A May 27 article in The Forward, Uzbek Unrest Shines Light on Leader’s Ties to Jewry, highlights the cozy relationship between the repressive Uzbek regime led by President Islam Karimov, organized American Jewry and that great moral authority on democracy, Natan Sharansky:
Earlier this month, Karimov unleashed his security forces to quell an opposition demonstration in the east of the Central Asian republic, causing hundreds of civilian deaths. Even before the latest violence, in recent years the State Department, the United Nations and major human rights organizations all have criticized the Uzbek regime for alleged abuses, including the systematic use of rape and torture against opponents.
Observers said that Karimov, the local communist party’s former head who clung to power following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, has used the American Jewish community as a beachhead to cement relations with both Washington and Jerusalem. Israeli and American Jewish communal leaders said that their efforts to cultivate ties with Uzbekistan have been motivated primarily by the regime’s positive attitude toward the local Jewish community and Israel as well as its hawkish stand against radical Islam.
Some Israelis and Jewish community leaders have gone even further, defending Uzbekistan’s democratic record. Leon Levy, then chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, an umbrella organization comprising 52 national Jewish groups, once hailed Karimov’s regime as a “democracy for all the Islamic countries.” Last summer, former Israeli minister Natan Sharansky, a prominent advocate of spreading democracy around the world, defended the regime against critics who would defame “the courageous struggle that Uzbekistan is waging against terrorism.”
See our last blog post on the Uzbek crisis