Discovering Jewish Saudi Arabia

The recent visit of a delegation of Saudi notables to Israel has raised hopes that the two countries might establish diplomatic relations in the foreseeable future. Likely or not, such a development would presumably give Jews access to historic sites in the Arabian peninsula, once home to a Jewish population predating the time of Muhammad. Jessica Steinberg writes:

[I]n the 6th and 7th centuries, there was a considerable Jewish population in Hejaz, mostly around [the cities of] Medina, Khaybar, and Tayma. . . .

The medieval Jewish traveler Benjamin of Tudela, during an 1165 to 1173 trek, [reported visiting thriving] Jewish communities in [what is now] Saudi Arabia. . . .

[T]he Khaybar Fortress, perched on a hill overlooking the oasis, is at least 1,400 years old. . . . It was Mohammed’s nephew and son-in-law, Ali, who was able to unlock the gate of the fortress to allow the Muslim armies to . . . conquer it. It was rebuilt and reused several times, but is still usually referred to it as the “Fortress of the Jews.”

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Benjamin of Tudela, Jewish history, Mohamed, Saudi Arabia

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