Putin Offers ‘Sanctuary’ To Europe’s Jews

featured in:

share the article

However, there is evidence that Antisemitism in Russia is equally potent, and that Moscow has cultivated a special relationship with the anti-Semitic right in Europe.

“They can come to us,” said the Russian president Vladimir Putin addressing the head of the European Jewish Congress, Viatcheslav Moshe Kantor, at a meeting in Moscow. President Putin was referring to Jews. While Israel has an open policy of Aliya, that is, the right of Jewish people – or of Jewish descent – to immigrate to Europe, Russia is extending an invitation to Europe’s Jews to immigrate to Russia. Kantor is a Russian Jew and has been warning that anti-Semitism in Europe is reaching World War II levels.

The Kremlin’s extension of sanctuary to Europe’s Jews comes in a long line of tit-for-tat accusations, with Russian claiming the moral high ground. In June 2015, the European Council adopted the “Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World in 2014,” addressing human rights violations around the world on the basis of monitoring reports from 139 EU Delegations throughout the world, the High Representative, and the EU Special Representative for Human Rights.

Over the last three years, Russia has been responding in kind to the EU’s human rights reporting, issuing its very own report on human rights in the European Union. Russia cites a number of institutional sources for its report, including the UN Council on Human Rights Reports, the OSCE, the Council of Europe and, of course, journalists and NGOs. Certain issues are of course hard to contest and include the rise of xenophobia, racism, aggressive nationalism and neo-Nazism, maltreatment of asylum seekers and minorities, as well as making references to constitutionally guaranteed substantive rights – and the violation – in various EU member states.

There are two logical fallacies in Russia’s criticism of Europe’s human rights record, including Antisemitism.

First, when it comes to Antisemitism in Europe, no country is immune. Jewish community leaders fear that Germany is no longer safe, Jerusalem Post reported on Wednesday, January 20th. On the difficult issue of what qualifies as anti-Semitic ideology, the newspaper cites Patrick Gensing, an academic, who clusters anti-Semitic behavior as “historical defensive guilt [about the Holocaust], obsessive criticism of Israel, National Socialist racism, Muslim anti-Semitism [and] Christian anti-Semitism.” Gensing suggests that hate crime is on the rise, including the burning of a synagogue, which had suffered the same fate in 1938.

However, these concerns are not limited to Germany, or the E.U. Russia has its own share of anti-Semitism. The Russian Jewish Congress issued a report in 2014 raising concerns about the rise of anti-Semitism in Russia as well. The evidence is corroborated by another report published by the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Indeed, Aliyah to Israel from Russia is massive. In 2014, 200 German Jews immigrated to Israel according to the Jerusalem Post, compared to 4,685 Russian according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). In Russia, political prosecution of the opposition is often blended with anti-semitic stereotypes, as the case of the Boris Nemtsov case indicates, Haaretz reports.

Secondly, when it comes to Antisemitic and racist ideology, it should be noted that Russia has a special relationship with the European far-right, where this ideology stems from. The extreme right in Europe, namely Jobbik in Hungary, Ataka in Bulgaria, the Golden Dawn in Greece, the National Front in France, and the British National Party, are supporters of Russia. In fact the U.S. Congress has just authorized a probe of Russia’s funding channels to Europe’s anti-systemic parties.