Albania is at least a nominally Muslim-majority nation with a functioning parliamentary democracy. And its prime minister Sali Berisha just described Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the new Nazi.
“Iran and its leader Ahmadinejad are the new Nazis,” he said, “and the world must learn from the Holocaust and stop them before it’s too late. The Holocaust taught the free world’s conscience not to let such a scenario repeat itself.” Plenty of Arabs would happily compare Ahmadinejad to a Nazi, but they’re a lot less likely to make a Holocaust reference while doing so.
Berisha also said Albania, which is a member of NATO, would assist in military strikes against Iranian nuclear weapons facilities.
I met him briefly in Tirana a few years ago at a conference and was stunned to discover he’s as pro-Israel and he is pro-American. “Israel will accept an independent Palestinian state,” he said. “But Israel cannot accept the fundamentalists amongst Palestinians because their ideology is identical to that of the Nazis.”
I wish I could say the revolutions in the Arab world would lead to the same end point as Albania’s anti-communist revolution—and Albania took quite a while to sort itself out—but they will not. The Arab states will need at least one more revolution before they can possibly resemble Albania.
I the Jewish Chronicle omskrevs nyligen Albanien: Israel's new best friend? Try Albania
Israel and Albania might seem unlikely kindred spirits - but the Prime Minister of Albania, Sali Barisha, has claimed the two countries are a "model of co-existence and mutual respect".
In a speech at the Israeli Council on Foreign Relations this week, Mr Barisha reeled off a list of striking similarities.
Both countries fear the rise of radical Islam, both are categorically opposed to a recognition of a Palestinian state at the United Nations, both see Iran and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the greatest threat to peace and both places were sanctuaries for Jews fleeing from Nazi-occupied countries.
On Palestinian attempts to achieve statehood, Mr Barisha said: "Short cuts will not produce the desired result - peace."
He said Albania's relationship with Israel could be a model for other Muslim countries. The country protected its Jewish population during the Nazi era and admitted many Jewish refugees fleeing the Holocaust. He declared himself thrilled that Israel would soon open an embassy in Tirana.