Russian lawmakers: Ban Jewish groups
25 January 2005
A group of nationalist lawmakers is calling for an investigation aimed at outlawing all Jewish organizations in Russia, accusing Jews of inciting ethnic hatred and provoking anti-Semitism.
In a letter dated January 13, about 20 members of the lower parliament house, the State Duma, asked Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov to investigate their claims and, if they are confirmed, to launch proceedings "on the prohibition in our country of all religious and ethnic Jewish organizations as extremist."
Arguing that Jews were to blame for anti-Semitism, the authors of the letter want Jewish groups outlawed based on legislation against extremism and fomenting ethnic discord.
"The negative assessments by Russian patriots of the qualities and actions against non-Jews that are typical of Jews correspond to the truth, indeed these actions are not random but prescribed in Judaism and have been practiced for two centuries," says the letter, faxed in part to The Associated Press by the office of lawmaker Alexander Krutov.
"Thus," it says, "the statements and publications against Jews that have incriminated patriots are self-defense, which is not always stylistically correct but is justified in essence".
The stunning call to ban all Jewish groups comes amid concerns of persistent anti-Semitism that continues to plague Russia. Jewish leaders have praised President Vladimir Putin's government for encouraging religious tolerance, but rights groups accuse the authorities of failing to adequately prosecute the perpetrators of anti-Semitic and racial violence.
Russia's chief rabbi, Berel Lazar, said the lawmakers were either insane or "quite sane but limitlessly cynical" and were hoping to win support "by playing the anti-Semitic card."
Speaking with Israel Radio, Lazar called on Russia's chief prosecutor to move to expel the legislators from the parliament since, he said, they were acting against all religions and were harming Russia.
"Everyone who read this letter surely understood that something irregular had taken place. It is a known fact that there are those in parliament who posses these views. However, it has been a while since an anti-Jewish theme has been raised, and suddenly everyone is talking about it", Lazar told the radio.
According to the rabbi, "The timing was not coincidental and was made on the same day in which the UN commemorated 60 years since the liberation of Nazi death camps. President Putin is slated to visit Auschwitz in the near future and they probably wanted to express their objection to the upcoming visit by sending this letter."
With Putin planning to join events this week commemorating the liberation of Auschwitz by Soviet troops, Russia's Holocaust Foundation head Alla Gerber said it was "horrible that as we're marking the 60th anniversary of this tragic and great day ... we can speak of the danger of fascism in the countries that defeated fascism."
She said that while the Russian state itself is no longer anti-Semitic, thereare "anti-Semitic campaigns that are led by all sorts of organizations."
"The economic situation is ripe for this, an enemy is needed, and the enemy is well-known, traditional," Gerber said.
Responding to the lawmakers' letter, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said on Israel Radio that the Israeli government "will act on every level to combat this. We do not let any group or country live peacefully with phenomena like these."
"There is a large international call to arms against anti-Semitic incidents anywhere in the world. To my great sorrow, these incidents have been happening a lot lately, but we have to fight anti-Semitism anywhere it is."
Echoing anti-Semitic tracts of the Czarist era, the letter's authors accuse Jews of working against the interests of the countries where they live and of monopolizing power worldwide. They say the United States "has become an instrument for achieving the global aims of Judaism."
"It is possible to say that the entire democratic world today is under the monetary and political control of international Judaism, which high-profile bankers are openly proud of," the letter says.
Along with outlawing Jewish organizations, the lawmakers call for the prosecution of "individuals responsible for providing these groups with state and municipal property, privileges and state financing."
The prosecutor general's office could not immediately be reached for comment on the letter, which the Interfax news agency said was signed by lawmakers from the nationalist Rodina and Liberal Democratic parties as well as the Communist Party.