Russia returning to state-sanctioned antisemitism?

On July 28, 2022, the Moscow district court began discussing the claim of the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation to ban the Jewish Agency for Israel from the territory of the country.  What does this agency do all over the world?  It assists Jews to emigrate to Israel.

In the USSR, there was state antisemitism.  The Jews were second-class citizens, and they did not have the Jewish Agency.  For a long time, Soviet Jews felt like outcasts, with no right to escape the deadlock of state antisemitism and outsiders unable to emigrate from the USSR.

From 1881 until the outbreak of World War I, some two million Russian Jews fled to the United States from pogroms.  Unlike the Jews of the Russian Empire, Soviet Jews did not have the right to emigrate for a long time, as it was seen by the authorities as the appearance of signs of freedom in a totalitarian Soviet state.  After the elimination of state antisemitism, the Jews of the Russian Federation received the Jewish Agency — i.e., ceased to be second-class citizens and were equated with the Jews of the United States, Argentina, France, and all other countries in which the Jewish Agency exists, intended for repatriation to Israel.

The liquidation of the Jewish Agency in the Russian Federation once again transfers Jews from the category of normal citizens into the category of "foreign agents" in the Russian Federation.  "Foreign agents" is the new terminology.  In former times, in the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, of which the Russian Federation is the successor and heir, Jews were called "rootless cosmopolitans," "agents of the bourgeoisie," a "fifth column," and "traitors to the motherland."  Jews were qualified as outsiders, traitors in disguise, insincerely presenting themselves as Soviet people.  The climate of ideological tension that arose during Russia's war in Ukraine gave rise to the appointment of a large number of so-called "foreign agents" — that is, people who disagree with the authorities.

The Russian Federation, which is under Western sanctions, feels itself under siege, and thus needs internal enemies, scapegoats.  In this situation, the Jewish Agency fits the definition of an organization that stands outside the law, since it encourages and assists emigration from the Russian Federation.  But since the Jewish Agency is engaged in illegal activities, Jews intending to leave the Russian Federation are also outlaws.

There is already a witch hunt in the Russian Federation — that is, there is widespread social condemnation of people leaving the country as a result of the war in Ukraine.  They are considered deserters and traitors.  Jews who wish to emigrate to the West are natural representatives of the "collective West," which, according to the Russian authorities, is fighting on the side of Ukraine.  The Russian Federation knows that all Jews have the right to become citizens of Israel under that state's law of return.  This means that the prohibition of the Jewish Agency places any Jew in the position of a potential "foreign agent."

Such a development is a signal of state antisemitism.  In general, it is a logical continuation of the policy of "inheritance": since the Russian Federation considers itself the heir of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, where state antisemitism existed, it should borrow the methods of government of its predecessors, especially in times of crisis.  The gases of state antisemitism, long stored in the cisterns of the government, are beginning to come out and poison the air.

At the head of Ukraine is a Jew, President Zelensky.  Therefore, the stronger Ukraine's resistance to its occupation by Russia, the stronger will be the antisemitism of the Russian authorities.  Russia's war in Ukraine has increased prices.  It has also dramatically increased the price of freedom — freedom of speech and freedom to emigrate, making them dangerous for those who wish to have it.


Image via Good Free Photos.

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