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Jewish Group Warns of Danger of Zyuganov Election Win

  • Stuart Parrott



London, June 13 (RFE/RL) -- A report by a Jewish study group says victory for communist party leader Gennady Zyuganov in the Russian presidential elections would be an ominous development for minority groups including Jews. It says: "If the Communists capture the presidency and nationalist forces are in the ascendant, the return to a more authoritarian system will mean a less liberal society for everyone, not just for Jews." Anti-Semitism World Report was published this week by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, an independent think-tank based in London. The annual survey focuses on 61 countries. The report says some critics have ascribed anti-semitic views to Zyuganov. But it is not clear if anti-semitism has any significance in the 'new' "nationalist version of communist ideology" that he espouses. The report says there are more than 100 extremist groups and 150 extremist periodicals in Russia that push anti-semitic views. But an American Jewish Committee poll released in April this year shows that Russians exhibit "relatively low levels of hostility" towards Jews. The report says Jews are low on the list of "the targets of racists and xenophobes" who direct most of their hostility towards people from Russia's Caucasian republics and from countries such as Azerbaijan. Looking at the eastern region as a whole, the report says that the wave of anti-semitism of the late 1980s and early 1990s has peaked. The report says: "There is no doubt that an upsurge took place, which was boosted by the collapse of communism." "But in the region that caused the greatest alarm -- Central and Eastern Europe -- the situation has stabilized and the threat of anti-semitism entering and dominating the political mainstream has receded." While parties which espouse anti-semitism are minor members of governing coalitions in Slovakia and Romania, "expressions of anti-semitism rarely surface in the mainstream political arena". The report says: "Parties which appeared menacing -- like Istvan Csurka's Hungarian Justice and Life Party -- have either faded or made no further progress." Nevertheless, when anti-semitism does surface, it is "usually very blatant and makes use of deep-rooted and vicious anti-semitic stereotypes."

This was the case with Father Henryk Jankowski in Poland when he accused Jews of "satanic greed" in a sermon in the presence of the former President Lech Walesa; and in Romania when a magazine published an article by its owner, the leader of the Romanian Ecologist Movement, in which he practically accused Jews of "ritual murder". The report says: "These examples indicate how far some East European countries have to go before they finally come to terms with their anti-semitic legacies." The report says a major problem related to anti-semitism in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union is the manner in which former Communist countries are dealing with their non-Communist pasts. First, they continue to rehabilitate pre-Communist leaders and movements, many of whom either wholly or partly collaborated with the Nazis and fascists, or headed fascist movements themselves. The report says: "Jews understandably feel uncomfortable in such a climate since it gives license to anti-semitism."

Second, the report says, there is an unwillingness to acknowledge complicity in the Holocaust. Third, there is a belief that Jews played a leading role in the post-war Soviet occupation in countries like Latvia. But the report reaches a positive conclusion: "Compared with five years ago, the situation in Central and Eastern Europe (Russia excluded) appears more stable. The wave of anti-semitism which seemed at one time to threaten to become highly damaging -- both to Jews in those countries and to the fledgling democracies there -- has clearly receded."
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