New York Politicians Have Fostered Chaos by Singling Out Orthodox Jews

On Tuesday, New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo announced neighborhood-specific lockdowns in areas with high rates of coronavirus infection, making explicit the fact that these “red zones” hold large concentrations of Orthodox Jews, and threatening synagogue closures if restrictions aren’t observed. In response, anti-lockdown protests erupted in ḥasidic parts of Brooklyn last night, resulting in at least two instances of intrareligious violence. Jonathan Tobin writes that, although the problem of Orthodox noncompliance with social-distancing measures is a real one, Cuomo—like New York City’s hapless mayor Bill De Blasio—has needlessly encouraged anti-Jewish hostility:

The spectacle of Orthodox Jews taking to the streets this week in closely packed crowds, eschewing masks (and in one case, even burning them) to protest Cuomo’s new edicts, cannot be defended. Yet it’s equally fair to ask questions that were raised [previously] when Mayor De Blasio singled out “the Jewish community” as such as the sole source of COVID scofflaws. It’s also reasonable to ask by what logic, let alone scientific principle, they are making decisions that mandate the closing of religious institutions while allowing other secular activities to go on unhindered.

Just as importantly, why have Cuomo and De Blasio, as well as so many other local and state leaders around the nation, treated religious activities and protests against these restrictions as inherently illegitimate and illegal while turning a blind eye towards the mass protests and violence in the streets that have taken place under the banner of the Black Lives Matter movement?

As those “mostly peaceful” protests continued and violence spread, governments that sent cops to shut down synagogues and churches, close playgrounds, or arrest people without masks—while doing little or nothing to stop rioters—lost whatever credibility they once had. If preventing looting by non-socially distanced criminals is not a government priority but stopping people from praying in a house of worship is, something is profoundly wrong, and it’s no good blaming people—whether they are Orthodox Jews or anyone else—for noticing.

Seen from that perspective, the anger of the Ḥaredim who have been resisting COVID-19 restrictions can be understood, if not excused, as a natural reaction to hypocritical policies and a troubling willingness to make the easily identifiable Orthodox Jewish community the scapegoats for the pandemic.

Read more at JNS

More about: American Jewry, Bill de Blasio, Coronavirus, Hasidim, New York City

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