Saturday, January 26, 2019

Putin’s Russia Now Unfortunately Features ‘Anti-Semitism with a Human Face,’ Nevzlin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 24 – Something new and very disturbing has emerged in Putin’s Russia, commentator Leonid Nevzlin says: “anti-Semitism lit” or perhaps “anti-Semitism with a human face” in which those disparaging Jews do so not with the angry language of anti-Semites  of the past but rather with humor and a smile that even some Jews join in.

            Nevzlin begins his commentary by recounting a recent exchange on television in which the host told a Ukrainian that he had always thought that “answering a question with a question is an indicative aspect of another nationality,” a remark all his listeners understood to be about Jews and to which those in the studio smiled (

                But the fact that anti-Semitism takes this form does not make it any less evil, the writer continues. Indeed, it may in some respects make it worse because it makes such hatred or contempt for Jews more insidious by implying that it is somehow acceptable when presented in this way. 

            It is said, Nevzlin relates that Yury Kanner, the president of the Russian Jewish Congress, “is not against jokes about Jews. A few days ago, he told a Moscow newspaper that when he was visiting Auschwitz, a waiter asked him whether he wanted his water still or “with gas.” Kanner said he replied, he usually drinks water with gas, but in Auschwitz, he’d rather have it without.

            Other prominent figures engage in similar kinds of unfortunate even sick humor at the expense of the Jews. Commentator Vladimir Pozner, for example, in 2016 said that he knew what a Russian is and what a Frenchman, but just what a Jew was was difficult for him to understand.

            And television personality Petr Tolstoy descended even lower. In 2017, he said that Jews protesting against giving St. Isaac’s Cathedral back to the Russian Orthodox church were “the grandsons and great grandsons of those who ‘destroyed out churches … emerging from the pale of settlement with revolvers in 1917.” 

            Such comments mercifully do not resemble those of the Nazi Der Sturmer or the imagery of Zionists in the Soviet journal Krokodil; but that doesn’t make them innocent. The behavior of someone like Kanner is especially noxious, Nevzlin says, but fortunately his influence in the world “is equal to zero.”
            But one must regret that since 2001, the Russian Jewish Congress has “degraded to the point that such a personage” has the right to be its head, someone like these others who does not understand that normalizing anti-Semitism by humor opens the way to the kind of anti-Semitism that they would be the first to decry. 

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