Azerbaijan Commemorates Its Jewish War Hero

Although the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the border region of Nagorno-Karabakh, which lasted from 1988 to 1994, is little remembered in the West, it remains an open wound for Azerbaijan, which effectively lost most of the territory. In September, a monument was erected in the Azeri capital of Baku to Albert Agarunov, a Jew whose courage in the fighting made him a national hero. Diana Cohen Altman writes:

Azerbaijan’s population is more than 90 percent Muslim. Agarunov was a member of the community known as Mountain Jews in the region of Quba in northern Azerbaijan. On December 8, 1991, he and a fellow soldier, Agababa Huseynov, disabled several Armenian tanks and armored trucks.

Armenia set a bounty on Agarunov’s head. In May 1992, Agarunov, then twenty-three, was killed while trying to save his fellow soldiers as they defended the Azerbaijani town of Shusha, [considered by Azeris to be the] historic cultural capital of the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Decades later, . . . many Azerbaijanis are quick to bring up Agarunov’s Jewishness as an example of “two great nations working together.” . . . Regularly, the discussion leads to remarks about the [relative] absence of anti-Semitism in Azerbaijan, often backed up by affirmations such as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement that Israel-Azerbaijan ties represent “something that we can show the world.”

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Read more at JNS

More about: Azerbaijan, Israel diplomacy, Jews in the military, Mountain Jews, Muslim-Jewish relations

Why the Leader of Hamas Went to Russia

Sept. 30 2022

Earlier this month, the Hamas chairman Ismail Haniyeh and several of his colleagues visited Moscow, where they met with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and other Russian officials. According to Arabic-language media, Haniyeh came seeking “new ideas” about how to wage war against the Jewish state. The terrorist group has had good relations with the Kremlin for several years, and even maintains an office in Moscow. John Hardie and Ivana Stradner comment on the timing of the visit:

For Moscow, the visit likely reflects a continuation of its efforts to leverage the Palestinians and other issues to pressure Israel over its stance on Russia’s war in Ukraine. Russia and Israel built friendly relations in the decades following the Soviet Union’s dissolution. After Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Jerusalem condemned the war, but made sure to tread carefully in order to preserve working ties with Moscow, lest Russian military forces in Syria disrupt Israel’s strategically important air operations there.

Nevertheless, bilateral tensions spiked in April after Yair Lapid, then serving as Israel’s foreign minister, joined the chorus of voices worldwide accusing Russia of committing war crimes in Ukraine. Jerusalem later provided Kyiv with some non-lethal military aid and a field hospital. In response, Moscow hardened its rhetoric about Israeli actions in the Palestinian territories.

The Palestinian issue isn’t the only way that Russia has sought to pressure Israel. Moscow is also threatening, on seemingly spurious grounds, to shutter the Russian branch of the Jewish Agency.

Moscow likely has little appetite for outright conflict with Israel, particularly when the bulk of Russia’s military is floundering in Ukraine. But there are plenty of other ways that Russia, which maintains an active intelligence presence in the Jewish state, could damage Israel’s interests. As Moscow cozies up with Hamas, Iran, and other enemies of Israel, Jerusalem—and its American allies—would do well to keep a watchful eye.

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Read more at Algemeiner

More about: Hamas, Israeli Security, Russia