Jewish communities in Azerbaijan reject Iranian claims and back the diplomatic ties between their country and Israel saying, “An attempt to portray Jewish businessmen, tourists, and rabbis who come to Azerbaijan as spies is complete nonsense.”
The strengthening of ties between Israel and Azerbaijan continues to irk Iran, resulting in accusations against the extended Jewish community in Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku. Over the weekend, Iranian newspapers published caricatures mocking Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan following the announcement of the strengthening of relations between the two countries over the past few weeks.
An article published in the newspaper, Javan, published in Tehran, the capital of Iran, accused the Jewish communities of Azerbaijan with the claim that “the rabbis who come to the communities from Israel are actually spies sent by Israel to spy against Iran.” Likewise, it claimed that all Israeli businessmen coming to conduct business in Azerbaijan are spies.
The Azeri Jewish community, who resent the Iranian accusations, have reacted harshly. In response, Yevgeny Brenneisen, vice chairman of the European Jewish communities in Baku, said in a speech delivered to rabbis and businessmen, that “An attempt to portray Jewish businessmen, tourists, and rabbis who come to Azerbaijan as spies is complete nonsense. Indeed, many Israelis and Jews from all over the world fly to Azerbaijan, which has always been known for its warm relations with the Jews. Are rabbis spies? A rabbi from Montenegro visited this week. Is he a spy, too? A Montenegrin?”
In addition, Brenneisen added that “It is possible to understand that the Iranian authorities, which has been stirring up national discontent over past months, are attempting to find ways to deflect attention to another subject, however that is simply stupid. These statements and caricatures were clearly created only for Iran’s “internal use.”
A member of the Azeri foreign affairs committee, Rasim Musabayov, commented on the Iranian accusations against the rabbis in Azerbaijan, saying that “The Iranians will not hesitate at any chance to vilify and provoke wild incitement, even against rabbis. The Iranian line proves the importance and necessity of ties with Israel.”
This article was written in cooperation with Shuva Israel