Why Vladimir Putin Will Keep Playing Jewish Card in Ukraine Crisis

tags: Russia, anti-Semitism, Ukraine, Vladimir Putin, pogroms



David E. Fishman is Professor of Jewish History at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, and Senior Research Fellow at YIVO. He directs JTS’s program in the former Soviet Union, “Project Judaica.”

The Kremlin has issued more condemnations of anti-Semitism in the past week than in the preceding decade. The danger of anti-Semitism was on the lips of the Russian Ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and President Vladimir Putin himself.

Not Russian anti-Semitism, of course. It was Ukrainian “Neo-Nazism, fascism and anti-Semitism” that raised the Kremlin’s indignation. President Putin even cited the destruction of Orthodox churches and synagogues as a reason for the continued presence of Russian troops in Crimea. (There has been no such destruction.)

On Russian television, the language has been crude: The leaders of the new regime are all simply Nazis. The West either ignores this fact out of blindness and naivite, or has knowingly allied itself with Nazis in a campaign to weaken Russia. (This line of propaganda is taken straight out of an old Cold War playbook.) In a television interview, writer and journalist Alexander Prokhanov warned darkly: “I’m especially astonished by the Jewish organizations that support this Maidan. Don’t they understand that they are helping bring on a second Holocaust?”

A Kremlin-backed organization named “World without Nazism”, headed by Russian-Jewish mini-oligarch Boris Shpigel, has been a vocal participant in this campaign. In early February, its heads met with former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in a show of support for his embattled presidency. Shpigel, a former member of the Russian parliament, urged Yanukovych to stand tall against the forces of “extremism and neo-Nazism” that were demonstrating on the streets of Kiev. “World Without Nazism’s” website is full of articles about the specter of Ukrainian neo-Nazism. It has no content on neo-Nazism in Russia.

The Chabad-run Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia has voiced a more sophisticated version of “World Without Nazism’s” position....



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