Staunton, November 6 – A Jewish teacher and community activist who was sentenced in August to 85 months in the camps for stealing and taking bribes has dismissed his attorneys in advance of a rehearing ordered by an appeals court saying that in his case they would have no impact on court because the outcome has been determined by political forces beyond the court room.
The case of Petr Farber, currently unemployed, might have attracted little attention had it not been for a statement to the court at that time by a Russian prosecutor who asked “could someone with the name of Farber [a clearly Jewish name] help the village for free?” (nazaccent.ru/content/8681-v-moskve-sostoyalsya-piket-v-zashitu.htm).
Some in Moscow suggested that this remark had less to do with anti-Semitism than with the arbitrariness of the Russian court system – see ng.ru/blogs/leorad/prigovor-farberu-i-norma-zhizni.php – but the Russian Jewish Community recognized the dangers inherent in such comments and organized protests (help.rjc.ru/site.aspx?SECTIONID=85646&IID=2444628 and help.rjc.ru/site.aspx?SECTIONID=345556&IID=2444912).
Farber’s latest move, to dispense with lawyers and to represent himself, is likely to attract even more attention given the increasingly overheated ethnic scene in the Russian Federation and especially the openly pro-Nazi and anti-Semitic attitudes on display during Monday’s Russian March (nazaccent.ru/content/9612-ilya-farber-otkazalsya-ot-advokatov-tak.html
Farber explained his decision in an appeal published on his son’s Facebook page by saying that the involvement of professional advocates in judicial hearings “will not influence the decision of the court” because the court has already made its decision and will ignore the evidence and arguments they make (facebook.com/piter.farber/posts/674155159269373).
Nina Tumanova of the Tver oblast court said, however, that “even if Farber refuses to use [lawyers], his right to defense will all the same remain. If none of his lawyers will take part, a defender will be found. But two of them have confirmed that they will participate” (rapsinews.ru/judicial_news/20131105/269524099.html
What will happen next both in the Tver courtroom and on the streets of Moscow thus remains unclear, but Farber’s latest declaration is likely to provoke new concerns among human rights and Jewish activists that xenophobic groups the Kremlin has tolerated if not in fact supported are adding Jews to the list of their targets.
But one thing is certain: those who tolerate or sponsor attacks on minorities of one kind as the Russian authorities have done in the case of gastarbeiters from Central Asia and the Caucasus can seldom keep such mobilized anger from spreading to other ethnic and religious groups and, given Russia’s unfortunate history in particular, to the Jewish groups.
That in turn will pose a challenge to many people of good will in Russia and the West who have been inclined to explain away Russian anger at and attacks against Muslims and immigrants but who, history suggests, will find it more difficult to offer such explanations and defenses of any open manifestation of popular and especially official anti-Semitism in Russia.