2008-03-18 15:27:00

Anti-Semitism in Russia doesn't bring popularity and doesn't reach any significant layers of society

The USA State Department has recently presented a report on Global Anti-Semitism in the Congress. According to it, American embassies all around the world noted that the number of attacks on Jews, their property, institutes and religious sites had increased during the last decade. US foreign policy experts noted that "today, 60 years after Holocaust, anti-Semitism is not only a historic fact, but an under-going event."

Russia's Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar told Interfax-Religion in his interview about anti-Semitism in Russia and former CIS countries and how country's authorities manage it.

- Russian press reacted on the USA State Department report saying it claims that Russian authorities weakly struggle against anti-Semitism. Please, give your comments on this report.

- I read the text carefully and didn't find there any critics of Russian authorities ascribed to it by mass media. The report lists most violent anti-Semitic acts registered in different countries in 2006. Among them are several Russia's cases: attack on parishioners of the HABAD-Lubavich synagogue in Moscow, on a rabbi in Izmailovo, a notorious "letter of 500". However, the report shows that such cases, unfortunately, take place in various countries. In compliance with the cited information, there were 80 serious anti-Semitic actions in all former USSR countries compared to 103 in the Northern America. We can hardly say that these figures bear "special" critics of Russia. Unfortunately, the situation isn't good all around the world. The report lists the countries with growing index of attacks on Jews. This list includes such traditional democracies as Canada, France, Great Britain, Belgium and others. But Russia is not in the list!

If we speak about the so-called "post-Soviet space", unfortunately, today anti-Semitism is widely spread in Ukraine, the number of anti-Semitic demonstrations has increased there, while it has reduced in Russia. It doesn't mean that Russia is through with anti-Semitism. Unfortunately, such cases still take place and there's a danger of new attacks. That's why we are determined to reveal all incidents against Jews and we will lead uncompromising struggle with anti-Semitism. But it's not correct to say that Russia looks negative in this aspect on the back of other democratic countries. And the American report doesn't contain any such incorrect allegations.

- How do you evaluate the efforts of Russian authorities on elimination of anti-Semitism? Are they indeed so weak?

- Even the report of American State Department acknowledges that both Russia's president and Foreign Ministry oppose anti-Semitism and local authorities rigorously react on anti-Semitic actions. I remember Vladimir Putin's speech in Poland when he directly criticized scandal "letter of 500". I have to stress the report has mentioned that the president donated his monthly salary to the Tolerance Museum Foundation built in Moscow by the Jewish community. The report still mentions other facts: skin-heads, xenophobia, attacks on immigrants from Asia and Caucuses.It is common knowledge, we have a grave problem here and we always say we have to do more to bring up youth in the spirit of mutual respect to representatives of various nations and religions in Russia. But it isn't correct to say that the situation aggravates or that the authorities don't react to it, the report doesn't claim it either.

When newly elected president Dmitry Medvedev met with leaders of the Jewish community in December he said that the state had to struggle against any manifestations of Nazism, anti-Semitism and chauvinism - sharply and rigorously. And indeed we see today the attackers are more often found than before, the sentences for nationalistic crimes have become more rigorous. Not long ago such criminals were tried only for "disorderly conduct", now more serious enactments are applied in the majority of cases, for extremism, for instigation and etc. The most recent example: four years of penal colony was given for beating a rabbi in Ivanovo. This sentence can be a warning to other young extremists. It shows that both the Prosecutor's Office and the Court are ready to fight against nationalistic and anti-Semitic crimes. We feel certain shifts in a struggle against extremist papers and publishing houses that issue instigating literature, though there are things to work on. The most revealing is that during recent Duma and presidential elections no one tried to play nationalistic card. What does it mean? It proves that authoritative actions on isolation of aggressive nationalism have not only become more rigorous, they are indeed fruitful. Anti-Semitism in Russia doesn't bring popularity which shows it doesn't reach any significant layers of society.

Photo by ITAR-TASS