500 European Rabbis to attend conference in Baku

Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt

Last month, I wrote about the two groups of “righteous Israelis” who urged their government to intervene with Azerbaijan to open the Berdzor (Lachin) Corridor.

One group of 17 signatories, including Rabbis, journalists and scholars, sent a letter to the Foreign Minister of Israel on January 15, 2023. Another group of 35 signatories, including Rabbis, scholars, journalists, a former cabinet minister and Knesset member, architects and scientists, sent a letter to the president of Israel on August 11, 2023. “The State of Israel enjoys close ties with Azerbaijan, the state which is responsible for this crisis, and has the ability to resolve it,” the letter reads. “We cannot remain silent, especially in light of our historic and multilayered connection with the Armenian people.”

These letters stand in stark contrast to a conference that will be attended by 500 European Rabbis, held in Azerbaijan in November at the invitation of President Ilham Aliyev, as reported by the Jewish News Syndicate (JNS). The visit is organized by the Orthodox rabbinical alliance in Europe that unites more than 700 religious leaders from across the continent.

“Azerbaijan is a place with a special memory for the Jewish people and is home to one of the most unique Jewish communities in the world,” said Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis, who met with Aliyev earlier this year.

Rabbi Goldschmidt’s words were followed by a statement from Elchin Amirbayov, Aliyev’s representative: “The fact that this European rabbinical conference will be held here in Baku is recognition of people feeling safe here. It is just the right place.” Rabbi Zamir Isayev of Baku told JNS that Azerbaijan “is much safer than any country in Europe.” 

“The planned trip comes amid burgeoning relations between Israel and Azerbaijan that developed from a centuries-long affinity between the two nations into an unprecedented strategic partnership,” JNS reported. How could relations between Israel and Azerbaijan have a “centuries-long affinity” when Azerbaijan became a state only in 1918 and Israel in 1948?

Rather, this “affinity” stems from economic ties. Azerbaijan supplies almost half of Israel’s energy needs, while Israel sells over $5 billion of arms to Azerbaijan – 70-percent of its sophisticated weapons, including illegal cluster bombs – which Baku used during the 2020 Artsakh War to kill and injure thousands of Armenian soldiers.

The group of European Rabbis traveling to Baku for the conference is under the mistaken impression that Azerbaijan welcomes them with open arms. They do not realize that they are allowing themselves to be exploited by Azerbaijan for political gain.

Rushing to gloat over the pending conference, Aze.Media published an article titled, “A rabbinical conference in Muslim Azerbaijan,” reporting that “the Azerbaijani nation prides itself on having a rich multiculturalism policy, which gives equal respect to all faiths and religions living in Azerbaijan.” To the contrary, minorities in Azerbaijan suffer from discrimination and massive violation of human rights. Azeris themselves are victims of prosecution by Azerbaijan’s authoritarian government if they say anything critical about President Aliyev. 

The group of European Rabbis traveling to Baku for the conference is under the mistaken impression that Azerbaijan welcomes them with open arms. They do not realize that they are allowing themselves to be exploited by Azerbaijan for political gain.

While Israel opened its embassy in Baku in 1993, Azerbaijan established its embassy in Tel Aviv in 2023, just after announcing the opening of its representative office in Ramallah, West Bank, the de facto capital of the Palestinian Authority, to counter the backlash from Muslim communities in Azerbaijan and around the world.

French historian Marc Knobel wrote an indignant article in Le Point newspaper on August 8, harshly criticizing the European Rabbis’ planned trip to Baku. Knobel wrote: “Gentlemen Rabbis, I am ashamed, and I am Jewish.” He reported that Haim Korsia, the Chief Rabbi of France, will not accompany the other Rabbis to Azerbaijan “to flatter the dictator of Baku and will not allow himself to be bribed by such a regime.”

The 500 European Rabbis, instead of siding with the starving 120,000 Artsakh Armenians, are selling their souls to the devil in Baku.

Harut Sassounian

Harut Sassounian

California Courier Editor
Harut Sassounian is the publisher of The California Courier, a weekly newspaper based in Glendale, Calif. He is the president of the Armenia Artsakh Fund, a non-profit organization that has donated to Armenia and Artsakh $917 million of humanitarian aid, mostly medicines, since 1989 (including its predecessor, the United Armenian Fund). He has been decorated by the presidents of Armenia and Artsakh and the heads of the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic churches. He is also the recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.

1 Comment

  1. A large gathering of rabbis siding with a wealthy dictatorship over the hundred thousand Christians he is deliberately starving? I do not think I could create a more rabbinical scenario if I tried.

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