Russia Urged to Take Action Against Anti-Semites

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:07 PM EDT

Jerusalem (CNS) - Israeli and Jewish leaders are urging the Yeltsin government to take a more outspoken stance against anti-Semitism in Russia, following two more incidents targeting the country's Jewish community.

Foreign Minister David Levy this week sent a letter to his Russian counterpart, Igor Ivanov, raising Israel's concerns, a ministry spokesman told Wednesday.

"He called for strong condemnation by the Russian government following acts of anti-Semitism in Moscow and anti-Semitic statements by certain Russian politicians," the spokesman said.

Levy cited two incidents - the stabbing of the director of a Jewish cultural center, and a foiled attempt to blow up a central Moscow synagogue - which he linked to anti-Jewish rhetoric expressed by some political figures.

"Levy asked his colleague to ensure that the Russian government takes the necessary steps to prevent violence against the Jewish community and its leaders."

Israeli immigration officials reported a fortnight ago that recent new immigrants from Russia had cited anti-Semitism as one of the three key reasons for leaving their homeland. Figures for the first half of 1999 suggest Russian Jewish immigration to Israel this year may exceed that recorded in any year since the early 1990s.

Earlier this month, a man sporting a swastika tattoo on his chest was arrested after repeatedly stabbing a prominent Jewish community leader at a Moscow synagogue. The suspect boasted about belonging to a neo-Nazi group 50,000-strong.

Russia's Chief Rabbi Adolf Shayevich said leaders who have espoused anti-Jewish sentiment, including Communist deputy Albert Makashov and neo-Nazi group head Alexander Barkashov should be held equally responsible for the stabbing.

Last Sunday, a child discovered an unexploded outside a Lubavicher synagogue in central Moscow. Police bomb disposal experts detonated the device, which caused minor damage to the synagogue and nearby buildings.

Shayevich said Jewish organizations have stepped up their own security at institutions.

Of particular concern to Jewish leaders is the silence from the Russian authorities in the face of these incidents.

American Jewish leaders met visiting Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin in Washington Tuesday and again Wednesday, urging him to take far-reaching steps against anti-Jewish groups operating in Russia.

The director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman, who is currently in Israel, complained that the authorities in Moscow were doing nothing to protect Jewish institutions, nor had they issued any public condemnations of the incidents.

"Through its silence the Russian leadership is sending a message - the wrong message - about the protection of minorities in Russia," ADL said in a statement.

An ADL delegation met Stepashin in March, in his then capacity as Defense Minister, and were assured he was committed to fighting extremist groups and safeguarding Jews and other minority groups in Russia.

A statement issued by the State Department yesterday said President Clinton had raised America's concerns during a meeting with President Boris Yeltsin in Cologne, Germany last month.

"President Yeltsin stressed his government's strong opposition to forces of hate and extremism in Russia and pledged to take effective, concerted action in response."

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow