The synagogue in Baku
The synagogue in BakuCourtesy

Thirty two leading rabbis of Europe and other major Jewish communities have expressed their support of the statement made by Rabbi Zamir Isayev in Baku regarding the misuse of the memory of the Holocaust by Armenian leaders in their territorial dispute with Azerbaijan on the Karabakh region, and dozens more sent letters to the Armenian leadership.

Rabbi Isayev emphasized the pain of the Jewish community in Azerbaijan in light of the smear campaign conducted against the Azerbaijani government for the “starving to death of thousands of Armenians,” and its comparison to the Holocaust. “There are events in the history of mankind, whose use of the Holocaust other than preserving the memory, is wrong and forbidden, especially when it is cynically used for odious political purposes.

“Who else has suffered years of false accusations without proof, such as the murder of the Palestinian people through foreign media or fabricated rumors and stories, like the people of Israel? The Jewish nation’s cruelest enemy, Iran, exploits these fabricated stories and exerts its influence over international organizations as it demands to apply sanction measures against Israel, who has been fighting these lies for decades.

“Today, the same is happening to a true friend of Israel - Azerbaijan. As a result of this deep friendship, its enemies accuse it of “starving thousands of Armenians,” - a population that has been occupying a small enclave in the Azerbaijani part of Karabakh for the past 30 years, and who murdered and expelled all Azerbaijanis in the area. A point of note proving that there is no justification for the accusations of genocide or starvation that I can offer, is that the Azerbaijani government paved a road especially for the transport of supplies to the residents of this enclave and it was barricaded by the Armenian separatists.
“The greatest audacity is that in order to vilify the Azerbaijanis, they assent to going to the extent of using the memory of Holocaust victims. In an interview with the AFP, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan accused the Azerbaijani government of establishing a ‘ghetto for everything’ in the enclave, allegedly in ‘preparation for a new holocaust.’ Ruben Vardanian, head of the separatist organization even stated that ‘the suffering of the Armenians is greater than the suffering of the Holocaust victims, because the Jews were not slaughtered on their own land.’

“And I stand here before the Jewish people and ask, ‘What right do they have to talk about the Holocaust, when a statue commemorating the Nazi collaborator, Garegin Nzhdeh, stands in the center of the Armenian capital, and whose streets bear his name throughout the country?’

“The Armenians are the allies and protégés of Tehran. The US has repeatedly warned Armenia against becoming too close with Iran, which included a visit to Yerevan by the head of the CIA in the summer of 2022. However, the Armenians responded with disregard. Over the past year, the Iranian president has emphasized several times the importance of their relations with Armenia, and has supported the reinforcement of the Armenian nation: ‘Iran views Armenia as a close and friendly country,’ says Ebrahim Raisi. Iran’s foreign minister adds that ‘The security of Armenia is Iran’s security.’ It was only recently that Tehran transferred drones and hundreds of missiles. In April this year, the Armenian army used Iranian-manufactured drones for the first time to attack Azerbaijan.”

Rabbi Isayev called on the Jewish leadership in Israel and the Diaspora “to support the Azerbaijani nation who has stood by our side for generations, protected the Jews, and gave shelter to those who fled from the pogroms in the early 20th century and from the Nazi atrocities later. The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan has lasted more than three decades, and in the most recent war three years ago, Israel assisted Azerbaijan in returning most of the territory with the exception of the Karabakh region, which is home to some tens of thousands Armenians. The U.S. and E.U. are endeavoring to bring about a peace treaty between Armenia and Azerbaijan, therefore the psychological impact of the mention of genocide only impedes the negotiation process.”

Rabbi Aryeh Ralbag, head of the Union of Orthodox Rabbis in the United States and Canada; Berlin community leader, Rabbi Dovid Roberts; Rabbi of Odessa, Rabbi Shlomo Baksht; Chief Rabbi of Leipzig and German Chief Military Rabbi, Mordechai Balla; and Chief Rabbi Baruch Pinchas Fiszon of Matz, France, said that they “reject any attempt to equate or compare anything between the horrific Holocaust with local conflicts, and no matter how significant they are - there is no place for mention of the Holocaust; it is complete blasphemy.”

Chief Rabbi of Frankfurt and Chairman of the German Rabbinic Organization, Rabbi Avichai Apel, was joined by Chief Rabbi of Poland, Rabbi Mordechai Schudrich; Rabbi Pinchas Zaltzman, Chief Rabbi of Moldova; Chief Rabbi Izhak Dayan of Geneva; Rabbi Joseph Dweck, Senior Rabbi of the UK Sephardic Jewish community; Rabbi Yoel Yifrach, Chief Rabbi of Bulgaria; Rabbi Ruben Ohana, Chief Rabbi of Marseilles; and Rabbi Moshe Levin, rabbi of the French gendarmerie in Paris all expressed shock at the use of the Holocaust in a local conflict: “Any attempt to make mention of the Holocaust or its atrocities in the context of conflicts, wherever they may be, needs to be uprooted.”

Additionally, Chief Rabbi of Strasbourg and the Rhineland district in France, Rabbi Abraham Weill; Chief Rabbi of Belarus, Rabbi Mordchai Reichenstein; Chief Rabbi of Vienna, Rabbi Jaron Engelmayer; Rabbi Aryeh Polgar, member of the Vienna Beit Din and director of the kashrut wing of Kosher Credibility Europe; Rabbi Nehemiah Rottenberg of Vienna, one of Europe’s experts on kashrut; Chief Rabbi of Rome, Rabbi Shemuel Di Segni; and Rabbi Abraham Guigui, chief rabbi of Belgium, appealed to world leaders to condemn these occurrences and to express their objection to the comparison of any conflict with the Holocaust “where the Nazis and their aides sought to annihilate a people by horrific methods.” Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto, founder of the Shuva Israel organization, stressed that involvement of the Holocaust in politics and conflict is not acceptable. “The Holocaust is a sacred matter and needs to be discussed under sacred circumstances.”

Chief Rabbi of Barcelona, Rabbi Daniel Askenazi; Chief Rabbi of Serbia, Rabbi Isak Asiel; Rabbi Daniel Torgmant, chief rabbi of Monaco; Rabbi Raphael Abriss, member of the Beit Din of the Orthodox Rabbinical Conference Germany and the Beit Din of Europe; and Rabbi Eliyahu Hamara, founder of the Latin American Rabbinical Conference and Chairman of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA), said that any attempt to bring up the Holocaust in any conflict or dispute in opinions between countries is erroneous. Rabbi Hamara also added that “As the rabbi of a community that has suffered from a murderous terror attack carried out by Iran, the atrocities of the Holocaust are no comparison and there is no place to bring up such a comparison to any kind of conflict.”

Rabbi Shmuel Aharon Brodman, chief rabbi of Munich; Rabbi Eliezer Wolff, rabbi and head of the Amsterdam Beit Din; Rabbi Haim Bitan, chief rabbi of Tunisia and Djerba; Rabbi David Peretz, chief rabbi of Panama; Rabbi Eliyahu Tamim, chief rabbi of Chile; and the rabbi of the world Caucasian community, Rabbi Yaniv Naftaliev, mentioned their disgust and rejection of any mention of Holocaust victims in national conflicts over land or any other conflict: “The atrocities of the Holocaust cannot be compared with anything at all. It is a degradation.” Rabbi Naftaliev called on the Jewish leadership in Israel and the Diaspora “to support the Azerbaijani people, a nation that has stood by our side for generations, protected and assisted the Jews, and established a warm home and practical infrastructure for spiritual and material life for the Jews, and has provided them with shelter time after time to those fleeing from the pogroms at the turn of the 20th century and from the Nazi atrocities later on.”