On Monday in Tel Aviv-Jaffa, between 500 and 600 Azerbaijani Jews marched along the Old City of Jaffa and then demonstrated outside of the Armenian Cultural Center and the Armenian Church. They were angry about the fact that in a recent border skirmish, Armenian mortar fire killed a 76-year-old Azerbaijani citizen and 12 Azerbaijani servicemen, after there was intense hostilities for several days in the Tovuz region of Azerbaijan.
Rabbi Shmuel Siman Tov, who addressed the demonstration, declared that Armenia killed his in-law and his brother, and he accused Armenia of engaging in illegal conquests, in reference to Armenia’s occupation of the Nagorno-Karabakh region in violation of four UN Security Council Resolutions and seven other Azeri districts: “We demand that the Armenian Armed Forces will withdraw from the historic Azerbaijani lands of Nagorno-Karabakh and 7 adjacent Azerbaijani regions. Azerbaijan and Israel stand together. Am Israel Chai! Am Azerbaijan Chai.”
Israeli political analyst Arye Gut, who organized the demonstration, also spoke out against the occupation of Karabakh: “On behalf of the Azerbaijani-Jewish diaspora of Israel, I responsibly declare that our demonstration in support of Azerbaijan and the Azerbaijani soldiers is absolutely peaceful, and we, as Israelis, immigrants from Azerbaijan, have the right, within the framework of Israeli legislation, to hold demonstrations where we think it is necessary. We have no intentions to commit any provocations either against the Armenian cultural center, nor against the Armenian church. We are immigrants from Azerbaijan, citizens of Israel – tolerant of all peoples and religions.”
“We only demand that Armenia comply with the UN Security Council resolutions and liberate Nagorno-Karabakh and 7 adjacent regions of Azerbaijan, which are the historical and internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan, and have one million Azerbaijani refugees return to their ancestral land,” Gut reiterated.
“Armenia is striving by all means possible to spoil relations between Israel and Azerbaijan,” he added. “They can’t do it. Azerbaijan is a real strategic partner of Israel in the world. Azerbaijan is an example of multiculturalism and tolerance. Today, there is a 25,000-strong Jewish community in Azerbaijan. And in contrast, Armenia has almost no Jews. There are 50 ethnic Jews in Armenia.”
“How can we, Israelis, react to the monument erected four years ago in Yerevan to commemorate Nzhadeh, an anti-Semite and apparent Nazi accomplice,” Gut asked rhetorically. “The prolongation of his memory is a reprehensible insult to the memory of the victims of the Holocaust. For me personally, someone whose grandfather lost all members of his family to the Nazi atrocities in the Ukraine, this is irredeemable emotionally painful. It is no longer a hushed secret, and the ideology of fascism, the glorification of Armenian fascists and Nazis who worked closely with Nazi Germany, are being promoted at the state level in Armenia. What is even more outrageous is that the fascist ideology called Nzhadehism is included in Armenia’s educational institutions curriculum and generations are brought up on these values. The Jewish people will never forget the acts of cruelty committed by the 20,000 Armenian legionnaires led by Nzhdeh during World War II. Historic documents confirm this fact. The purpose of the Armenian Legion led by Nzhdeh was to raid the homes and destroy the lives of Jews, as well as others objectionable to the Germany Army. It was thanks to the Armenian Legion that the towns of Simferopol, Yevpatoria, Alushta, Kerch and Feodosia, as well as other areas of Western Crimea, were completedly expunged of Jews. Garagen Nzhdeh is a national hero and has a memorial in the middle of Yerevan. He was a fascist but because he was Armenian, he is a national hero. It does not work like that.”
The head of the Azerbaijani House in Israel Shirin Nehamia Michaeli thanked the compatriots who supported the march: “On the ancient land of Azerbaijan, Judaism, Islam and Christianity coexisted. This land continues to show an incredible desire for religious tolerance today. Azerbaijanis have lived for centuries and feel like brothers. They are linked by a common destiny and common history.”
“And we declare with full responsibility to the whole world and, most importantly, to the Armenian occupiers that the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is both our tragedy and pain, since truth and justice are on Azerbaijan’s side,” she proclaimed. “In this terrible war against the occupiers, Jews and Azerbaijanis have always fought together – we lived, rejoiced and fought together. We, immigrants from Azerbaijan, are proud of the fact that in this war against the Armenian invaders, one of the first national heroes of an independent Azerbaijan was our brother Albert Agarunov, who became a symbol of courage and brotherhood for the Azerbaijani and Jewish peoples.”
Firidun, who attended the demonstration, claimed that he joined this protest because Armenia is illegally occupying Azerbaijani land: “We want our land back, so the refugees can return home. Due to the occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh, one million Azerbaijani citizens are refugees. This leaves many people without a home. But what is worse than that is that they try to take more land. From the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea, they want it all.” Baruck Idano concurred with Firidun, stressing that Armenia has made a huge mess and that Karabakh is Azerbaijani land.
Mari Rjanorosky, another demonstrator, added; “On February 25-6, 1992, the Armenian Armed Forces committed an act of genocide against the population of the Azerbaijani town of Khojaly. A startling 613 people were killed, 487 people were crippled, and 1,275 old men, women and children were captured and subjected to torture and humiliation. The civilians who managed to escape were brutally murdered in the forest by the Armenian military. The Khojaly civilian population was massacred because they were Azerbaijanis. This barbaric cruelty towards innocent children, women and old people has no explanation. This is not the tragedy of one generation, but also one of the worst crimes in the history of mankind, for they murdered them in one night in cold blood. Yet sadly, as recent events demonstrate, the issue still exists. 20% of Azerbaijan is under occupation. We want for the international community to do something and to seek justice for Azerbaijan.”
Throughout the demonstration, the protesters chanted, “Stop the Armenian aggression against Karabakh,” “stop the Armenian occupation,” “Karabakh is a historical part of Azerbaijan,” “Karabakh, Karabakh is Azerbaijan,” “It is our Karabakh,” and “Israel respects Azerbaijan.” They also held up signs that proclaimed, “Nazi anti-Semitic General Garagin Nzhdeh is an embarrassment that desecrates the memory of Holocaust victims,” “Stop Armenian aggression: remember the children of Khojaly,” “Stop Armenian terrorism against Azerbaijan,” “The State of Israel respects entirely the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan,” “I am from Azerbaijan and 20% of my country is occupied by Armenia,” and “Justice for Khojaly.” Israeli and Azerbaijani flags were waved by everyone in the crowd, while a few participants also waved Turkish flags.
In a war of music, the Azerbaijani Jewish community blasted nationalist music in Azeri Turkish, so that they will make more noise than a small group of Armenian counterdemonstrators. The counterdemonstrators barricaded themselves on the balcony inside the Armenian Cultural Center, while waving Armenian flags and blaring Armenian music. However, their music and messages were so drowned out by the Azerbaijani Jewish community’s loud music in Azeri Turkish accompanied by vibrant chants and them screaming “boo” that in the end, they left the balcony and went inside the cultural center out of frustration. As they left, someone in the crowd threatened even larger demonstrations in the future, if the Armenians there do not pass on their message of discontent to Yerevan.
In an exclusive interview, Gut noted that it is critical to emphasize that these acts of violence that occurred recently along the Azerbaijani-Armenian border took place about 300 kilometers away from the Nagorno-Karabakh region and “adjacent to 7 regions of Azerbaijan which are occupied by Armenia. While the previous Armenian regimes tried to refrain from provocations at the countries’ mutual border, Armenia’s current regime went in a completely different direction.”
“Why did official Yerevan decide to launch a military adventure on the state border, rather than in occupied Nagorno Karabakh region,” Gut pondered. “There are several factors that can explain the transfer of the theater of operations from the contact lines in Karabakh to the state border. First one, a year ago, the government of Azerbaijan decided to transfer the supervision of the state border with Armenia from the Defense Ministry to the State Border Services. This decision caused hysterical panic in Armenia, where they would like the border to remain in the status of a war zone, which would enable the Armenian armed forces to quietly advance positions into Azerbaijani territories.”
“Second one, from the first days of coming into power, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan began making excessive demands from its strategic ally, Russia, and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO),” he noted. “With its military recklessness, Armenia pursues the objective of drawing the military-political organizations, to which it is a party, into the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict, in order to evade the responsibility of the occupation and aggression against Azerbaijan. Armenia’s aggression against Azerbaijan for nearly 30 years and occasional provocations perpetrated along the border also contravene the legal documents of the military-political organizations with which Armenia is a member. However, Armenia clearly stated that military operations in Karabakh are Azerbaijan’s internal affairs and do not fall under the allies’ obligations. Neither Russia nor the CSTO supported Armenia’s action and did not condemn Azerbaijan. They called on the parties to restrain themselves and for a cessation of hostilities. Armenia’s provocation, perpetrated along the border with Azerbaijan, is yet more evidence that official Yerevan is disinterested in a negotiated settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict.”
“By acting so, Armenia’s leadership aims to escalate the situation, against the backdrop of the socio-economic problems deteriorated further by the widespread nature of COVID-19 in Armenia,” Gut declared. “Aside from the COVID-19 pandemic, Armenia has many domestic economic problems such as power failures, a deep economic crisis, a 30 percent unemployment rate and a 50 percent poverty rate. In other words, by provoking military hostilities on the border with Azerbaijan, the current Armenian Prime Minister tried to preserve his power, diverting the attention of his people away from internal problems, some of which were much intensified by the coronavirus pandemic.”
For these reasons, Gut declared the Azerbaijani Jewish community decided to protest in Tel Aviv en masse, despite the dangers posed by the coronavirus pandemic: “We are Jews from Azerbaijan, and we protest against the Armenian provocations and in support of Azerbaijan. That is different from the US and other parts of the globe, where Armenian protesters confronted mainly Azerbaijani Muslim demonstrators. If there were no police, they would have attacked us, like they did in Los Angeles and other places. I invited the police so that they could not do a provocation. I wanted a peaceful demonstration. A war of music, culture and our demands against Armenia, not a war of soldiers.”
By all accounts, it appears that Azerbaijan won the war of music, as many cars that passed by honked their horns in solidarity with Azerbaijan. The demonstration ended with the crowd playing both the Israeli and Azerbaijani national anthems.