Photo Credit: crossed flags
Crossed Flag of Israel and Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan and Israel have long-standing cooperation in many fields. The Jewish community in Azerbaijan and the Azerbaijani community in Israel play an important role in promoting the relationship between both nations.  As Azerbaijani MP Nigar Arpadarai stressed: “Sometimes people who do not know the context and history get a bit surprised that a country in South Caucasus,  Azerbaijan, and Israel have such warm and consistent positive relations. There are few dimensions to why it is happening.”

According to MP Arpardarai, the historical links between Israel and Azerbaijan are very deep: “They have to do with the ancient trade routes, with cultural exchange, with the movements of peoples of different faiths and many other factors.   Second one is the human dimension, which has to do with the fact that there is a stable and safe Jewish community living in Azerbaijan for a long time.  There is a substantial Jewish urban population in Azerbaijan’s large cities, who feel comfortable living there.  They are at home in Azerbaijan.  There are also Azerbaijani communities in Israel as well.  They consist mostly of people who moved to Israel in recent decades but kept strong emotional links to Azerbaijan.”

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“Third dimension has to do with security and economy,” she emphasized.  “Azerbaijan and Israel are cooperating for many years on various projects, one of them is Israel’s energy security. Azerbaijan is one of the main suppliers of energy resources from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean Sea and to Israel.  What is also important to mention is that our friendship is not aimed against any 3rd party and is built around mutually beneficial cooperation.  So, there is a friendship, partnership and cooperation between Azerbaijan and Israel. These arrangements are aimed at strengthening bilateral relations.”

Aside from that, MP Arpardarai noted that there are a number of famous and successful Azerbaijani Jews among the leadership in Azerbaijan’s diaspora in Russia, who were very supportive of Azerbaijan in their struggle to defend Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity and the Azerbaijani people remember this: “We can say the same about thousands of Azerbaijani Jews who live in Germany, US, Canada and other countries. They share both Azerbaijani and Jewish identity. They support us in bad times and we share our happiness with them in good times.”

Jewish communities in Azerbaijan issued a joint statement calling upon Jewish communities around the world to stand by Azerbaijan during the Second Karabakh War. Jews living in different countries across the planet took an active part in the rallies held by Azerbaijanis. At the same time, Azerbaijanis living in Israel also actively supported the rallies. For example, rallies and commemorative events occurred in Petah Tikva, Tel Aviv, and other Israeli cities.

The State Committee on the Work with the Diaspora is also actively involved in these relations and is implementing several projects in this area. The Committee Chairman Fuad Muradov met with members of the North American Jewish Federations, the American Sephardic Federation, The National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry, and the American Jewish Committee during his visit to the United States in 2018. The Chairman of the Committee stressed the friendship between the Azerbaijani and Jewish peoples, the history of and future prospects for Azerbaijani-Israeli relations, the importance of strengthening ties between the two peoples in the United States and working together for their joint interests in a number of arenas.

In addition, an online map of Azerbaijani Jews has been developed in recent years with the support of the State Committee, and a foreign researcher has been invited to study the history of the Jewish community in Azerbaijan.

For the first time, the Muslim American Leadership Alliance and the American Sephardi Federation held a commemorative event in memory of the victims of the Khojaly massacre on February 26 at the Jewish Historical Center in New York. This proves the strong ties between the Azerbaijani and Jewish peoples.

Not too long ago, a delegation led by the Chairman of the State Committee on Working with the Diaspora Fuad Muradov visited Israel. During the visit, Fuad Muradov met with the heads of a number of Israeli government agencies and representatives of the Azerbaijani Diaspora. The chairman noted that Israel is home to about 70,000 people of Azerbaijani origin; the largest communities are in Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jerusalem and Akko.

In recent months, a virtual meeting took place between the Chairman of the State Committee on Working with  the Diaspora Fuad Muradov and the Israeli Minister of Diaspora Affairs Omer Yankelevich.  The meeting was attended by more than 100 members of the Jewish community in Baku and the Azerbaijani community in Israel.

“Cooperation between Azerbaijanis and Jews around the globe should serve as an example and set the standard of how Jews and Muslims not only can coexist, but also do things and build common plans together,” MP Apardarai added.  “Israel is building relations with many countries and many of them are Muslim, but Azerbaijani Israeli relations are uniquely good because they are consistently good regardless of political regimes or the current situation in various countries. They have to do with the will of the people.”

MP Apardarai noted that both Azerbaijan and Israel have major challenges ahead of them, as Israel still has not managed to establish peace with all its neighbors and Azerbaijan has yet to see that the peace agreement will last.  Nevertheless, she noted that this won’t change the positive nature of Azerbaijani-Israeli relations: “Azerbaijan is also sometimes a victim of an unfair attitude. We must work together on breaking through these stereotypes. And the mere fact of the existence of a friendship between our nations is a very powerful tool and an example that we have to showcase and strengthen.”

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Rachel Avraham is a senior media research analyst at the Center for Near East Policy Research and a correspondent for the Israel Resource News Agency. She is the author of “Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab Media.”