Demonstrators protesting the allocation of land to the Jewish community in the Russian city of Perm have demanded the outlawing of the Chabad movement. The rationale behind the protest is exceptionally questionable with distinct anti-Semitic elements.
On Saturday, the protesters showed up with signs reading “Chabad out” and “liberate us Russians from Chabad.” One protester held a placard that read “Chabad settlement is over the line: 1547,” an apparent reference to the decision that year by Ivan the Terrible, a grand prince of Moscow, to ban Jews from entering or living in his kingdom because they “bring about great evil.”
More than 100 people attended the rally near the area that municipal authorities in Perm, which is located 870 miles east of Moscow, designated for transfer without charge to the local Jewish community that is headed by a Chabad rabbi.
They additionally sang a song titled “Holy War,” a patriotic nationalist tune widely identified with Russia’s fight against Nazi Germany.
Unrest around the Jewish community of Perm has been brewing for years amid accusations made in 2013 that the local Jewish community made unauthorized use of a local theatre. That same year anti-Semites tried to set fire to the local synagogue. No-one has ever been brought to justice for the crime.
Yet participants insisted they are protesting against Chabad specifically and not against Jews in general, the Russian news site Ura reported.
However, Boruch Gorin, a senior Chabad figure and aide to one of Russia’s two Chief Rabbis, Berel Lazar, said the 2013 campaign against Chabad in Perm was a thin disguise for anti-Semitism.
In Russia, Chabad is the largest Jewish movement with a presence in over 100 cities.
Separately, Putin on Tuesday said that “Russian Jewish organizations are making a substantial contribution in the cause of domestic political stability in Russia, for which we are very grateful” during a meeting in Moscow with Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress.
Russia’s Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar has complained to the head of the United Russia party, PM Dmitry Medvedev, over the apparent lenient punishment of a candidate who accused Jews of a conspiracy against the Russian people during regional primaries.
In an open letter posted on his Facebook page, Rabbi Berel Lazar asked Medvedev and other United Russia leaders to remove the candidate in question – 67-year-old pensioner Vladislav Vikhorev – from the party primaries over statements made during election debates in the industrial city of Chelyabinsk in central Russia.
During the discussion, Vikhorev vented a whole array of anti-Semitic remarks and prejudices. Local mass media reported that officials from United Russia’s Chelyabinsk branch chose not to remove Vikhorev from the primaries. They merely warned him that insulting someone’s ethnicity during political campaigns was inadmissible.
“The Jewish community in Russia is shocked by the anti-Semitic stunt of one of the participants of United Russia’s primaries in Chelyabinsk, Vladislav Vikhorev, who claimed that there was a so-called Jewish conspiracy against the Russian people. But we are even more perplexed by the fact that the organizational committee only issued a warning to the anti-Semite and left him among the candidates in the elections list of the party that you chair,” Lazar’s letter reads.
The Chief Rabbi added that Russian Jews knew and highly valued Medvedev’s personal stance on the national issue as well as the position of President Vladimir Putin, who has repeatedly urged Russian society to adopt zero tolerance to any manifestations of xenophobia and anti-Semitism.
Talking to RIA Novosti, deputy head of United Russia’s General Council, Andrey Isayev, said that Lazar’s address would be forwarded to the conflict commission. He said the commission would check the claims made in the letter and if they prove true the candidate who turned to ethnic hatred as a political tool would be removed from the elections, as such behavior contradicts United Russia’s ideology.
Liz Wahl, a former Russian tv news anchor has written in The Jerusalem Post, “In March 2014, the crisis in Ukraine had reached a pivotal juncture. Thousands of people took to the streets to protest corrupt government leadership and violent crackdowns. Dozens were killed and hundreds wounded. During these times of deadly conflict and chaos, it was critical for the media to try to get the story right. However, working as a TV anchor for Russia Today (RT), I soon realized I was part of an organization actively dedicated to skewing the facts.
The Russian state-funded station was part of a larger propaganda campaign portraying protesters as bloodthirsty fascists in an effort to misrepresent the conflict and justify Russian action. As the death toll grew, I was horrified to be part of what was becoming a manipulation machine. After the Ukraine coverage ended, I resigned, live on air, referencing the bias as the reason for my decision.
That decision put me at the center of a viral news story. I received a flood of messages, mostly on social media. Many were encouraging and inspiring but plenty were also bizarre and vile. Beyond the profanities and sexist remarks, I found the wave of anti-Semitic hate particularly shocking and confusing. I am not Jewish and I do not have any ties to Israel. But the accusations of being a “Zionist neocon” were unrelenting.
The assertion was that I was part of a Jewish, Zionist plot. Some radical anti-Israel activists wrote an article portraying my resignation as part of a conspiracy with war-hungry neocons pulling my strings to provide a pretext for another Cold War. I had become used to the knee-jerk reaction of a paranoid population attributing any atrocity to a nefarious conspiracy by power-hungry evildoers intent on controlling the world. But here they accused the Jews specifically of being behind it.”
MOSCOW – Hundreds of Jews from around the world flocked to Moscow this weekend for the Limmud Jewish learning conference, making it the second-largest event of its kind.
The three-day gig, which drew 1,500 participants to a resort just outside the Russian capital, was the largest Limmud event ever held outside Britain, Limmud International said in a statement.
Chaim Chesler, founder and chair of Limmud FSU, hailed the event as a “big success,” saying it was part of efforts to “raise awareness” to acampaign against anti-Semitism in Europe, spearheaded by the European Jewish Association and The Jerusalem Post.
The online campaign inspired by the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge calls on gentiles on the continent to don kippot and other Jewish items and film themselves walking down the street to show their opposition to rising anti-Semitism. The European Jewish organization has produced a series of videos in which young Jews, as well as key Jewish figures, urge both Jews and non-Jews to challenge five friends to post their videos on social media.
A third of participants this year were first-timers, according to Alexander Piatigorsky, co-founder of the first Moscow event in 2006 and senior executive at one of Russia’s largest cellular providers.
Among the speakers were Alexander Boroda, a senior Chabad rabbi, and Andrey Makarevich, a rock star.
“I came to Limmud FSU this year for the first time after a Jewish friend of mine, who is more religious than me, told me it has great content that broadens your horizons,” said Dennis Sher, who also volunteered at the event, which ended Sunday.
A synagogue currently under construction in the city of Arkhangelsk, Russia has been attacked by vandals armed with air guns, who also smashed nine windows and wrote anti-Semitic inscriptions on the building.
The incident occurred in the early hours of April 8 when Jews were celebrating the Passover, a spokesperson for the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia (FJCR) said on Thursday.
“Shortly after the recent desecration of a monument of the Holocaust victims in Volgograd, with just weeks to go until the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Victory, that very Victory to which the whole country was heading with such torment and torture in the fight against the Nazi, home-grown xenophobes have again shown their faces,” FJCR President Alexander Boroda was quoted as saying.
Given the rise in such incidents, regional law enforcement authorities should pay serious attention and tighten security around religious buildings and monuments to victims of the Nazis, he said.
The former USSR accounts for half of all the victims of the Holocaust caused by the anti-Semitic policy of the Third Reich, Boroda said.
“This is exactly why the people of our country, which experienced all the horrors of Nazism, must be particularly intolerant towards this kind of vandalism and the ideology that breeds it, and remember and honor the memory of victims of that war and fight any manifestation of religious and ethnic intolerance,” the FJCR chief said.
We here at ASW.com believe that only by understanding the wider global context of Antisemitism can we properly start to understand and challenge this evil. Only by moving away from navel gazing in just our own back yard can progress be made. All too frequently people and organisations appear to trouble themselves simply about what is going on in their locality. It is a start but it is not enough. Through our global horizon scanning ASW is able to begin the process of ‘joining the dots up’ to make a real difference!
In our latest find ASW brings you a report about the hostility minorities, including Jews, face currently in the Baltic states and the on-going attempts by some in those countries to rewrite Holocaust history.
Efraim Zuroff, chief Nazi-hunter of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, writing for i24news explains this year marks the 25th anniversary of Baltic independence and more than a decade of full membership in the European Union and NATO. If the assumption was that those developments would cure Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian society from the scourges of fascism, racism, and anti-Semitism, the events of the past month clearly show that these plagues have not been eradicated. During this period, four separate neo-Nazi/ultra-nationalist marches were held in the Baltics, all of which I attended as a monitor/protester, and I believe that it is important to publicize what I saw and attempt to evaluate the importance and potential dangers posed by those events.
The first question in that regard is the legal status of these marches. Those in Latvia (in Riga on March 16, to honor Latvian SS veterans) and in Lithuania (in Kaunas on February 16 and in Vilnius on March 11, both days on which Lithuanian independence is celebrated) have been a subject of controversy since they were launched, in Latvia in the 1990s and in Lithuania in 2008. Local courts decided to allow the marches on the basis of freedom of speech, and all attempts to have them banned, or at least moved out of the city center, including my appeals this year to the mayors of both Lithuanian cities, have not achieved any practical results.
The second question concerns the sponsors of the events and the number and identity of the marchers. With the exception of Estonia, where the march was organized by the Blue Awakening youth movement, closely linked to the new Conservative People’s Party (EKRE), the organizers in Lithuania and Latvia are not officially connected to political parties, but clearly identify with those on the extreme right. In the past, there were government ministers who participated in the SS veterans’ march in Latvia, but since the annexation of Crimea, the government has forbidden such participation and last year it cost a minister his post. This year quite a few MP’s from the right-wing All for Latvia party marched, and the ministers of justice and of culture, along with Parliament Speaker Ingrida Murnietse, attended a memorial service for the SS.
The number of marchers ranged from 200 in Tallinn to 500 in Kaunas and 1,500 each in Vilnius and Riga. In Estonia, the overwhelming majority of marchers were young – most appeared to be high school students – whereas in Lithuania, most were young adults and in Riga there were also many elderly supporters. One must remember, however, that for every person marching, there are at least several hundred Lithuanians, Latvians, and Estonians who fully agree with the marchers’ ideology. Thus, for example, in Estonia’s election several days after the march, the EKRE obtained seven parliamentary seats (out of 101), after garnering more than 46,000 votes.
Two dangerous themes were dominant in practically every event. The first was the open hostility toward local minorities – Poles, Russians and Jews in Lithuania, the latter two in Latvia and Estonia. The second was support for ongoing efforts throughout much of post-Communist Eastern Europe to rewrite the narrative of World War II and the Holocaust. These are designed to hide or minimize the extensive crimes by local Nazi collaborators, promote the canard of equivalency between Nazi and Communist crimes (erroneously classified as genocide), and glorify those who fought against the Soviets regardless of whether they had murdered Jews during the Holocaust.
“Section of the march gets underway at Vilnius’s Cathedral Square on the March 11th independence day event organized by neo-Nazi and far-right elements with state acquiescence.”
Thus, Latvian SS veterans are portrayed as freedom fighters who paved the way for independence, even though the Nazis had absolutely no intention of granting the Baltic countries sovereignty, and marchers in Kaunas carried a huge banner with the image of Juozas Ambrazevicius, the prime minister of a short-lived provisional Lithuanian government, who publicly supported the Third Reich and lethal measures against Lithuanian Jews. In both Lithuanian cities many marchers wore swastikas, and in Vilnius, a large black SS flag was displayed. Only in Estonia was this theme missing, but each summer an international gathering of SS veterans from all over Europe is held, including from countries in which such meetings are legally banned.
The final question relates to the reactions to the demonstrations. Unfortunately, with the exception of Riga where about two dozen protesters symbolically “fumigated” the Freedom Monument after the SS march, there were very few counter-protesters, 12 individuals in Kaunas, no one besides myself in Tallinn, and about 20 in Vilnius, almost all of whom came thanks to the dedicated efforts of Prof. Dovid Katz, the editor of www.defendinghistory.com who is the sole active Jewish voice in the Baltics against Holocaust distortion.
The only good news was that for the first time since Faina Kukliansky assumed the post of Chairperson of the Lithuanian Jewish community, she issued a statement denouncing the march in Vilnius (after ignoring the one in Kaunas), and several community officials participated in our protest. There was only silence from the Jewish communities of Latvia and Estonia, as well as from the Israeli embassies in Vilnius, Riga and Helsinki.
Outside of the region, with the exception of Russia, there were no official responses despite numerous international media reports, especially about the Riga march. I can only surmise that perhaps the incessant, and to a large extent justified (albeit often exaggerated) criticism from Moscow of this phenomenon, has silenced those in the West, who long ago should have been the first to object.
Jews in the Baltic countries of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia fear a revival of the Holocaust-era hatred that once nearly wiped out their numbers.
Jewish leaders say their communities are feeling increasingly uncomfortable as Antisemitism re-emerges.
An Estonian museum exhibition mocking the Holocaust, a stage musical celebrating the life of a notorious Latvian Nazi mass murderer and the repatriation of the remains of a Lithuanian leader long linked to Nazis have all contributed to a climate of hate that has Jews on edge.
This includes the 2012 repatriation from the U.S. to Lithuania of the body of wartime leader Juozas Ambrazevicius Brazaitis. He was re-buried with full honors, endorsed by the Lithuanian government, despite having been a Nazi puppet during his brief tenure. Brazaitis was accused of overseeing the establishment of a concentration camp, and also signed off on the establishment of the Kaunas ghetto.
After complaints from Jewish groups, Lithuania’s much heralded Museum of the Genocide in the capital, Vilnius, only recently created a section acknowledging the annihilation of the once flourishing Lithuanian pre-war Jewish community of more than 200,000 that was very nearly wiped out, many at the hands of Lithuanians.
In Talinn, Estonia, a highly controversial Holocaust-themed exhibition caused outrage last month when, among its exhibits, was a picture showing the iconic Hollywood sign replaced by the word “Holocaust,” which some perceived as a suggestion the genocide was an entertainment event. Another sick exhibit recreated a gas chamber and had 20 naked actors pretending to be Jews playing tag, seemingly suggesting there was humor in the gas chambers experience. The exhibits were eventually withdrawn.
In October 2014 a Latvian musical ‘Cukurs, Herbert Cukurs’ premiered celebrating the life of the ‘Butcher of Riga,’ Herbert Cukurs, who was tracked down and killed by Israel’s Mossad intelligence service in Montevideo, Uruguay, more than 20 years after he fled Europe. He had overseen the murder of many thousands of Jews in his native Latvia where he had been a pre-war national hero. He was witnessed personally shooting more than 500.
Last month’s Estonian general elections saw the far-right EKRE party break the electoral threshold and gain seven of the 101 seats in parliament. Considered by some to have Fascist-Neo-Nazi sympathies similar to many other flourishing nationalist parties in the Baltics and Eastern Europe, the EKRE’s leader Mart Helme is a controversial figure, especially after the party’s “If you’re black, go back” slogan was attributed to him.
Efraim Zuroff, chief Nazi hunter of the Simon Weisenthal Centre in Jerusalem, has been monitoring a series of “Nuremberg-esque” marches in the Baltics in recent weeks and has been dismayed by the fact that no western media have shown up to report on the worrying trend.
“The European Union… does not appear to be particularly perturbed by genuinely disturbing phenomena in the Baltic countries and elsewhere, which, of course, in no way would justify Russian aggression, but deserve to be handled seriously and promptly before they get out of hand,” Zuroff wrote in the International Business Times.
As the fighting in eastern Ukraine continues to escalate, one of the overlooked aspects of the conflict is the presence of anti-Semitism. The separatist forces of the Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics have long claimed to be at war with a fascist regime in Kiev, yet they count among their ranks volunteers pulled from the Russian far right, people often much closer to fascists than anyone in the Ukrainian government.
Alexander Zakharchenko, the head of the Donetsk People’s Republic announced on 2nd February, a mass mobilization in the de facto republics. He disparagingly called the current regime in Kiev, “Jewish”. More specifically, he referred to the supposedly Jewish Ukrainian leaders as “miserable representatives of a very large, great nation.” He described this situation as farcical — Jews who “have never held a sword in their hands” commanding Cossack warriors — and suggested that Ukraine’s historic heroes would turn over in their graves if they caught wind of this.
The Donetsk leader was clearly attempting to tap into Ukraine’s latent anti-Semitism, a prejudice that historically has been endemic to the Eastern European region.
In April 2014, several masked men waving Russian flags and claiming to represent the separatists gathered near a Donetsk synagogue to hand out fliers ordering local Jews to register with the separatist authorities or face deportation.