Anti-Semitism and Propaganda in the South Caucasus

Since 1988, Armenia and Azerbaijan have been engaged in a dispute over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh; this temporarily frozen conflict flared up again in 2020. Vladimir Khanin examines the sizeable presence of anti-Semitism in both countries’ political conversations about the subject, and Iran’s role in fomenting it.

On the one hand, Tehran is interested in weakening Azerbaijan as much as possible, as Azerbaijan is the Jewish state’s close ally, Israel’s leading oil supplier, and a large-scale buyer of Israeli military and civil technologies. On the other hand, Tehran wants to enhance the dependence on Iran of Armenia, its own strategic partner, in view of the drastic reduction of the Russian presence in the South Caucasus.

Anti-Semitism has become part of the efforts of the Iranian secret services to destabilize Azerbaijan. This task is not easy, however, as the country has traditionally shown a highly tolerant attitude toward Jews and Israel. Jerusalem has shown itself to be a reliable ally for Azerbaijan, playing a critical role in its security and technological development, and Baku has opened its embassy in Tel Aviv. As a result, Israel’s popularity has boomed among Azerbaijani citizens, mitigating Tehran’s efforts to stir up anti-Semitic ferment. The Iranians have had to limit their attempts, for example, to delegitimize “the Zionist regime of President Aliyev.”

Along with the surge of anti-Israeli propaganda against Baku, which accompanied Iranian military drills near Azerbaijan’s borders and the activation of disruptive local detachments of Tehran within the country, a significant escalation of anti-Semitic rhetoric is also taking place in Armenia. The concurrence of these two trends, including a sharp increase in the number of anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist stories appearing online and in other Armenian media, suggests that Iran is playing a significant role in this case as well.

All this anti-Semitic delirium [appearing in Armenia] is written in Russian—often quite good Russian. This could be because of the desire to influence both Russian speakers outside Armenia and Russian migrants inside Armenia, the number of whom now exceeds 100,000.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Anti-Semitism, Armenians, Azerbaijan, Iran

Hamas’s Hostage Diplomacy

Ron Ben-Yishai explains Hamas’s current calculations:

Strategically speaking, Hamas is hoping to add more and more days to the pause currently in effect, setting a new reality in stone, one which will convince the United States to get Israel to end the war. At the same time, they still have most of the hostages hidden in every underground crevice they could find, and hope to exchange those with as many Hamas and Islamic Jihad prisoners currently in Israeli prisons, planning on “revitalizing” their terrorist inclinations to even the odds against the seemingly unstoppable Israeli war machine.

Chances are that if pressured to do so by Qatar and Egypt, they will release men over 60 with the same “three-for-one” deal they’ve had in place so far, but when Israeli soldiers are all they have left to exchange, they are unlikely to extend the arrangement, instead insisting that for every IDF soldier released, thousands of their people would be set free.

In one of his last speeches prior to October 7, the Gaza-based Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar said, “remember the number one, one, one, one.” While he did not elaborate, it is believed he meant he wants 1,111 Hamas terrorists held in Israel released for every Israeli soldier, and those words came out of his mouth before he could even believe he would be able to abduct Israelis in the hundreds. This added leverage is likely to get him to aim for the release for all prisoners from Israeli facilities, not just some or even most.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli Security