressed alarm about a November 2023 Diaspora Ministry report on the steep rise in antisemitism worldwide, even in countries considered friendly to Israel.

According to the report, “Globally, it appears that in the first three weeks of the war (Oct. 7-25, 2023), there has been a 500% increase in the overall volume of antisemitic events compared to the same period last year. About a third of all antisemitic events were recorded in the United States, mainly in areas with Jewish population, particularly areas like New York, Florida, Chicago and California — where many antisemitic activities were also recorded in universities and colleges. Other notable countries in this regard are Germany, France and the U.K. Within this framework, there has also been a significant 330% increase in violent antisemitic incidents. Alongside this, there was an increase of about 128% in desecration of Jewish places such as cemeteries, about 660% in harassments and about 300% in threats.”

The report added: “The leading cities in the number of users disseminating antisemitic content online are Paris, New York, Buenos Aires, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Santiago, Barcelona, San Francisco and Berlin. Also, Marseilles and Sydney stand out in this regard. Within the overall increase, there has been a 1,180% increase in antisemitic discourse that includes calls for violence against Israel, Zionists and Jews, where most of the discourse is in Arabic (71%) and in English (28%). This significant increase is highlighted in alternative networks (such as 4Chan, BitChute, Stormfront and 8KUN). The leading cities in terms of the number of users disseminating violent antisemitic content are Cairo, Amman, Chicago, New York, Sydney and Paris.”

“Alongside the dramatic rise in online discourse, hundreds of demonstrations in support of Hamas have been recorded since the outbreak of the war in many cities around the world, which in many cases included expressions of killing Jews and the destruction of the State of Israel,” the report noted.

“In this context, there is also an increase in the use of the swastika and Hitler’s image. A part of this is the attempts to compare the events of the Holocaust and the intentions of the Nazis to systematically exterminate the Jewish people to, ostensibly, the actions of Israel towards the Palestinians. Alongside this is extensive use of Hitler as a hero in the Arab world and expressions of regret that he ‘did not finish the job.’”

In Azerbaijan, by contrast, Jews continue to live in peace and security, worshiping in their synagogues without facing any threats due to the war in Gaza. This should not be taken for granted. Azerbaijan is known for its multiculturalism, pluralism and religious tolerance.

On visits to Azerbaijan, I witnessed how churches and synagogues peacefully coexisted beside mosques. Azeri Jews are not afraid to wear kippas or Stars of David necklaces in public. In fact, in some places in Azerbaijan, the synagogues are left unlocked at night. The people live a life free of antisemitism, a fact confirmed by U.S. State Department reports.

The people of Israel should appreciate a country like Azerbaijan that resists the current wave of antisemitism and continues to assist the Israeli war effort by sending us oil during our crucial hour of need.

Ayoob Kara served as Israel’s minister of communications.

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