An American Diplomat’s Remarkable Role in Rescuing Romanian Jews from the Depredations of Communism

When he visited Bucharest in 1976 as part of an American Jewish Committee delegation, Alfred Moses was approached by two Jews who began to tell him about the pervasive anti-Semitism and official mistreatment meted out to them and their coreligionists. From then on, Moses worked to help Jews leave the country, which at the time was under the tyrannical rule of Nicolae Ceausescu. In the 1990s, he became the U.S. ambassador to Bucharest, and he has recently published a memoir of his experiences. Ben Zehavi writes:

Working with American Jewish and government leaders [from 1976 on], Moses successfully lobbied the U.S. Congress to extend the most-favored-nation status annually to Romania in return for, among other things, Ceausescu allowing its Jews to emigrate to Israel. . . . According to its census, there were nearly 25,000 Jews in Romania in 1977. By 1992, there were fewer than 9,000. The last count in 2011 recorded 3,271 Romanian Jews.

Another of Moses’ legacies is the saving of Bucharest’s Great Synagogue, the oldest house of worship in the Romanian capital, in 1985. “I got a call from the Romanian chief rabbi who said Ceausescu was clearing two square miles of downtown Bucharest to clear space for his new ‘City of the People,’ and two of the buildings in the path of destruction were the Sephardi synagogue and the Great Synagogue,” Moses said.

The Israeli ambassador and the mayor of Bucharest tried feverishly to save the edifices and received assurances from Ceausescu that neither building would be harmed. But the ambassador shortly thereafter walked around the block and saw that the Sephardi synagogue was gone. It had been destroyed the night before.

It took the intervention of then-Secretary of State George Shultz to save the Great Synagogue.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Anti-Semitism, Communism, East European Jewry, History & Ideas, Romania

Iran’s Program of Subversion and Propaganda in the Caucasus

In the past week, Iranian proxies and clients have attacked Israel from the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, and Yemen. Iran also has substantial military assets in Iraq and Syria—countries over which it exercises a great deal of control—which could launch significant attacks on Israel as well. Tehran, in addition, has stretched its influence northward into both Azerbaijan and Armenia. While Israel has diplomatic relations with both of these rival nations, its relationship with Baku is closer and involves significant military and security collaboration, some of which is directed against Iran. Alexander Grinberg writes:

Iran exploits ethnic and religious factors in both Armenia and Azerbaijan to further its interests. . . . In Armenia, Iran attempts to tarnish the legitimacy of the elected government and exploit the church’s nationalist position and tensions between it and the Armenian government; in Azerbaijan, the Iranian regime employs outright terrorist methods similar to its support for terrorist proxies in the Middle East [in order to] undermine the regime.

Huseyniyyun (Islamic Resistance Movement of Azerbaijan) is a terrorist militia made up of ethnic Azeris and designed to fight against Azerbaijan. It was established by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps . . . in the image of other pro-Iranian militias. . . . Currently, Huseyniyyun is not actively engaged in terrorist activities as Iran prefers more subtle methods of subversion. The organization serves as a mouthpiece of the Iranian regime on various Telegram channels in the Azeri language. The main impact of Huseyniyyun is that it helps spread Iranian propaganda in Azerbaijan.

The Iranian regime fears the end of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan because this would limit its options for disruption. Iranian outlets are replete with anti-Semitic paranoia against Azerbaijan, accusing the country of awarding its territory to Zionists and NATO. . . . Likewise, it is noteworthy that Armenian nationalists reiterate hideous anti-Semitic tropes that are identical to those spouted by the Iranians and Palestinians. Moreover, leading Iranian analysts have no qualms about openly praising [sympathetic] Armenian clergy together with terrorist Iran-funded Azeri movements for working toward Iranian goals.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: Azerbaijan, Iran, Israeli Security