"The state of Azerbaijan does not foresee any problem in the future for the flourishing Jewish community in Azerbaijan"

 - Could you please introduce yourself? 

 -  I am Dr.Vladimir Ze’ev Khanin, expert on Russian Jewish community in Israel, Diaspora and FMS politics.  I teach political studies at the Bar-Ilan University in Israel and am happy to be here at Oxford University.  

 - Currently we are in the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy’s (ISGAP) organized Summer Institute on Curriculum Development for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism and you brilliantly presented a lecture about Antisemitism issues in Russia and Ukraine.  I would like to ask what are the currently challenges related to manifestations of anti-Semitism in the World and the place of the Jews in the societies of the former Soviet states and their attitudes towards Israel?

 - Actually, I was trying to present to the participants in this very important seminar the Jewish, or better to say Semitic/anti-Semitic, aspects of contemporary interstate conflicts and relations in the post-soviet states.  And actually, we do see that this element is pretty important in the case of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.  However, it was minimal when talking about a Russia-Georgia conflict, and there is almost none in the case of an Azerbaijan-Armenia confrontation.  So, Jews fortunately would probably say it never became a part of the fracas in the conflict between these two states. 

As we know, Israel keeps positive relations with Azerbaijan and Armenia.  However, as we also know, Azerbaijan is a strategic partner of Jerusalem.  On the other hand, Armenia is a strategic partner of Tehran in Iran.  It is believed in this postmodern, very interesting world that Muslim states and the Jewish state could be allies. 

On the other hand, a Christian state and a Muslim Shia state, which is the state in Azerbaijan, may cooperate and confront both Azerbaijan and Israel.  So, religion in this case is not the point.  I believe that the major point of the situation is the readiness of each party for prosperity, democracy, and development into modernization and post-modernization, and not being haunted by the ghosts of the past, as we say here. 

So, from this point of view, we know that Jerusalem appreciates the atmosphere that exists in contemporary Azerbaijan, meaning that Azerbaijan is a multi-cultural state and step by step, slowly but surely, going towards full scale democracy in a civil society.   

In any event, Israel is not interested in intervening in international relations. Azerbaijan, as well as Azerbaijanis, do not tell Israelis how to develop their own country and I think this is the background for cooperation.  And let me add one more point: I think that the fact that Israel, and especially the Jewish state, is not the issue in the conflict between our partners with the other states may bring some hope for the future because what we hear from the many other lecturers in the seminar is that actually using the Jewish card and playing the anti-Semitic card become the important element of advancement of the political interests of certain states, such as Iran for instance.  So, the situation that we see in the southern Caucasus I would believe is much more fruitful and brings hope for the future.  I also believe that the Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict will one day be resolved this way because there is no other way to bring prosperity to the southern Caucasus.   

I believe, as we all believe, that it is something that will be close between two peoples.  And I very much hope that the same vision will be applied to the Middle Eastern conflict; that nobody should explain to us how we should deal with our neighbors and how to solve or resolve our problems.  And that’s probably the only piece of good news.  

   - And do you think it is possible for the Azerbaijanis and the Azerbaijani Jews to coexist in our society?  And that this can set an example in Western countries?  Currently, we are facing problems issued from Anti-Semitic behaviors, discrimination and hatred rising in these societies. 

            I believe that ethnic suspiciousness and religious conflicts are things that don’t evaporate immediately or automatically. The question is how the whole education system is organized and what the internal policy is, and what the line is that is forwarded by the national leaders. 

As far as we can see in Azerbaijan, the national leaders are in favor of internal peace and collective prosperity. The state of Azerbaijan, meaning all of the Azerbaijani citizens as far as we can see in this situation, does not foresee any problem in the future for the flourishing Jewish community in Azerbaijan.  And in return, the ethnic and religious minorities that live in this state, if they contribute to the development of the country and the state, this is appreciated by the Azerbaijani society, as far as we know, and so, it’s a good example rather than a bad one. 

Many thanks for explaining the impact of the global Antisemitism issues and different aspects of contemporary interstate conflicts and relations in the post-soviet states. 

The interview was prepared by Mr Said Musayev during the ISGAP's 2017 Summer Institute development program in interdisciplinary contemporary antisemitism studies in London.