Russian MPs embrace anti-Semitic tactics

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The Independent Online

Israel's relations with Russia sank to a low yesterday after Jerusalem condemned a group of nationalist Russian MPs who signed a declaration that has been condemned by Jewish groups as anti-Semitic and a throwback to the Third Reich.

Israel's relations with Russia sank to a low yesterday after Jerusalem condemned a group of nationalist Russian MPs who signed a declaration that has been condemned by Jewish groups as anti-Semitic and a throwback to the Third Reich.

The declaration, signed by some 20 members of the Russian parliament from the Motherland and Communist parties, demanded that Jewish organisations be banned throughout Russia on the grounds that they are extremist in nature, hostile to the Russian populace and implicated in ritual child murder.

It lamented the fact that "the whole democratic world is today under the financial and political control of international Jewry" - in a reference to the fact that many of the wealthiest people in Russia are Jewish - and said it did not want Russia to be counted among such "unfree countries". Jews were "anti- Christian", the MPs said, and guilty of "the illegal appropriation of state property" and of infiltrating the government after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The MPs' demand for Russia's Prosecutor General to investigate Jewish groups with a view to outlawing them would have caused uproar at any time, but coming just days before world leaders prepare to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland it sparked outrage, forcing the parliamentarians to withdraw their statement without explanation.

Adding insult to injury, the MPs suggested that Jews themselves engineered anti-Semitic attacks against themselves as "a provocation".

According to Global Forum Against Anti-Semitism, an Israeli government organisation, the number of violent incidents in Russia rose from four to 55 in the past year. Israel's Foreign Minister, Silvan Shalom, said his country was determined to make some kind of diplomatic sanctions against the offending MPs.

"We can't allow any organisation or any country to peacefully live with a phenomenon of this kind," he told Russia's main Jewish website. "A call to combat anti-Semitic incidents is resounding throughout the world [but] to my great regret such incidents have occurred often in recent times. We have to fight against anti-Semitism wherever it pops up."

The scandal erupts at a time when relations between Jerusalem and Moscow are already under strain over an alleged prospective Russian missile sale to Syria, whose president is in Moscow on an official visit. It also comes less than a week after a savage attack on Rabbi Alexander Lakshin and other Jews, including children, by skinheads in a Moscow underpass.

Russia's Chief Rabbi, Berl Lazar, who recently praised Russia for improvements in anti-Semitism, speculated on the possible motives behind the letter. He said: "The first possibility is that the gentlemen who signed this document are not quite sane. If that is the case, then I pity them, but cannot help them. I am not a psychiatrist.

"The second possibility is worse. These gentlemen are perfectly sane, but are infinitely cynical. They know perfectly well that their accusations are lies... But they knowingly commit the forgery hoping that by playing the anti-Semitic card they can win more votes."

The Israeli embassy in Moscow said in a statement that the MPs were espousing the same theories "used by the Nazi regime as a basis for the mass destruction of the Jews during World War Two".

Human rights activists warned that racist views have become mainstream in the past year in Russia, accusing in particularthe Motherland Party, which has close links to the Kremlin and to the Liberal Democratic Party of the ultra-nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky.

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