Thursday, May 26, 2016


Transmission

Putin's Invitation To European Jews Sparks Mixed Reactions

Russian President Vladimir Putin was responding to remarks by the head of the EJC, Russian-born Viatcheslav Moshe Kantor, who warned that anti-Semitism in Europe had reached World War II levels and that "Jews are fleeing once-prosperous Europe."
Russian President Vladimir Putin was responding to remarks by the head of the EJC, Russian-born Viatcheslav Moshe Kantor, who warned that anti-Semitism in Europe had reached World War II levels and that "Jews are fleeing once-prosperous Europe."
By Claire Bigg

Russian President Vladimir Putin has an unexpected offer for European Jews subjected to what he describes as rampant persecution in the West -- move to Russia.

"They can come to us," he told a delegation of the European Jewish Congress (EJC) in Moscow on January 19. "They left the Soviet Union. Let them return."

Jews in Europe are "trying to hide their ethnicity," he continued, saying that some of them were "afraid of wearing a yarmulke in public."

Putin was responding to remarks by the head of the EJC, Russian-born Viatcheslav Moshe Kantor, who warned that anti-Semitism in Europe had reached World War II levels and that "Jews are fleeing once-prosperous Europe."

European countries, in particular France, have seen a number of high-profile anti-Semitic attacks in recent years, including a deadly hostage-taking in a Paris kosher market two days after a shooting rampage at the satirical Charlie Hebdo magazine in January 2015.

But while the pro-Kremlin broadcaster RT praised Putin for offering "refuge" to European Jews "as a rising wave of anti-Semitic attacks engulfs Europe," his remarks have met with a good deal of skepticism considering Russia's own spotty track record in fighting hate crimes.

Authorities in Russia's remote Jewish Autonomous Oblast, which lies close to the Pacific coast on the border with China, have been quick to back Putin's proposal. Governor Aleksandr Levintal has already extended a warm welcome to all Jews fleeing from Europe.

The prospect of relocating to Russia, let alone to the Jewish Autonomous Oblast, appears unlikely to appeal to many European Jews. Most of those who hail from former Soviet republics came to Europe in the late 1980s and the early 1990s, and have long assimilated into their adopted countries.

"Vladimir Putin's offer was perhaps well-meaning, but personally I'm absolutely not interested," says Diana, a Moscow native who now lives in Paris. "I've lived in France for more than 20 years. I love France and I feel like a French citizen."

Despite recent attacks against Jews in France, Diana, a finance specialist, says reports of unbridled anti-Semitism are greatly exaggerated. "I have never felt threatened or suffered from anti-Semitism in France," she says. "I have no intention of leaving France; it's not more dangerous here than in Israel, Russia, or elsewhere."

Putin's proposal has generated a lively debate online, with many commentators pointing out that while Europe's Jewish community has indeed been targeted by a number of attacks in recent years, anti-Semitism has long been on the rise in Russia, too.

"Nationalists with clubs assault a train passenger in New Moscow," reads another sarcastic comment, referring to an apparently racially motivated incident reported in Russian media this month. "Jews, come to us." 

According to Israeli authorities, nearly 5,000 Russians of Jewish descent moved to Israel in 2014 -- more than double than in any of the previous 16 years.


Claire Bigg

Claire Bigg covers Russia, Ukraine, and the post-Soviet world, with a focus on human rights, civil society, and social issues. Send story tips to BiggC@rferl.org​


 

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: D.M Szawica from: USA
January 21, 2016 18:06
Stalin first set up the J.A.O in the 30' s to marginalize the Jews. The land was swampy and poor....most Jews left after a few years. More recently there are more ethnic Russians there than Jews, especially in Birobidzhan. In the past few years many ethnic Russians in large numbers have left previously large population centers in the Russian Far East because of the dilapidated and dwindling infrastructure and economy there. As the Russian population shrinks, it is to the advantage of the government to increase the population of these areas in the RFE.
Hense, the open arm welcome by the Russian president for Jew to repopulate these undesireable areas. Nice try Vova!
In Response

by: EDWARD J SCHUMANN III from: KEY WEST ,FLORIDA USA
January 23, 2016 06:57
I PRAISE PRESIDENT PUTIN FOR THIS OFFER; IF IT WAS NOT FOR RUSSIA AND THE SOVIET UNION ALL OF EUROPEAN JEWS WOULD OF BEEN MURDERED; RUSSIA IS NOT PERFECT BUT ,I DID NOT HEAR POLAND ,LITHUANIA, UKRAINE ,GERMANY OFFERING ASYLUM FOR JEWS IN NEED OF SAFETY!!! THANK YOU PRESIDENT PUTIN, I MIGHT SEE IF THE OFFER IS FOR ME AND MY FAMILY;I MIGHT JUST MOVE TO RUSSIA ,AND THANK YOU!!!
In Response

by: John Pacella from: Pittsburgh PA, USA
January 23, 2016 09:39
Perhaps Putler will appoint a Cossack, a member of the Night Wolves or a "volunteer" from the Donbass Regiments to the settlement committee?

by: Anonymous
January 23, 2016 16:46

At least russia isn't on the way of Islamization of society
as are many European countries

About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at transmission+rferl.org

Most Popular

Editor's Picks