Friday, January 13, 2023

From Ian:

At the United Nations, Israel is ‘the Jew Among the Nations’
Approximately half of the council’s country-specific condemnations have targeted Israel. Nine out of its 35 special sessions have focused on the Jewish state. The UNHRC created a blacklist to deter investment in territories controlled by Israel, something it has not done for any other disputed territory. And the UNHRC maintains a special rapporteur devoted to uncovering supposed Israeli abuses. The list goes on.

Special rapporteurs are expected to demonstrate “impartiality” and not “hold any views or opinions that could prejudice” their work. Nevertheless, like flies to manure, this special rapporteur position has attracted individuals with histories of anti-Israel activism — and even antisemitism.

In 2008, then rapporteur John Dugard justified Palestinian terrorism as the “inevitable consequence” of Israeli actions. His successor, Richard Falk, likened Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians to the Holocaust. Falk’s antisemitism was so pronounced that the United Kingdom condemned him on three separate occasions.

Current special rapporteur Francesca Albanese is embroiled in her own antisemitism controversy. Last month, Albanese’s 2014 remarks describing the United States as “subjugated by the Jewish lobby” drew widespread condemnation, including by top US officials. In a separate post from that year, Albanese claimed that the “Israeli lobby,” directed by “Israel’s greed,” skewed media coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Though Albanese tried to distance herself from her past remarks, in July 2022, she defended another UN official who similarly claimed that the “Jewish lobby” controls the media.

Albanese has also doubled and tripled down on opposing the leading benchmark for identifying anti-Jewish prejudice, claiming it stifles free speech. In its definition of antisemitism, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), a coalition of 35 member states and eight observers, provided examples to help understand how antisemitism manifests itself. Prior to her appointment, Albanese had made comments that likely fell under two IHRA examples of antisemitism: comparing Israel to the Nazis and declaring Israel to be a racist endeavor.

Congress can help stamp out the UN’s anti-Jewish bigotry by defunding any UN agency that supports or engages in antisemitism pursuant to the IHRA definition.

Whether by removing Iran from the UN’s women’s commission, implementing human rights standards for UNHRC membership, or barring antisemites and anti-Israel activists from UN positions focused on Israel, the United States should work to prevent arsonists from serving as fire chiefs at the UN. With one fire put out for now, Washington should turn its attention to the others.
Mark Regev: Israel and Jordan: A troubled peace
Despite Hussein’s much-cultivated image as the Arab world’s foremost moderate leader, he refused to support Anwar Sadat’s 1977 peace initiative, never closing the door to peace, but neither embracing it.

This changed with the 1993 Israel-Palestinian Oslo Accords, which gave the king the pretext to normalize ties; Hussein and Rabin signed the Israel-Jordan Wadi Araba peace treaty the following year.

Hussein’s personal commitment to a reconciliation was demonstrated in March 1997 after the murder of seven Beit Shemesh schoolgirls by a Jordanian soldier at Naharayim on the Israel-Jordan border.

The king paid condolence visits to each of the bereaved families – his behavior touching the hearts of Israelis, while antagonizing many of his own countrymen (those opposing normalization criticized him for “kneeling before the Jews”).

But despite the early optimism, Israel-Jordan relations deteriorated into a cold peace. Jordanians accused Israel of not fulfilling promises for cooperation and for never sufficiently considering Jordanian sensitivities.

Particularly irking for Jordan was the Mossad’s 1997 botched assassination of Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal in Amman, and Jerusalem’s 2017 celebration of the Israeli security guard who shot dead two Jordanians during a terror attack at an embassy residence.

For some Jordanians, fears persist that Israel continues to see Jordan as the alternative Palestinian homeland – ideas that had been expressed by the younger Ariel Sharon (who later gained much respect in Amman for his championing of Israel-Jordan ties).

Israel's new partners
JERUSALEM, TOO, has its grievances. Whatever Israel did – whether providing water above and beyond the commitment made in the peace treaty, or supplying low-cost Mediterranean gas – such support was never adequately acknowledged in Amman.

Israel was also disappointed when Jordan refused to use its professed moderating influence to help diffuse potentially dangerous situations, especially when events on the Temple Mount seemed to be escalating.

The 2020 Abraham Accords with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain left Jordan feeling sidelined, with Israel supposedly embracing new peace partners at the expense of its older one.

In July 2021, prime minister Naftali Bennett reportedly met with Jordan’s King Abdullah in secret, raising questions as to why, despite the formally normalized relations, Amman still insists on a clandestine meeting.

This week, when Middle East peace partners Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Morocco and the UAE met in Abu Dhabi for a Negev Forum meeting, Jordan was once again absent.

For domestic reasons, Amman remains acutely responsive to Palestinian sentiment. Given that an Israeli-Palestinian breakthrough is unlikely to happen anytime soon, Israel-Jordan ties will be condemned to the back burner.
Why ban the PLO - and Confederate - flags?
Palestinian Arabs are angry that the Israeli authorities are prohibiting the display of the flag of “Palestine” at public events. The Israelis say the flag is being used to inspire violence. On both sides of this debate, everyone understands that a flag can be a powerful symbol—for good, or for evil. Flags mean something.

Think about the power of Betsy Ross’s iconic flag in the American Revolution. Or the GIs raising the Stars and Stripes at Iwo Jima. It isn’t just a piece of fabric. It stands for something much bigger.

The Jewish Legion, which fought as part of the British army in World War I, had its own flag with a Star of David. So did the Jewish Brigade that fought in World War II.

By contrast, think of the power of Nazi Germany’s swastika flag, or the Soviet Union’s hammer and sickle. Think about what those revolting symbols meant to the people whom those regimes oppressed.

As for the “Flag of Palestine,” the fact that there are conflicting accounts of its origin is itself rather telling. A separate, identifiable nation with a documented history knows where its flag came from. But throughout history, there has never been a sovereign “State of Palestine,” so the flag they use today is not the flag of some former kingdom or state of theirs.

Instead, it was designed either by an Arab literary club in Turkey in 1909, or an Arab youth group in France in 1911, or by an official of the British Foreign Office, depending on which account you believe. Either way, it was not designed by a “Palestinian,” because in those days, the Arabs living in the Holy Land didn’t call themselves Palestinians.

In 1917, the flag was proclaimed as the “Flag of the Arab Revolt” (against the Turks) by Hussein bin Ali, the king of Hejaz—that is, the Saudi Arabian peninsula. Again, not a Palestinian, and not the flag of “Palestine.”

The Arab League began calling it the “Flag of Palestine” in 1948. Note the date. The flag represented an imaginary “Palestine” which consisted of all of the newly created State of Israel. It was not the flag of the not-yet-occupied “West Bank.” Jordan ruled that territory.

When the Palestine Liberation Organization was established in 1964, it adopted the “Flag of Palestine.” Again, notice the date. The “West Bank” was, at that time, occupied by those Palestinian Arabs who had started calling themselves Jordanians. The PLO flag was the symbol of a terrorist group that was dedicated to destroying all of Israel and replacing it with “Palestine.”

British minister visits Temple Mount, affirms Jordanian custodianship
British Minister of State for the Middle East Lord Tariq Ahmad affirmed Jordan’s special custodial role on the Temple Mount when he visited the flashpoint site in Jerusalem that is holy to all three major monotheistic religions.

“I emphasized the UK’s unwavering support for Jordanian Custodianship of Jerusalem’s Holy Sites [and] for the Status Quo” to be maintained, Ahmad tweeted after the visit.

His trip to the Aqsa Mosque compound on the site, which is the holiest in Judaism and the third holiest in Islam, is the first high-level foreign visit since National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir caused international controversy when he went to the courtyard there last week.

Israel insisted that his visit was in keeping with past protocols and did not violate the status quo that anyone can enter the site, but only Muslims can pray there.

Ahmad, who is Muslim, prayed at the site and was accompanied by Jerusalem Wakf Department director Sheikh Azzam Al-Khatib.

Lord Ahmad's beliefs in what is needed for a two-state solution
From Jerusalem, Ahmad went to Hebron, where he visited a plastics factory, Royal Industrial Trading Co. He tweeted that a “two-state solution needs a strong Palestinian economy.”

He also went to a school funded by the UNRWA and then traveled to the South Hebron Hills to visit Palestinians in danger of eviction from homes Israel considers to be illegal. Great Britain and the EU have funded some of the illegal structures in that area, a move that has created friction between them and the Jewish state.

“I visited the site of a European and UK donor-funded school facing demolition in Masafer Yatta today,” Ahmad said.

“The UK continues to urge Israel to desist demolitions and evictions that cause unnecessary suffering and are illegal under [international humanitarian law] in all but the most exceptional circumstances,” he wrote.
Joe Biden’s condescension toward Israel - opinion
Reports of an impending visit to Israel by a US secretary of state should normally give cause for diplomatic delight, highlighting as they do the strong and profound bilateral relationship that exists between the two countries.

As perennial allies with shared values and common strategic and national interests, it is only natural that a huddle by senior American and Israeli officials would be expected to bolster the bonds of fraternity.

But in light of the Biden administration’s barely concealed hostility toward Israel’s new government, and some utterly outrageous public statements it has made in recent weeks, the possible arrival of Secretary of State Antony Blinken in the coming weeks hardly seems like a cause for celebration.

Brandishing a level of chutzpah that seems reserved exclusively for the Jewish state, various Biden administration officials have felt free to offer comments about everything ranging from the proposed reform of Israel’s legal system to a visit by an Israeli government minister to the Temple Mount.

Sadly, the public has become all too accustomed to such behavior, as though it is normal and acceptable for Washington to interfere in the Jewish state’s internal affairs. But it most assuredly is not.

It is time to call out President Joe Biden and his crew for the implicit contempt they demonstrate for Israel and its democratically elected leadership.
‘Only One Solution: Intifada:’ Pro-Palestinian Activists Protest Kamala Harris at University of Michigan
Pro-Palestinian student protestors at University of Michigan accused Vice President Kamala Harris of “genocide” for supporting Israel on Thursday.

“Kamala, Kamala, you can’t hide, you’re committing genocide,” the students, members of the pro-Palestinian campus group Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE), can be seen chanting in footage posted by independent journalist Brendan Gutenschwager.

During the so-called “Emergency Demonstration,” they also chanted “There is only one solution: Intifada revolution” while waving Palestinian flags, and a student who appeared to be leading it condemned the Biden administration for approving aid to Israel, which she referred to as “the Zionist entity.”

Vice President Harris was at University of Michigan to speak at an event about climate change, which according to its description, had no connection to Israel or the Middle East. Former Michigan Governor and Department of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, as well as University of Michigan Professor Kyle Whyte, were also in attendance.

SAFE has courted controversy on campus before. In October, during observance of the Jewish New Year, it erected an “apartheid wall” on campus and led an anti-Israel protest in front of it.

Some University of Michigan students approached the protestors and urged them to become fully apprised of the complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, The Michigan Daily, a campus newspaper, reported at the time. Standing atop a nearby structure, they made a “thumbs-down” gesture when they perceived the protestors’ remarks as offensive or lacking nuance.

The university was also flagged in a report by StopAntisemitism, a US-based nonprofit, for being hostile to Jews and indifferent to their safety.

Caroline Glick: Judicial reform: Death knell of Israeli democracy?
Following Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s press conference last week, where he set out the first stage of his program for judicial reform, the Netanyahu government has been subjected to a mass assault by Israel’s elite classes and their partners internationally.

Former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak singlehandedly instigated what is now viewed as Israel’s judicial revolution while everyone’s heads were turned in the early 1990s. Over the weekend, Barak gave interviews to Israel’s media describing Levin’s reform package as the death knell of Israeli democracy, and all but called for a civil war.

Barak’s battle cries were preceded and followed by calls for civil war from other retired Supreme Court justices, Israel’s liberal media and the heads of the opposition parties, including opposition Leader Yair Lapid, former Defense Minister Benny Gantz and their many colleagues.

In a demonstration last Saturday night by leftists in Tel Aviv, Levin was portrayed as a Nazi, Netanyahu’s government was demonized as “the Sixth Reich” and, as Palestinian flags were waved, calls went out for civil war.

To discuss this grave situation and the actual nature of the reforms Levin proposed, I was joined this week by incoming Likud MK Amit Halevi.

Halevi has been an outspoken champion of judicial reform. He and I went through all of the reforms Levin has proposed, and place them in the context of Israel’s current judicial regime and the harm it has caused to the normal functioning of Israeli democracy.

We also discussed the state of Israel’s social sciences and humanities and the types of programs and governmental reforms that Halevi has overseen and will help shepherd through in his term in office.

Gantz urges Israelis ‘from left to right’ to attend anti-government rallies Saturday
National Unity party leader Benny Gantz on Friday urged Israelis from across the political spectrum to attend a scheduled anti-government protest the following day, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hard-right coalition pushes ahead with plans to overhaul Israel’s judicial system.

Netanyahu, meanwhile, brushed off criticism of the proposed judicial changes a day after Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut warned their enactment would deal a “fatal blow” to the country’s democratic character.

In a video released before Shabbat, Gantz implored Israelis to attend the rally at Tel Aviv’s Habima Square on Saturday evening. A similar protest is also set to be held in Jerusalem.

The demonstrations will mark the second week that opponents of Netanyahu’s government will take to the streets, protesting Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s proposals to shake up the judiciary by severely curbing the High Court of Justice’s judicial review powers and cementing political control over the appointment of judges.

Saturday’s rallies are being backed by top groups that led protests against Netanyahu in 2020: Ein Matzav (No Way), Crime Minister and the Black Flags. They have also been endorsed by other organizations, including the Association for LGBTQ Equality in Israel, the Movement for Quality Government and the Kibbutz Movement.

Critics of the plans, which include top current and former judicial and legal officials as well as Netanyahu’s political rivals, say Levin’s reforms would put basic civil and minority rights at risk by severely limiting the top court’s authority to strike down laws and government decisions. Proponents of the changes argue that the courts have assumed excessive powers and issued rulings that defy the will of the voters.
In farewell interviews, IDF chief denounces government’s West Bank plans
Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi denounced the government’s plan to restructure military authority in the West Bank in a series of interviews published on Friday, days before the end of his term as army chief.

Kohavi issued a stark warning that efforts by the new government to split off parts of the responsibilities from the defense minister would damage the IDF’s command structure and hamper its battle readiness.

His comments drew a harsh response from Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich of the far-right Religious Zionism party, who accused Kohavi of trying to lay the groundwork for a political career.

In wide-ranging interviews, the military chief also detailed Israel’s ongoing efforts to combat Iran’s nuclear program and efforts to expand control across the region, and the challenge of foiling Palestinian terror.

“The IDF is responsible for everything happening in Judea and Samaria, and that’s how it needs to stay,” Kohavi told the Ynet news site, using the Biblical names for the West Bank.

“There cannot be two commanding authorities there,” said Kohavi, who steps down on Monday. “This is likely to cause damage and harm our readiness for war.”
Gil Troy: The sky isn’t falling on Israeli democracy
In this week’s episode of Top Story, JNS editor-in-chief Jonathan Tobin speaks with historian Gil Troy about the legacy of Theodor Herzl, the founder of the Zionist movement and critiques how understanding his journey can help inform our view of Israel today.

Tobin and Troy discuss Herzl’s relevance to contemporary Jewish life as well as the way it should influence our view of Jewish nationalism, which is not only justified but a positive force in the world. Troy also dismisses the “chicken little” hysteria from some of the new Israeli government’s critics who are wrongly claiming that the sky is falling on Israeli democracy, a stand that isn’t justified by the facts.

Israel court reform draws fierce opposition - debate
Yehuda Shaffer and Ran Bar-Yoshafat debate new reforms to Israel's High Court.

Ukraine's Ambassador to Israel talks cooperation with Netanyahu government
The Rundown host Calev Ben-David speaks to Yevgen Korniychuk, Ukraine's Ambassador to Israel, on the action taken by the new Netanyahu-led government towards Ukraine's war with Russia

MEMRI: Al-Jazeera Report about the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s Military Wing in the West Bank
On January 6, 2023, Al-Jazeera Network (Qatar) aired a report detailing the activity of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s Al-Quds Brigades military wing in the West Bank. In the report, PIJ operatives are seen preparing explosive devices that were purportedly used in attacks against Israeli forces. Damascus-based senior PIJ official Akram Al-Ajouri described the Al-Quds Brigades’ activity in Jenin and in nearby towns, and he claimed that the brigades are comprised of more than 100 fighters. He also described a January 2022 attack against Israelis near Homesh, Israel in which one yeshiva student was murdered and several others were injured. In addition, a PIJ field operative described an attack on an Israeli military base Shavei Shomron in late 2022 in which one soldier was killed, and a “Abu Hassan,” a local field commander with the Jenin Brigade, described his brigade’s operations in the region.

Assad Says Turkey Talks Must be Based on Ending ‘Occupation’
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said talks with foe Turkey should be based on the aims of ending the occupation of Syrian land and halting support for what he called terrorism, an apparent reference to Ankara’s forces in northern Syria and its support for rebels.

In his first publicly reported remarks on landmark talks overseen by his ally Russia, Assad also said the meetings “should be coordinated between Syria and Russia in advance in order to… produce tangible results sought by Syria”.

Assad made the comments, reported by Syrian state media on Thursday, in a meeting with Russian presidential envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentiev in Damascus.

Turkey has been a major backer of the political and armed opposition to Assad during the 12-year-long Syrian conflict, and has sent its own troops into swathes of the country’s north.

Moscow is supporting a rapprochement between Damascus and Ankara, hosting talks between their defence ministers last month and aiming for meetings between the foreign ministers and eventually presidents.

Lavrentiev said Moscow viewed the defence ministers’ meeting “positively” and hoped to develop talks “to the level of foreign ministers”, Syrian state news agency SANA reported.

Assad said the results should be based on the principle of “ending” the occupation and support for terrorism, a term that Syrian authorities use to refer to all opposition armed groups.

US think tank calls for ‘Plan B’ on Iran
The Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) has published a 53-page document advocating for a new U.S. strategy on Iran.

The document contains 231 actionable recommendations for the U.S. government and calls for decisive pressure on the Iranian regime and intensive support for the Iranian people.

According to Orde Kittrie, co-editor of the report and a senior fellow at FDD, “A major theme of our recommendations is how the Biden administration could drastically reduce the Iranian regime’s financial and material capacity to advance its nuclear and missile programs, oppress its people and support terrorist groups.”

Mark Dubowitz, co-editor of the report and CEO of FDD, said, “The Iranian nuclear program has expanded massively since the election of President [Joe] Biden and his decision to abandon a campaign of coercive pressure.

“Meanwhile, we are four months into yet another round of large-scale protests against the regime, and the administration still has not provided meaningful support to the Iranian people. This needs to change rapidly or the regime will soon complete its work-around warhead design and become a nuclear weapons power. Washington needs a plan to credibly threaten, and in important ways implement, all instruments of national power in close coordination with Israel and other allies.”
UN Watch: Positions Open for UN Inquiry on Iran Human Rights Abuses
In its resolution S-35/1, on the deteriorating situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, adopted on 24 November 2022, the Human Rights Council decided to establish a Fact-Finding Mission on the Islamic Republic of Iran, with the mandate to present an oral update in June 2023, and the final report in March 2024.

The United Nations is now recruiting staff members to support the investigation, who will work at the UN human rights office in Geneva, Switzerland.

Below is the list of positions available. Applications are now open through January 22, 2023. For more information and to apply with the United Nations, click on the links provided below.

Disclaimer: Please note that our organization, UN Watch, is not involved at all with the application process. We are an independent non-governmental organization that is not part of the United Nations. We are only sharing this information, found on the UN Careers website, to spread the word and encourage qualified persons to apply. It would be a terrible shame if only persons connected to NIAC would apply.

Available Staff Positions for the UN Fact-Finding Mission on the Islamic Republic of Iran
Senior Human Rights Officer, Coordinator of the Fact-Finding Mission (P5) – Supervises the development of investigation plans, methodology, and tools to collect and process all data; supports the human rights experts of the fact-finding mission on substantive, operational, and administrative procedures, and ensures their implementation. Knowledge of Persian is desirable.

Human Rights Officer, Investigation Team Leader (P4) – Manages the day-to-day operations of the Secretariat’s investigations team; participates in and organizes missions to sites of violations or other places as required; serves as first reporting officer of the team of Human Rights Officers/Investigators and other experts in the Secretariat; develops investigations, information gathering, and operational plans in accordance with standard OHCHR methodology, including on the integration of gender perspective. Knowledge of Persian is desirable.

Will Mahsa Amini protests cause change in Iran?

How Russia Will Repay Iran for Its Loyalty
Despite historical rivalries and competition for oil markets, cooperation between the Kremlin and the Islamic Republic of Iran stretches back many years, and intensified when the two began fighting together to prop up the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Since the resumption of the war in Ukraine last year, Tehran has provided Moscow with deadly drones, and may be sending ballistic missiles and other arms as well. This development brings the two countries even closer together, writes Nadav Pollak, and makes it likely that Russia will seek ways to repay its Middle Eastern ally:
Russia can improve Iranian military hardware capabilities significantly, mainly through the provision of air-defense systems, which would honor a longtime Iranian request. . . . Should Iran obtain advanced air-defense systems from Russia, the Tehran regime will be better equipped to thwart any future possible attack on its nuclear infrastructure or other strategic facilities. Add the possibility of acquiring advanced aircraft such as the Sukhoi Su-35, and the challenge of executing an aerial attack against Iran while minimizing losses becomes yet a bigger headache for military planners.

Yet a focus on military hardware can obscure other threats to the balance of power between Israel and Iran, first among them intelligence. Here, Russia enjoys advanced capabilities in both imagery and signals intelligence and could furnish such capabilities to Iran, or share sensitive intelligence that could help Iran better defend itself. Imagine here a scenario in which Russia obtains intelligence on Israel’s future war plans, or on covert Israeli operations in the Middle East. Whereas Russia might previously have hesitated to share such information, it may now be more forthcoming, considering the risks to its own people Iran has assumed by arming Russia.

Some Israeli analysts have argued that Iran’s working relationship with Russia, and specifically incoming prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s connection with Vladimir Putin, can alleviate these concerns. This argument holds that Russia will not take any dramatic steps to alter the Israel-Iran balance of power, for fear that this would harm Russia’s relationship with Israel or push Israel to provide Ukraine with air-defense systems. But this argument fails to understand the fundamental change in Russia-Iran relations—namely, Tehran’s rising status in Moscow—a change that will hold if the Ukraine war drags on and Russia needs more Iranian drones and ballistic missiles.
For Israel’s ambassador to Azerbaijan, Iranian death threats are all in a day’s work
In an era when the shadow war between Jerusalem and Tehran risks coming out of the shadows, Iran’s neighbor to the north, Azerbaijan is upgrading its relations with the Jewish state.

In late December, Azerbaijan — which already has close security ties with Israel — announced the appointment of its first-ever ambassador to Israel, just over a month after the Azeri parliament voted to open an embassy in Tel Aviv in 2023. The role will be filled by Azerbaijan’s Deputy Education Minister Mukhtar Mammadov. Azerbaijan is the first Shi’ite Muslim country to take such a definitive step.

Coinciding with the announcement, Azerbaijani long-time President Ilham Aliyev stated in a letter to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, “We attach special importance to Azerbaijan-Israel relations.”

Many people in both countries say the Azeri embassy opening is long overdue given the extent of bilateral relations and Israel’s steadfast support for Azerbaijan in its long-simmering conflict with its neighbor and arch-nemesis, Armenia.

The Jewish state — where some 50,000 to 70,000 former Azeri Jews now live — also continues to be one of the top suppliers of arms to Azerbaijan. It’s no secret that Israel, by way of drones and artificial intelligence, is helping in the demining of the Karabakh region, where the Armenians planted an estimated 1 million mines before the 2020 war.

Sandwiched between Russia and Georgia to the north and Iran to the south, with Armenia to the west and the Caspian Sea to the east, Azerbaijan sits in a complex region with deeply-rooted history. It’s home to 10 million people, including 8,000 to 20,000 Jews, making it one of the largest Jewish communities in the Muslim world. (Exact numbers for the Jewish community are difficult to pinpoint, as many Azeri Jews live abroad in Russia or Israel part-time.)

Unlike their counterparts in other Diaspora communities, Jews in the oil-rich, secular country have never experienced hostility or persecution. Today they continue to live without fear of antisemitism or threats to their safety, as reflected in the total absence of security measures at their synagogues, day schools and other community institutions. Local Jewish leaders insist such protection is unnecessary in the former Soviet republic.
‘History Will Judge Him’: Iranian Chess Ref Slams Official After Punishment for Showing Support with Iranian Protestors, Ukraine
A Iranian chess referee — known as an arbiter — who was sanctioned by the world’s leading chess authority for publicly showing support for Ukraine and women in Iran at a recent tournament told The Algemeiner on Thursday that she has no regrets.

“If I [could] go back 1,000 times, I would do the same each time, because I believe that I did the right thing,” said Shohreh Bayat, 35, an International Chess Federation (FIDE) Women’s Master. “We cannot save lives if we stay quiet about human right matters.”

At a October 2022 tournament in Reykjavik, Iceland, Bayat wore a T-shirt with the message “Women Life Freedom,” which has become a motto used by anti-government protesters in Iran following the September death of Mahsa Amini, a young Kurdish woman who died while in the custody of Iran’s morality police. Bayat was then asked by FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich to stop wearing the shirt. She complied, but only to change into an outfit that was blue and yellow — the same colors as the Ukrainian flag.

“I would like to remind [Dvorkovich] that history will judge him,” Bayat told The Algemeiner. “We Iranian people are fighting for our basic rights. I was forced to be a refugee because of the harassment, which I received over my loose hijab in a world championship playing hall, [and] it makes me qualified to stand for my rights as well as the right of other Iranians. The FIDE must always encourage human rights and stop serving dictators.”

Following the incident Bayat said FIDE removed her from its Arbiters Commission and was instead offered a position on the FIDE’s Women’s Commission, but joining it would be uncomfortable for Bayat since its new secretary is Shadi Paridar, the vice president of the Iranian Chess Federation.

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