Israel’s Gov’t.: The Modern-day Shylock of Venice

Prof. Z. S.  Andrew Demirdjian, Los Angeles, 21 October 2023

“The love of money is the root of all evil…
I have verified [this] through three decades
of empirical, investigative, legal, academic
research…It is the love of money that has
the potential to exterminate –to render
extinct–the entire human race”.
Michael Ruppert

The crucible of the devastating 44-Day War in 2020 between Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) and Azerbaijan has left many deep psychological scars on the people of Armenia and Artsakh, plundered their sovereign territories, and made hostage out of the 120,000 population of Artsakh and then in Steptember 2023 turned them into refugees.

Since December 12,  2022, Azerbaijan has willfully blockaded the only road to connect Artsakh to Armenia and beyond through the Berdzor (Lachin) Corridor. Thus, they have deprived the besieged people of procuring food, medicine, fuel, and other essentials for life to come to them from outside. After a blitzkrieg assault, the population of Artsakh flew their homes and homeland out of fear of war, violence, and persecution entailing ethnic cleansing and genocide.

Many Armenians are baffled at losing the war to Azerbaijan in 2020 despite assurances of victory by their military brass that irresponsibly rested on their laurels. Still others, wonder as to why Israel has gone out of its way to make immorally outrageous decision to provide lethal weapons and expertise to be deployed against the Armenians.

The burning question is that why did Israel claim the lives of thousands and thousands of Armenian soldiers and civilians alike by fighting against a people who, like the Jewish Holocaust, had gone through the first Genocide of the 20th century? A victim nation victimizing another victim nation is hard to swallow.

I limited my search for an answer in four main areas: Revenge Against Christians, Safety of Mountain Jews, Symbiotic Relations with Azerbaijan, and Israel’s Self-Interest.

Revenge Against Christian Armenians. Since the emergence of Christianity, Jews have been persecuted, especially by European Christians for the assumption that Jews had killed Jesus Christ. History tells us that Jews had never been mistreated in Armenia, though.

From the long beginnings of both nations, Armenians have maintained friendly relations with the Jews and now with the State of Israel. Most Armenians cherish their friendship with Jewish people around the world, in every walk of life, in every profession, and in every political landscape.

For example, I have more Jewish friends than Armenian friends in my profession. My Jewish friends have endorsed my books willingly more so than most Armenians have.

Many righteous Jews have supported the Armenians through thick and thin. Likewise, Armenians have helped a lot of Jews during WWII. My own father ran the risk of helping a family of five stranded Jews in the Levant region (Syria/Lebanon, Palestine, etc.) under France’s control to flee to Greece for the safety of their lives.

Many Jews believe that they are hated, especially by Christians and Muslims, because of their religion, but seldom also consider their behavior in relations to other ethnic people as another source of negativity or prejudice toward the Jews and Israel.

The recent history of the Armenian and the Jewish people has been a tale of woe. It boggles the mind to think that in the absence of any enmities, Israel went against the Armenians and precipitated the devastating loss of the 2020 Artsakh War and its downfall in 2023 despite the fact that Armenians have never persecuted Jews throughout history. So, the Jews of Israel have no grounds to hate Armenians and plan to wreak vengeance on them.

Protecting the Safety of Mountain Jews. In my search for reasons as to why Israel blatantly and brazenly went against the Armenians, I inquired into the possibility of maybe some of the members of the government of Israel wanted to protect a small Jewish minority in Azerbaijan called Mountain Jews (estimated at 20,000 to 50,000 people living mainly in Qirmizi Qasaba village as the cultural center in the northern district of Azerbaijan). Many of the Mountain Jews are already living in Israel and may have encouraged the Israeli government to protect their kin back in Azerbaijan.

Well, these geographically isolated Jews were never in danger coming from Armenians for they were living in the far northeastern corner of Azerbaijan –hundreds of miles far from the battlefield.

In fact, such Jewish communities, like the Mountain Jews, are found most everywhere in the world including in the Republic of Armenia and usually they maintain neutrality in order to avoid any harm coming to them.

The Sephardic Jews, the real ethnic Hebrews, have wandered the world for 2000 years in search of better opportunities. They followed the Arabs who were conquering the world in the name of Islam. Then in 1947, the Jews wanted to return to Palestine as their homeland displacing most of the Palestinian Arabs to form the State of Israel.

As a result of carving up a Jewish state out of the Palestinian territory, the Arabs and the Jews now hate each other, but there is no hostility between the State of Israel and the Republic of Armenia and Artsakh. So, why collaborate with Azerbaijan to bring about the demise of the Armenian armed forces, especially during the Artsakh War of 2020? Let’s search for answers elsewhere.

Symbiotic Relations with Azerbaijan. Some political pundits speculate that Israel supported Azerbaijan against Artsakh out of symbiotic reasons. The contention is that in return to Israel’s help to Azerbaijan to defeat the Armenians, Azerbaijan would allow Israel to launch attacks on its archenemy Iran from its territory.

In March of 2023, Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant visited Azerbaijan to strengthen ties between the two countries with shared enmity to Iran. Azerbaijani officials agreed to work together to counter threats from Iran. One of the territorial claims of Azerbaijan is the annexation of the northern section of Iran mainly inhabited by 15 to 20 million Turks of Azeri descent.

Despite all the political speculations, in December 2022, Khazar Ibrahim, the Azerbaijani ambassador to the United States, made the following adamant statement: “We will not allow Israel to attack Iran from our territory”.

Azerbaijan does, however, allow Israel to keep an eye on Iran through military intelligence and surveillance means, but will not permit Israel attack another Muslim country from its territory. As a result, the political symbiotic relations between Israel and Azerbaijan is tenuous for it does not serve as the main reason as to why Israel became the military critical factor in defeating the Armenian armed forces.

Israel’s Self-Interest. So, what could possibly explain Israel’s actions against Armenians? “Self-interest” has been given as the main reason by many Israeli politicians. What exactly is self-interest in this situation, nothing but money since it is not wreaking revenge against the Christians, or protecting the Mountain Jews, or because of symbiotic relations with Azerbaijan against Iran.

So, the main reason is money. Getting a discount on crude oil from Azerbaijan is another example of self-interest. Still another major example is selling of billions of dollars’ worth of arms to an oil-rich country such as Azerbaijan is. Military arms production would benefit thousands of other businesses in Israel.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), which monitors global arms transfers, has recently reported that Israel had provided Azerbaijan with 69 percent of its arms in the period between 2016 and 2020.

During the Artsakh War in 2020, a senior Israeli military personnel asserted that “Azerbaijan would not have been able to continue its operation at this level without our support”.

What is the approximate dollar value of 69 percent of arms? To give you a rough idea, it has been reported that Israel has sold modern weapons to Azerbaijan between the years 2000 and 2020 for over $64 billion, knowing full well that these deadly weapons were destined to be used against the Armenians.

The prevalence of the Israeli killer drones in the Azeri victory parade lends credence to confirm that Israeli weapons and expert support provided to Azerbaijan’s army to achieve a decisive victory. As a result, the nine month-humanitarian crisis in Artsakh was enabled by Israeli support as well.

Israel test marketed its weapons (e.g., drones) during the 2020 Artsakh War to enhance its reliability of performance perhaps in order to charge higher prices to other customers in the Middle East at the dear cost of thousands and thousands of Armenian casualties.

It was a case of murder from whichever angle you would look at it. Israeli government will writhe and squirm about joining forces against the Armenians; they have already begun to use the blanket phrase “self-interest” to mitigate being guilty of wrongdoing.

Unequivocally as it may seem, Israel wanted to enrich itself at the expense of Armenian blood. Would we say Shalom or for shame to the government of Israel?  You be the judge after reading the next section.

Israel’s Money Orientation. The perplexing question is as to why the government of Israel has substantially helped Azerbaijan to brutalize a neutral, a friendly, or just a human group of people striving to remain free and independent? Maybe we can find the answer in William Shakespeare’s famous play The Merchant of Venice, which was written in 1596.

The play is a so-called comedy in five acts. It is about a merchant, Antonio, who borrows money from a Jewish money lender called Shylock in order to help a friend Bassanio marry a girl named Portia.

Christianity made the Jews one of the richest people around the globe. For Christians making interest-bearing loans were considered against their religion, but not so against Judaism. As a result, the Jews pioneered banking and now they rule the industry.

Banking is one of the most lucrative ways of making easy money without much risk. Lend money, earn interest, hold collateral for security more valuable than the amount of money loaned. In the event of default, the lender keeps or sells the collateral to replace the money loaned. What a simple formula for making easy money, you’d say!? I agree.

Incidentally, the word bank and banking has been based on Jewish activities in the area of money lending and currency exchanges. As you well know, bank is a place where people keep their money. Banks also lend money and offer other financial services.

Originally, bank meant a “mound of earth” in English. In medieval Italy, the word was borrowed by money lenders to refer to the narrow “benches” or “bancas,” (nestaran in Armenian) where Jewish money lenders sat and worked inside or outside someone’s store. The French borrowed the word and changed it to “banque”. This form was the source of the English word “bank”, as in savings bank.

In The Merchant of Venice play, Antonio borrows money from Shylock, who is a Jewish money lender in Venice (Italy). The payment of the loan agreement states that in the event Antonio defaults to repay the loan within three months, he would forfeit a pound of his own flesh; that is to say, Antonio would give one pound of his flesh to Shylock in the event he fails to repay the loan.

Due to dire circumstances beyond his control, Antonio goes bankrupt and fails to pay back the loan plus interest. Shylock demands a pound of flesh from Antonio as a revenge of Christians mistreating Jews, especially in Europe. When Antonio refuses, Shylock threatens to carve a pound of flesh himself with his own knife. He is arrested for attempted murder.

Briefly, the legal argument goes this way “The accused, Shylock, is guilty of attempted murder because he wanted to cut a pound of flesh from Antonio’s body. The only reason he did this was for money –what a monster! You do not think the streets of Venice will be safe until this evil man is punished.”

Finally, through an astute attorney the problem is solved and Antonio emerges unscathed, Bassanio returns to Belmont, where Portia reveals that she was the lawyer in disguise. They are reunited. As for Shylock, he was punished by the court for attempting to kill a Venetian citizen. All of his wealth is seized and he is ordered to convert to Christianity.

Over the years, many scholars have debated the moral of the story of The Merchant of Venice from two perspectives: one, that the story is about Anti-Semitism (mainly maintained by Jewish scholars); and the second argument is that the story is about greed, the pursuit of money, the love of  money, which is fundamentally bad, –and that money is not everything: friends, family, and happiness are the most important things in life.

Many scholars view Shylock as a tragic character who comes across as greedy, jealous, and vengeful. He is only interested in money. Arguably, he represents the Jewish society in the play in terms of values and morals supposedly practiced by the members of this religion and race.

Shylock is also constantly reminding the reader of the difficult times he and his people had to endure at the hands of the Christians. While generalization about the Jewish society is hard to accept, one thing is clear and that the present government of Israel, like money-driven Shylock, preferred material things to a high moral ground to abstain from participating in the  terrorization of Armenians with its killer drones during the Second Artsakh War.

Concluding Remarks on the Protection of Israel’s and Jewish Society’s Image. Judaism has served the basis of subsequent religions such as Christianity and Islam. In fact, Judaism is the grandfather of most, if not all, monotheistic religions.

Christianity advanced by Jesus Christ owes to the teachings of the Old Testament. The non-violence stance of Christians, such as “the turning of the other cheek,” may stem from the essence of Torah’s and Talmud’s principles of human conduct.

On the other hand, Islam is the religion based on the teachings of Muhammad. Muslims believe that Allah is God and that Muhammad is Allah’s latest prophet.

Judaism is the religion of the Jewish people., based chiefly on a belief in one God and the teachings of the Torah, the first of five books of the Old Testament.

The Star of David is the symbol of Judaism, It stands for the moral teachings of Judaism, it represents the principles of conduct, it embodies the morality of the human race in the area of what is right and what is wrong.

Torah contains the whole body of recorded Jewish law and wisdom, in particular the Old Testament and the Talmud (the body of Jewish civil and ceremonial law and legend) .

Basically, the Torah covers moral matters of what is right and wrong –rules of fair behavior. A person with morals will not cheat, steal, or kill.

The sacred scrolls make up the first five books of the Bible. Parts of the Torah are read during religious services held at synagogues.  Either some of the members of the Israeli government do not go to synagogues, or they do not seriously pay attention to Torah’s teachings during the sermons. Otherwise, they would not have taken part in the carnage Azerbaijan has inflicted upon the Armenian soldiers and civilians.

For example, the Talmud says: “If you see a crime taking place and do nothing, then you are an accomplice!” The government of Israel should uphold the wisdom of Torah and Talmud and not only abstain from participating in a criminal act, but help those being criminalized just as Azerbaijan have done to the Armenian POWs and civilians during the Second Artsakh War.

Imagine 100 rabbis have traveled recently to Azerbaijan to congratulate its victory over the Armenians. About 500 rabbis from Europe will be visiting Azerbaijan very soon upon Aliyev’s invitation. Rabbis are the holy men that read the teachings of the Torah and Talmud to its faithful members during religious services.

What a paradox: instead of condemning Azerbaijan’s brutality, the rabbis condone the overt criminality of President Ilham Aliyev’s dictatorship. Of course, there are many exceptions such as Rabbi Avidan Freedman who denounces the Israeli participation in the wanton war between Armenia and Azerbaijan in a recent article (Israel Must Protest Azerbaijan’s Immoral and Illegal Actions Against the Armenians) and called on the Azerbaijani government to unblock the Berdzor (Lachin) Corridor to  put an end to a world of troubles.

What could possibly make the Israeli government forget the 1944 massacres of Polish and Jewish civilian women, children, and the elderly by the joint forces of Nazi and Azerbaijani legion soldiers in Wola, Poland? Perhaps, now by the money earned by selling arms to Azerbaijan?!         

The Israeli government should stop acting like a modern-day money-oriented Shylock to participate in inhumane war against the indigenous people of Artsakh. Any valid criticism will be glassed over or deflected by those wrongdoers as anti-Semitism.

The Israeli government also should not engage in morally questionable activities to perpetuate the negative and even the widespread greedy image of the Jewish people. They do not deserve any of the bad stigmas brought upon them by the callous members of the present PM Natanyahu’s Israeli government.

To the dismay of the silent West, Israel has helped a dynastic dictator, who has a long history of human rights violations to enhance its self-interest of making more money on its sale of arms to kill Armenians.  In doing so, the Israeli government is tainting the Sacred Star of David by going counter Torah’s teachings, by serving as the hired gun of Azerbaijan. That makes the remote pilots of killer drones of Israel the cold blooded assassins to pity.

Shalom, Israeli government, the sacred Torah also teaches not to preach water and drink wine as in the law that says “Do not cheat, steal, or kill” and practice what the Torah teaches. When a government forgets its religion of what is right and what is wrong, it soon reverts to barbarism.

In this picture, Shylock is portrayed by the actor Ernst von Possart in 1904 stage production of The Merchant of Venice.  In this photograph, Shylock with a butcher’s knife is ready to carve out a pound of flesh from Antonio who had defaulted on paying back a loan made by the former. The moral of The Merchant of Venice is that money has driven the Jews to resort to many inhumane acts. Many righteous Jews have bemoaned the policy of their government to sell arms to Azerbaijan destined to kill Armenians for wanting freedom and independence in their own ancestral lands. Greed is animalistic, to say the least. Money is also the root cause of many evils to perpetrate atrocities on innocent men, women, and children unarmed and defenseless. Most of the Israeli government official should attend Jewish religious services based on Torah’s teachings of morality to stop acting like Shakespeare’s tragic villain, money-driven Shylock.

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