Enter your keyword

Friday, April 27, 2007

Rising Tide of Anti-Semitism in Israel

The JTA is finally reporting on the rising Anti-Semitic attacks and the Neo-Nazi presence in Israel thanks to the Jewish Agency policy of bringing in anyone and everyone so long as they claimed to have a Jewish relative somewhere and there were certainly no shortage of Russians interested in what they thought was the good life in Israel. Once they got there however they quickly discovered that the economic situation might be better than in Russia, but it was certainly no buffet.

Ari Ackerman, a student from Switzerland, was walking home along the Tel Aviv beach after a late-night swim when he and a friend were jumped by a gang singing Nazi songs and displaying swastika tattoos.

The perpetrators, a group of Russian-speaking teenagers, eventually ran off. Ackerman and his friend, their faces bruised and bloodied, set off to the closest police station only to have their case shrugged off.

In recent years, sporadic acts of anti-Semitism have hit Israel, most of them carried out by disaffected immigrant youths from the former Soviet Union (FSU). Although the youths came to Israel under the Law of Return, they are among those who identify not as Jews but as ethnic Russians. Under Israel's Law of Return, a cornerstone of Israel's identity as a haven for all Jews, anyone with a Jewish parent or grandparent is permitted to immigrate and be granted citizenship.

What is significant though is that the JTA has also printed a fact generally obscured and hidden, which is that the Israeli police on an ongoing basis ignore such crimes and violations. Except for rare occasions when they become public, people who file complaints, who report severe injuries even are simply ignored. A Jewish woman cursing an Arab woman on tape results in an international outcry and shrill headlines in Israeli and Western tabloids. By contrast Russian Jewish senior citizens are routinely assaulted and harassed by Neo-Nazi groups , some of which openly discuss their exploits on websites and livejournal pages. And nothing is done about it.

When pressed various government and agency figures trot out the usual nonsense about marginalized youth and how they just haven't adapted. Adapting to any country isn't easy. And it's a problem for each generation of immigrants. Each generation of immigrants has its drop outs and even its criminal culture... but these are not merely dropouts, they're an increasingly organized collection of hate groups being fostered in Israel with government funding and government tolerance. And that must end.

The Jewish Agency has been severely compromised. The top Jewish Agency official in the Novosibirsk region for example outright defected to work for a Messianic Missionary group. Others have reported that any attempt at detecting fraud and stemming it, met with dismissals. The problem is not minor. The vandalisms of Synagogues and physical assaults are the tip of a much larger iceberg. Israel has taken in refugees from around the world. Both Jewish and Non-Jewish. From Sudanese to Vietnamese. But it cannot absorb a hostile population. That should have been the lesson learned with Israel's Arab population. It would be tragic to have to relearn it again with a Russian one.

Many Non-Jewish Russian immigrants have displayed a great deal of patriotism and love of their new country. Indeed such a presence goes back to the days preceding Israel's independence, when at least one prominent Russian Naval Officer played a major role. Some former Russian military personnel have today formed independent patrol and security units. That is one side. But the other side can be seen in the growing number of attacks, which must be confronted and dealt with by the government, rather than covered up. The cover up and neglect only give the problem
more room to breed.

Russia has a tragic and ancient history of Anti-Semitism and violence against Jews. It is one that Russian immigrants carry with them. Millions of Jews have escaped Russia to get away from it, only to find that it is now with them.

Rabbi Zalman Gilichinski maintains a website covering the situation.


  1. We insult England, Europe and of course my favourite to pick at - the US for ignoring assaults against Jews by neo-nazis and muzlims, but in reality Israel is worse than all of them.

    What can be worse than Jews not defending other Jews against outsiders? It doesn't matter if there are non-Jews in the government, it still comes down to Jews not defending their fellow Jew.

    On the other hand, Hashem did warn us that if we break His halacha this is what we can expect, so in a large sense we've brought it on ourselves. :[

  2. The opening paragraph is very telling. The jewish boy attacked on the beach in Tel Aviv was attacked by Russian-speaking attackers. The attackers were not Jewish or were they?

    While I think disinfranchised immigrant youth could become violent, I seriously doubt a Jewish immigrant would use neo-Nazi taunts and songs while attacking a Jew. Or even specifically target another Jewish person.

    As liberal as some Jews can be, or self-hating, whatever the term is, I just don't see Jews becoming or copying neo-Nazis and attacking their fellow Jew. It's hard to imagine.

    Unless they're picking up on the prevailing attitudes of the Arabs in Israel and the Palestinians.

    But even then, wouldn't there be a difference in the nature of taunts? More Arabic-Middle Eastern in nature and less Neo-Nazi? Then again Nazi symbols, songs, attire, and rhetoric are the quintessential symbols of anti-Semitism.

    I don't know. But it is very disturbing that police are dismissing these outright anti-Semitic attacks regardless of who is committing them.

    I think there's a culture brewing within Israel of attacking anything Jewish (read religious Jews). I think even some Jews are getting caught up in it, as evidenced by the attitudes of the police.

    (yes, I know that contradicted what I just wrote further up. Sorry. Trying to work through this).

    Israel cannot absorb an influx of non-Jewish immigrants, nor tolerate anti-Semitism from any of its citizens period. The Israeli government and police need to set an example. When they ignore anti-Semitism in any form they are only allowing it to flourish. They're creating a breeding ground.

    Add to that a nation that is taking in immigrants from all parts of the world--Jewish and non-Jewish--and combine it with the vile hatred Arabs in the region have towards Jews and you have a disaster in the making.

    European neo-Nazi and Arab anti-Semitism flourishing in such a tiny country...scary.

    It's good that the problem is finally being recognized.

    Excellent and very thought provoking article.

  3. It's a sign of things to come.
    Israel needs to do some serious tshuva and fast.

  4. Anonymous28/4/07

    The REAL rising tide of anti-Semitism is th anti-Semitic treasonous Israeli academic Left!

  5. K.A.-

    While I think disinfranchised immigrant youth could become violent, I seriously doubt a Jewish immigrant would use neo-Nazi taunts and songs while attacking a Jew. Or even specifically target another Jewish person.

    If their Jewish knowledge and identity is pretty slim and they're not adjusting to living in New Jewville, and their whole lives they've been explicitly identified and gotten crap for being Jewish-by-nationality in Russia only to find in Israel they're treated as "the Russians," I don't know, it might lead to something. Not necessarily something this extreme, but who knows?

    As liberal as some Jews can be, or self-hating, whatever the term is,

    What a load. If a right wing Israeli attacks a cop or soldier, do they magically become liberal too?

  6. picking a neo-nazi identity is making a rather specific statement and it comes naturally for russians, considering the rising skinhead movement there

    it's not one that makes any sense for disenfranchised jews, but makes perfect sense for russian teenagers and 20 something trapped by their parent's decision in a foreign country with a foreign culture which they have been taught all along to despise

    the problem is that they simply don't belong there and never did, even if they have a jewish grandparent somewhere or a jewish father

    What a load. If a right wing Israeli attacks a cop or soldier, do they magically become liberal too?

    k.a. is talking about attacks caused by hatred or self-hatred

    as for 'right wing attacks' on cops and soldiers, for the most part they're in line with the so-called acid throwing or the charges against 60 year old women of attacking six foot tall police officers

    not that worse things don't happen here


  7. k.a. is talking about attacks caused by hatred or self-hatred

    And is conflating the two, shitting on liberal Jews for good measure- which is particularly funny since she's arguing that the Russian skinheads aren't even Jewish in the first place. As I said, it's crap.

  8. Thank you for reading my comment Friar. Yes, I suppose it is possible under the circumstances you described:

    "If their Jewish knowledge and identity is pretty slim and they're not adjusting to living in New Jewville, and their whole lives they've been explicitly identified and gotten crap for being Jewish-by-nationality in Russia only to find in Israel they're treated as "the Russians," I don't know, it might lead to something. Not necessarily something this extreme, but who knows?"

    It's a complex issue and as I posted, I'm just trying to understand the dymanics. The only other possibility is that the majority of the Russians immigrating to Israel are not Jewish.

    You're right Sultan. They don't belong there if their Jewishness is limited to some distant relative on a family tree.

    As an aside: The organization International Fellowship for Christians and Jews is pushing like mad for people to donate money for Russian Jews to make aliyah. How many are actually Jewish, I don't know.

    But based on the information in their informercials, anti-semitism in Russia is raising and the doors to immigration could close at any time and many Russian Jews would be trapped in the former Soviet Union and unable to leave.

    Couldn't that be said of Jews in any European nation, particulary the Eastern European ones? How do you know which charities are legitimately assisting Russian Jews in peril, because I have no doubt many are in peril there.

  9. friar- it's not conflating the two, it's pointing out contrasts actually

    and tone down the language, okay?

  10. k.a.

    statistically large amounts of the russians who have come to israel... as much as one million are not jewish

    some are not halachically jewish... many have no jewish roots even

    that has created a rising anti-semitic culture-- which in any case pre-existing in russia but has now been transported to israel complete with neo-nazi skinheads, white power music and anti-semitic attacks

  11. I just checked out Rabbi Gilichinski's website. Very intersting site.

  12. Sultan- Your blog, your rules. Apologies.

    K.A.- I wouldn't trust Eckstein as far as I could throw him. Everything I've heard about this guy sounds fishy. Not that I'm a fan of group-hugging evangelicals in the first place, but a lot of stuff he seems to have his fingers into just seems very off- not the least the fact that his infomercials seem to exploit the "help the poor exotic Israelite people go home" trope for all its worth. Oy, the schmaltz! If all people knew about Russian Jews was what they saw in IFCJ commercials, they'd think most lived in tiny huts subsisting on matzoh-boxes for months at a time. I guess the tens of thousands of Russians with Israeli-Russian citizenship and who divide their time between the two countries doesn't make for as good press. Don't get me wrong, helping Jews is great- but all this, "give up your kids' Christmas presents, family in Texas, so you can shlepp two of God's people to their rightful place in the Holy Land"- yeesh. It makes my skin crawl.

    It's more than just which Christians he's cozying up to and what stuff he's willing to overlook (does he accept donations from Southern Baptists? Mormons?); it's the fact that he continues to present a picture of Jews through Christian eyes- foreign people of the book dependent on non-Jews' mercy (or vengefulness- how about that hysterical "the doors could close at any moment" stuff?). It's embarrassing, and more than a little demeaning. I also want to more about exactly where all the money goes, and perhaps even more significantly, do they help the new olim adjust to life in Israel after they get there, or do they just kick them off the plane and go get the next batch?

  13. There are different kinds of Russian Jews. There was always an elite of wealthy Russian Jews and non-Jews, often in the service of the KGB, who moved around different countries.

    Gaydamak is an excellent example, who was operating long before the fall of the USSR.

    There are also elderly and older Jews trapped in Russia or more often the republics who do need help getting out before they're murdered by the locals... again a big issue in some of the Republics, where Russians and Jews were rabidly hated even under the USSR.

    And there's a third category which consists of younger families, who form a large chunk of the Aliyah but are also often partly or wholly non-Jewish.

    And the doors could close at any moment and in point of fact will. Take a good look at Putin's Russia. It's moving toward a totalitarian state at breakneck speed. And the Russian government has invested millions into convincing Russian emigres to return, using local and foreign organizations for that. If you look back at the way Communism got started-- immigration didn't suddenly shut down. It was a gradual process.

    I haven't done extensive research on Rabbi Eckstein, but unlike Lapin or Medved or that crowd, he actually seems to be working to help Jews by his ties with evangelical Christians and isn't spewing anti-semitic rhetoric at the behest of his sponsors.

    That doesn't mean I approve of his organization entirely, but I give a lot of leeway for someone who's actually trying to do something useful vs lapin who takes money to run a radio show and defame Jews with quotes from Mein Kampf.

    I am definitely not a fan of soliciting money from Christians to help Jews-- but the reality is the money is being solicited anyway in our name by Xtian groups which will use it to run messianic ops or just embezzle it outright. At least this way the money might actually go for its intended purpose.

    And the reality-- bitter as it might be-- is that Jews do remain vulnerable and often at the mercy of an often hostile world and all the organizational chest beating of the ADL or the World Jewish Congress doesn't change that.

    And there's also the sad historical legacy of the fact that in WW2 America, Jewish groups put their faith in Democratic allies while neglecting ties with Republicans that might have done far more to help them. I don't approve of a lot of the Judeo-Christian vibe, but if something really bad comes down the pike-- we had better keep our options open because as iffy as some of the groups Eckstein may be dealing with are, in a bad hour they're more likely to come through than the Clintons or Kerry or the Sierra Club or the ACLU or for that matter the ADL or the World Jewish Congress

  14. Rabbi Eckstein is caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand he seems very sincere in his desire to help Russian Jews immigrate to Israel.

    On the other hand he does deal with some mighty shady con men in the Christian right--such as Steve Munsey of the Family Christian Center, whom I have seen make anti-semitic comments on christian television, and John Hagee. Then again, some of the more reputable pastors like Jack Hayford also support Eckstein.

    Some messianic groups such as Zola Levitt Ministries are now advising people not to give to Eckstein's organization at all, because, of all reasons, the rabbi won't convert to christianity.

    I think Eckstein is doing what he thinks is best under less than ideal circumstances. Sure, I agree with you Friar, some of these christians that support IFCJ do sound like Texans giving up their kids Christmas presents to help the poor Russian Jews, similar to the way some whites brag about helping the poor "inferior" black kids in the inner city.

    So what is Eckstein to do? I think he just lets a lot of it roll of his back in order to help Russian Jews and the poor in Israel.

    Fortunately, there are many Jewish organizations in Israel to donate to, though none that I know of that specifically provides plane tickets to Israel.

    Where does the money go? I found a link to their financial report here




Blog Archive