From the media to Capitol Hill, the Jewish community is well-accustomed to double standards on Israel — including in regard to the latest Gaza operation. But there is another conflict zone with similar dynamics that should also be on New Jersey Jews’ radar.
With the U.S. recently authorizing $1 billion in additional security assistance for Ukraine and persistently opposing the Russian invasion, it is difficult to imagine the prospect of American leaders aligning with the Kremlin on any particular issue.
But that is precisely what Sen. Robert Menendez (D) recently did, in his capacity as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, vis-à-vis the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. While Menendez is known as a strong supporter of Israel, his policy towards the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict resembles the approach of Israel’s critics.
On Aug. 3, an Azerbaijani soldier was killed when what Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry described as “illegal Armenian armed detachments” opened fire on the border region of Lachin. Two Armenian soldiers were killed in Azerbaijan’s retaliation to Armenia’s attack.
The Menendez-led Foreign Relations Committee tweeted, “Azerbaijan’s deadly attacks in Nagorno-Karabakh are not only in violation of the ceasefire but also an unacceptable continuation of its recent pattern of aggression. Azerbaijani forces must withdraw from the region & end hostilities against the people of Nagorno-Karabakh.”
Russia, which deploys peacekeepers in the border area to oversee the truce that it brokered to end the 2020 war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, accused Azerbaijan of breaking the ceasefire.
New Jersey is also home to Rep. Frank Pallone (D), co-chair of the Congressional Armenian Caucus, which in June urged the U.S. to “hold Azerbaijan accountable for their aggressions and destabilizing actions in the region” and vowed to explore every action possible to halt any further funding to the corrupt [Azerbaijani President Ilham] Aliyev regime.”
Nagorno-Karabakh refers to the internationally recognized Azerbaijani territory (according to four U.N. resolutions) from which Armenia agreed to fully withdraw after surrendering in the 2020 war. Despite this position in international law, in addition to Azerbaijan’s reclaiming of the territory, mainstream media continue to describe Nagorno-Karabakh as “disputed territory.”
Members of Congress from around the country echoed Menendez’s comments, including Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Sen. Marco Rubio (D-Fla.), Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.).
Today, it is incumbent upon longtime congressional supporters of Armenia to understand that by amplifying the Kremlin’s talking points on the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, they are compromising the national interests of the U.S. How can they possibly justify mirroring Moscow’s position at a time when Washington is vying to lead the global effort to thwart the Russian invasion of Ukraine?
It is also a blatant double standard for members of Congress to oppose Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but simultaneously remain silent on Armenia’s stalwart support for Russia. Armenia is home to the Russian 102nd Military Base in Gyumri and the Russian 3624th Airbase in Erebuni Airport near Yerevan.
Additionally, Armenia was the lone country to oppose the Council of Europe’s decision to suspend Russia in the aftermath of the invasion of Ukraine, while Armenian separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh praised the Kremlin’s recognition of two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine as independent republics.
Moving forward, federal lawmakers in New Jersey and nationwide should seize the opportunity to take positions that are better aligned with America’s strategic interests.
Jacob Kamaras is the editor and publisher of the San Diego Jewish World, the former editor in chief of the Jewish News Syndicate, and the founder of Stellar Jay Communications, a PR firm representing Azerbaijan.
By Jacob Kamaras