Staunton, December 12 – Despite reports that the number of anti-Semitic actions have declined in Russia, the real situation regarding Russian attitudes toward Jews is disturbing, Igor Yakovenko says. Not only did Jewish emigration jump by seven times after the Crimean Anschluss, but anti-Semitic messages are finding an ever-larger audience.
Vladimir Putin’s seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea opened the way for a whole range of xenophobias, the Russian analyst says. Among the most widely and insistently promoted of these over the last four years have been anti-Americanism, anti-Westernism, and anti-Ukrainianism (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5A2F7E0E514BC).
But none of these targets is entirely useful as an enemy. “America is far away, the West is something abstract, and one can’t distinguish Ukrainians from Russians.” Moreover, Moscow television keeps saying that “Ukrainians are good and all of them love Russia.” Thus only America really works as Putin would like.
However, his regime needs an enemy, “a real, mortal and eternal one” to justify the actions and to make it easier for the population to put up with them. As conditions in Russia deteriorate, “the most insidious phobia, anti-Semitism, awaits its time,” with those behind it ready to take it from the bottom of Pandora’s box for their own purposes.
There are signs of this for those who keep their eyes and ears open, Yakovenko says. The Duma’s vice speaker, Petr Tolstoy, not long ago said that “today’s liberals are descendants of those who ‘broke out of the pale of settlement with revolvers in their hands’ and began to destroy churches.”
The Russian Orthodox church “suddenly has demanded a new investigation into the murder of the tsarist family declaring its own conviction that this was a ritual murder,” something that prompted government officials to immediately start doing that. Only “idiots” could accept the notion put out by Father Shevkunov that this isn’t a blood libel on the Jews.
These two odious figures are only “the holes through which the hidden stratum of Russian anti-Semitism rises to the surface,” the Russian commentator says. Of course, “officially,” the Russian Orthodox Church “doesn’t support anti-Semitism,” but many of its parishioners, priests and hierarchs are infected with it.
The Russian church hasn’t confronted and then broken with its anti-Semitic past in the way that the Roman Catholic Church has, he continues, and that sends a message to the population. There, everyday hostility to Jews can easily break out if conditions permit it; and then anti-Semitism will eclipse all other phobias.
“The probability that this hour is approaching,” Yakovenko suggests, “exists.” And it is present even though Putin has made the defeat of Nazism the center of his ideological universe. But everyone should remember that so did Stalin and that did not prevent the Soviet dictator from turning to anti-Semitism at the end of his life.
But there is a more recent event in Russian history which is more suggestive. That was the victory of Israel in the Six Day war of 1967. Then the USSR and its bloc which had backed the defeated Arab forces broke diplomatic relations with Israel, and the Soviet government visited its anger on Jews within its borders.
Incapable of attacking Israel, Moscow restricted the careers of Jewish children and created “in fact a new version of ‘the pale of settlement’ only with its borders being not geographic” as was the case under the tsars “but defined by career possibilities.”
The same thing could easily happen if a new war in the Middle East should break out and draw in Israel. And such a war is something Putin may be promoting for in his world “war is vitally necessary and it has become for his regime a narcotic.” He can’t easily start or think he can win one in Europe and so he may be ready to provoke one in the Middle East.
Putin’s “allies” there are “Iran, Hezbollah, and Hammas ,” all of whom “openly put as their goal the destruction of the State of Israel.” Consequently, even if Russia and Israel don’t clash directly, clashes between Israel and Putin’s allies are increasingly likely, Yakovenko argues.
And he concludes: “The Putin regime is a dictatorship of the fascist type. In such regimes, anti-Semitism can for some periods of time be sleeping, but one should never forget about the mortal danger it represents.”