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

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy