Putin’s Jews

Mina Yuditskaya Berliner, a retired teacher of German, could be forgiven for feeling surprised when one of her former students invited her for tea after almost half a century. Berliner, now 94, hadn’t seen him since she made aliyah to Israel from the USSR in 1973. But in 2005, the former student came to Israel to visit—an official visit, no less, the first ever made by a Soviet or Russian leader.

Vladimir Putin had progressed from a 15-year-old schoolboy who played hooky to go to wrestling practice to become president of his country. But he had not forgotten his Jewish teacher from High School #281 in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). During the visit, Berliner, a widow, mentioned that she lived in a run-down apartment in Tel Aviv’s Florentine district.  By the time Putin departed Israel, she was in possession of a new apartment in the heart of pricey downtown Tel Aviv, courtesy of her former student.

I heard this story often when I visited Moscow this fall. It was one of many anecdotes people told me to illustrate the Russian president’s benevolence toward individual Jews and toward the Jewish community as a whole during his first term as prime minister (1999 to 2000), two consecutive terms as president (2000 to 2008), a second term as prime minister (2008 to 2012) and his current term as president (2012 to 2018). Other anecdotes featured Putin weeping at last year’s funeral of his Jewish wrestling coach, Anatoly Rakhlin, whom he has called a father figure, and his affection for the family of poor religious Jews who lived in his Leningrad apartment block and took care of him in the humble years of his youth. In his 2000 autobiography, First Person, the Russian leader mentions this family, describing them as “observant Jews who did not work on Saturdays and the man would study the Bible and Talmud all day long. Once I even asked him what he was muttering. He explained to me what this book was and I was immediately interested.”

And of course, Muscovites reminded me repeatedly of Putin’s lifelong Jewish friends, more than a few of them now billionaire “oligarchs.” Arkadi and Boris Rotenberg, brothers worth about $2 billion each, were Putin’s judo sparring partners in their youth, when all three were streetwise toughs training under Coach Rakhlin. (The brothers made their fortunes by sticking close to their judo buddy: construction connected to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics alone gave them 20 contracts worth $5.5 billion.)

I was also regaled with tales of Putin‘s Jewish circle today, which encompasses prominent community leaders such as Chabad Rabbi Berel Lazar, who is commonly referred to as “Putin’s rabbi.” The long list also includes oligarch Moshe Kantor (personal net worth $2.3 billion), whose Acron Group is a world leader in fertilizers, and diamond mogul Lev Leviev (personal net worth $1.5 billion). Both hold powerful positions in the international Jewish community. Kantor has twice been reelected president of the European Jewish Congress (EJC), an umbrella organization of European Jewry, and Leviev is chairman of the Federation of the Jewish Communities of the Confederation of Independent States (CIS)—a Russia-dominated loose conglomeration of Jewish communities in most of the former Soviet republics. Oil and aluminum czar Roman Abramovich (worth $9.1 billion and known for his ownership of the Chelsea soccer team and a 533-foot “superyacht”) along with industrial tycoon Victor Vekselberg (worth $13.6 billion) are trusted confidants. Abramovich has served as governor of Chukotka, a province in the Russian Far East, and is very active in Jewish organizations. Vekselberg collects Fabergé eggs, the fabulous tsarist-era Russian heirlooms worth millions each and scattered around the world since the Russian Revolution. His attempts to return them to their homeland have endeared him to Putin.

In fact, with the partial exception of his immediate predecessor, the hapless Boris Yeltsin, Putin is the only leader in modern Russian history who seems to have no apparent problem with Jews being Jews and Russians simultaneously. While Yeltsin publicly condemned anti-Semitism, he also supported known anti-Semites such as Boris Mironov, his press minister. And even though the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, made the historic decision to allow Jews to emigrate, ending decades of oppression, he refused to speak out against anti-Semitism and allowed only very limited expressions of Jewish identity.

Gorbachev’s policies were, in turn, a huge improvement over the tyranny of his Soviet predecessors. Lenin, the founder of the Soviet state, denounced anti-Semitism, but he just as strongly opposed Zionism, seeing both as expressions of politically reactionary bourgeois nationalism. Before him, the tsars had uniformly oppressed the Jews, whom they inherited in large numbers after the Russian empire annexed a vast swath of Poland in the 18th century. Earlier, an edict of Ivan the Terrible had in the 16th century banned Jews from entering Muscovy.

Given all that baggage, a Russian president who is friendly to Jews—even a fierce Russian nationalist and authoritarian—is an extremely welcome development. “Putin himself is visibly not anti-Semitic,” says Anton Nossik, an Internet start-up pioneer who returned to Russia from Israel in 1997. “Not only has he surrounded himself with Jews, but he donated a month of his presidential salary to the Jewish Museum in Moscow, and his name is prominently marked on the list of funders on the Museum wall. This is as clear a signal of official policy as can be.” However, Nossik, who owns a leading Russian online media company and runs a blog critical of the government, adds: “But if someone is Jewish and gets in Putin’s way, he will be crushed without second thoughts.” Nossik is one of the few Jews living in Russia I spoke with who was willing to have his name published, a striking change from early post-Soviet years, when pundits tripped over each other to report the latest insider political comment and Kremlin gossip.

But Masha Gessen, author of the 2013 biography, The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin, vehemently disagrees with the notion that Putin’s much-lauded loyalty to Jews means that the Russian president is completely impervious to anti-Semitism. “Putin has all the Soviet anti-Semitic reflexes,” she says. Gessen left Russia in 2013 because of fears that Russian authorities might, under a new law, take away her children because she is openly gay. “He recognizes Jews by their noses. When we met, he stressed my education—a sure Soviet-era identifier of Jewishness. In the classic way, he is fond of ‘his own’ Jews: the Rotenberg brothers, Rakhlin. Yet neither his sympathies nor his reflexes limit his choice of policies.”

Putin’s meteoric rise from poverty to the apex of Russian power has been chronicled repeatedly. Child of a factory worker and a navy conscript, he grew up in one of Leningrad’s toughest neighborhoods. He joined the KGB in 1975, but Nossik says he did not absorb the anti-Semitic elements of the security agency’s culture. “KGB repression was directed at Jewish activities, religion and learning, which were not sanctioned by the state, but not at Jews just for being Jews,” he says. “A KGB department was in charge of controlling and limiting the employment of Jews in Soviet institutions. But Putin did not work there; he was in foreign intelligence, which itself was markedly Jewish.”

When the USSR began to crumble in 1989, Putin was a mid-level agent stationed in East Germany. He returned home and threw himself into the maelstrom of post-Soviet Russian politics in St. Petersburg, and later in Moscow. Over the next decade, he held various positions, among them director of the FSB (the renamed KGB) and leader of various agencies that oversaw the transfer of Soviet assets to the new Russian state. In 2000, he was handpicked by Yeltsin to succeed him as president. Alexy Levinson, a sociologist with the Levada Center in Moscow, believes that it was the post-collapse period, not his KGB years, that ultimately defined Putin’s official attitude toward Jews. “At that time, not only was anti-Semitism unacceptable, but even identifying Jews as Jews was,” he says. “And Putin stressed his close personal relationship to Jews, such as his judo trainer, though he was under no obligation to do so.”

Unlike Masha Gessen, Nossik believes that Putin is genuinely immune to anti-Semitic stereotypes. “Boris Nemtsov once told me the following story,” says Nossik, referring to the former deputy prime minister under Yeltsin who went on to become a vocal opponent of Putin and was gunned down last February outside the Kremlin. During Putin’s first state visit in 2007 to Belarus, he was shocked by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenka’s anti-Semitic comments. Upon his return to Moscow, Putin went to see Nemtsov and said: “Can you imagine the idiot? He kept telling me my government is full of Jews, and that I should get rid of them! He even said you are Jewish, and that I should get rid of you, too.” Nemtsov told Nossik that this was the first time Putin had ever mentioned Jews to him in their many years of working together.

Nemtsov’s murder, one of a string of assassinations of Putin’s critics and opponents, remains unsolved. Some suspect Putin, but many observers believe Nemtsov was not nearly a big enough menace to merit a bullet from the Kremlin boss. Yet Jewish or not, people with the clout to be a threat have learned the hard way the price of opposing Putin.

Boris Berezovsky was the éminence grise at Boris Yeltsin’s presidential court and the person who suggested to Yeltsin that he choose Putin as his successor.  But Berezovsky, who owned Russia’s most-watched television channel, ran afoul of the new president with his coverage of Putin’s mishandling of the accidental sinking of the Russian nuclear submarine Kursk in 2000, which killed all 118 on board. It was his ORT TV that aired the new president’s belated meeting with the victims’ families, in which he appeared insensitive to their pain. Putin did not take kindly to this, and soon after, in an interview with the French daily Le Figaro, said: “Generally, I don’t think that the state and the oligarchs are irreconcilable enemies. Rather, I think that the state is holding a big club in its hands, which it will use only once, to deliver a crushing blow on the head. We haven’t yet resorted to that club. We just picked it up—and that was enough to attract public attention. But if we get really angry, we will not hesitate to use it.”

Berezovsky, who was abroad at the time, decided not to return and face the club. He became a bitter foe of his ex-protégé, funding an ultimately futile campaign to remove him from power. By the time of his death in 2013, ruled a suicide, he was a defeated man. After his passing, Putin revealed he had received two letters from the oligarch, begging for forgiveness and for permission to return. Putin did agree to allow his adversary to be buried in Russia—though Berezovsky was ultimately laid to rest in the United Kingdom.

Perhaps the best-known deposed Jewish oligarch is Mikhail Khodorkovsky, founder of Yukos Oil, who was worth an estimated $15 billion in 2004. When he fell into disfavor, he refused to flee or seek forgiveness, ultimately spending eight years in jail for opposing the Russian president. He is now in exile outside Zurich, with only a fraction of his fortune left. His deputy at Yukos, Leonid Nevzlin, was estimated to be worth $2 billion when he left Russia for Israel in 2003.

Then there was media mogul Vladimir Gusinsky. The once-powerful oligarch (worth $1 billion-plus in 2000), owner of the then-independent NTV channel, was the first Jewish oligarch to experience President Putin’s wrath. Putin was displeased with NTV’s coverage of Russia’s war with Chechnya, the breakaway Muslim republic in the Caucasus that won its autonomy in a war in the mid-1990s.  This rupture had major ramifications within the Russian Jewish community because Gusinsky was the founder of the Russian Jewish Congress (REK), a non-Orthodox umbrella organization established in 1996 to bring together Jewish groups in Russia and to promote Jewish culture, education and welfare.

Putin wanted a Jewish organization that was loyal to him and did a masterful end-run around Gusinsky, who, according to a Jewish insider who did not want to be named, had “set up the Russian Jewish Congress for his own protection, to be able to claim anti-Semitism if he was attacked by the authorities.” In order to deprive him of this protection, the insider says, Putin set up an alternative Kremlin-affiliated Jewish structure called the Federation of Russian Jewish Communities. “This worked,” he says.  In quick succession in 1999, Putin’s buddy Leviev established the new organization, which was chaired by Putin pal Abramovich. Gusinsky was arrested in 2000, stripped of most of his assets and forced into exile in the United Kingdom, where he now lives quietly.

Chabad Rabbi Berel Lazar, an American citizen and a native of Milan, Italy with no political ambitions, was quickly granted Russian citizenship and appointed chief rabbi of the new federation. “It seems to me that Putin made pragmatic calculations,” says Zvi Gitelman, a University of Michigan professor of political science and Jewish studies and a leading observer of Jewish life in Russia. “When he purged the oligarchs, it turned out that so many were Jewish that he exposed himself to being suspected of anti-Semitism, like some of his predecessors. Therefore, he found the perfect cover or fig leaf for his actions: Embrace the most ‘visibly Jewish’ Jews, those with beards, side-curls and a long tradition of cooperating with whoever was in power, and make them the ‘court Jews.’”

Berel Lazar, who declined to be interviewed for this story, first visited Moscow as a rabbinical student in 1987. Himself a child of Chabad emissaries—known as shlichim—he returned to the USSR in 1990 as one of 15 Chabad shlichim after receiving his rabbinical certification. At that time, hundreds of thousands of Jews were moving in the other direction in search of the safety and prosperity of Israel and the West. The liberalization that made their emigration possible also made possible the re-establishment of Jewish communal life, including the arrival of many foreign Jews. They came to fill the chasm left by three generations of forced Soviet assimilation and official atheism, but most found the task too hard. Lazar, who became rabbi of the synagogue in the Marina Roscha neighborhood in northern Moscow, was one of those who stayed and set to work, bringing Judaism—specifically the Chabad brand—to Russia.

It is not known exactly when Putin and Lazar first met, but Putin, who is said to be impressed by Lazar’s strict religious observance, has showered Lazar with his appreciation. First and foremost among these privileges was his blessing of Lazar as chief rabbi of the Federation. This was not as simple as it may sound, since Gusinsky’s Russian Jewish Congress already had a chief rabbi—the Siberian-born Adolf Shayevich, the spiritual leader of the Russian capital’s prestigious Moscow Choral Synagogue. Shayevich refused to step down and has alleged that Leviev offered him $240,000 to resign. To this day, there are two chief rabbis of Russia and a deep enmity between the two men. Earlier this year, Shayevich called Lazar “an agent of the Kremlin” on Russian TV. 

But Putin has found plenty of ways to express his preference for Lazar. He invited Lazar, not Shayevich, to his first State of the Nation speech in June 2000; the following year, he removed Shayevich from the government’s religious affairs council and appointed Lazar in his place. Lazar reciprocated by assuring the public that Putin’s actions against the likes of Gusinsky and Berezovsky had nothing to do with anti-Semitism, and that Russia at large was free of that scourge. In the face of growing Russian anti-Semitism in the middle of the first decade of the century, Lazar has toned down the latter point. He condemned a 2005 open letter signed by 500 nationalists, including members of the Russian Parliament, that called on Putin to ban all Jewish organizations. He also spoke out against violent attacks on Jews, including one on a Chabad rabbi in Moscow.

Lazar has consistently followed Putin’s lead. “Challenging the government is not the Jewish way,” Lazar has said. As a result of the Putin-Lazar bond, Chabad has become the dominant Jewish force in Russia, with synagogues, schools, festivals, extensive programming and representatives in nearly 50 cities across the country. It is reported to have a $60 million annual budget, much of it supplied by Putin’s Jewish allies, eclipsing all other Jewish denominations. In 2012, Lazar received what can only be considered the jewel in the crown: Putin gave him supervision of Moscow’s $50 million Jewish Museum and Center of Tolerance, which was largely funded by  Jewish oligarchs Abramovich and Vekselberg. The Lazar-Putin relationship is so tight that during the 2014 Olympics, Putin gave the 50-year-old rabbi special dispensation to enter the stadium on Shabbat without passing through the electronic gate. Again, Lazar returned the favor: A month later, he attended the victory speech Putin gave at the Kremlin after the occupation of Crimea. He was the only Jewish leader present.

Even the secularly oriented Russian Jewish Congress, which has an annual budget of $12 million and 37 local chapters, rarely strays far from Kremlin policy. Investor Mikhail Fridman (net worth $15.6 billion), founder of Alfa Group—one of Russia’s largest privately held investment groups—and another of Putin’s Jewish oligarchs, sits on its board. The group is particularly proud of its flagship Memorial Synagogue, erected in 1998 in a huge park on Moscow’s Poklonnaya Gora, which is dedicated to the Soviet victory in World War II and to those who perished in it. The park is a reminder of the breakup of the Soviet Union into independent nations, an event that remains a gaping hole in the Russian psyche, especially Putin’s. The synagogue’s presence in Poklonnaya Gora is both a testament to the Jewish contribution to the war and an expression of allegiance to the Russian state. “Of course we support the political authorities that exist,” Russian Jewish Congress president Yuri Kanner tells me. “This is halacha.” He adds: “The most important thing is that the authorities do not hinder our efforts to rebuild Jewish life.”

Author Masha Gessen says that with respect to religion—all religions—Putin is simply continuing the policies adopted under Stalin. “Religion is to be a subordinate part of the state,” she says. “Conflict, if there is any, is between independent clergy and their religious institution, but not between that institution and the state. And in the case of the war of the rabbis, from Putin’s perspective, both Shayevich and Lazar are subordinate to the state. Their personal rivalry might be intense, but it’s politically insignificant.”

The price of Putin’s favor can be high, and the president’s strong feelings about the Chabad library and archives of Rabbi Yossef Yitzhak Schneerson, the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, have placed Lazar in an uncomfortable position vis-à-vis the international Chabad movement. The library is a contentious subject within the Hasidic sect, which fled Russia in the years following the 1917 Revolution and eventually established a new spiritual capital at 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn under the auspices of the sixth rebbe’s son-in-law, the seventh and last Lubavitcher rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson.

The story begins in 1927, when Yossef Yitzhak Schneerson was deported from the Soviet Union to Latvia and forced to leave behind his 12,000-volume library. A separate collection of some 25,000 Chabad documents was seized in Latvia during World War II by the German army and later fell into the hands of the victorious Soviet Army. Ever since then, Chabad has been trying to reclaim these historical troves and move them to Brooklyn. A Soviet court initially recognized its claims in 1991 just before the Soviet Union’s demise rendered this decision moot. Having exhausted all recourse in Russia, Chabad turned to the U.S. legal system in 2004, suing Russia and winning in 2010. But Moscow considered the suit “absolutely unlawful and provocative” and refused to abide by its ruling. Moscow even forbade national museums to lend works of art to American institutions out of concern they might be seized. 

Putin has steadfastly refused Chabad’s efforts—illegally, says a U.S. court, which in September fined the Russian Federation $43.7 million for ignoring the 2010 federal court order to return the collection of Jewish religious texts to Chabad. Then, in January 2013, the foreign ministry of Russia issued a statement saying that it considers the collections “a national treasure of the Russian people.”

A year later, Putin had the collection moved to the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow. “He wanted to solve a problem,” Lazar has said, “though it may have caused a problem for me.” He added: “The president didn’t ask us, he just told us [to accept the books]. Saying no to the Russian president, in general, is not something done in Russia.”

In the museum, the library is housed behind a huge photographic panel depicting the killing fields of Babi Yar and next to a T-34 tank, designed by Jewish engineer Isaac Zaltsman, which had been crucial to the Soviet victory. The implication is that the Russian state is staking a claim to the moral heritage of the victory over the murderers of the Jews and therefore to the material heritage the murdered left behind—a claim that has the implicit endorsement of Lazar.

There is an additional upside for Lazar’s tacit support of Putin’s handling of the library, says the Jewish insider I spoke with. “Praise for Putin in return for his support for Jewish causes is a trade-off that has worked handsomely for Lazar,” he says. “What he has here is his own 770 [a reference to Chabad headquarters]. In the situation in which the Rebbe [Menachem Schneerson] has no heir apparent, this is no small achievement. Now that the Rebbe is dead, Lazar can be a power player. The Rebbe’s father-in-law’s library is a fair price to pay for that.”

Zvi Gitelman elaborates. “Without the Rebbe, Chabadniks have no ‘general party line.’ Which means no one can rule with authority over where the library should be. And this means, in turn, that the man anointed by Putin might emerge as a possible leader—with the library strengthening his claim to the mantle. This, however, is more of a concern to Chabad, and to the Orthodox world in general, than to Russian Jews themselves, as they are overwhelmingly secular.”

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Nowhere is the symbiotic relationship between Putin and his Jews more evident than in the events surrounding the annexation of the Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula that had been part of Ukraine since 1954. The rocky relationship between Russia and Ukraine developed into a true crisis in March of 2014 when the Ukrainian people ousted pro-Russian president Victor Yanukovych and Putin shocked the world with his brazen takeover, threatening the region’s stability and leading to a wider war in eastern Ukraine.

In July, the Russian Jewish community leapt into action, organizing an international press tour via chartered plane from Moscow to draw attention to alleged anti-Semitism in Ukraine, thus casting Putin in the role of protector of the Jews. The group descended on Sevastopol in Crimea to attend a Holocaust commemoration dedicated to the memory of Jews and other Crimeans killed in early July 1942 after the city fell in a siege. Lazar took center stage, and photographs captured him putting tefillin on 102-year-old David Barulya, a World War II veteran and Crimean Holocaust survivor. Putin spoke at the event, thanking the rabbis for their efforts to combat fascism.

The word fascism is a key tool in the Russian battle against Ukraine today. Ukraine has a long history of anti-Semitism, culminating in the country’s slaughter of Jews during the Nazi occupation. Putin himself maintains that the Ukrainian government is heir to anti-Semitic, pro-Nazi nationalists. The most prominent of these was World War II leader Stepan Bandera, a Ukrainian partisan whom many consider responsible for the mass murder of Jewish partisans loyal to him. To Russians, who perceive their own history as less anti-Semitic than Ukraine’s, Bandera represents Ukrainian anti-Semitism. This belief is reinforced by Russian propaganda. The oxymoron “Zhido-Banderovtsy” or “Jew-Banderites,” a clear allusion to the anti-Semitic slur of “Jew-Communists,” gets a lot of mileage in Russia these days.

Although he rarely mentioned anti-Semitism in Ukraine before the Crimea takeover, Putin now regularly talks about anti-Semites and anti-minority activists in Ukraine as a justification for Russian involvement in the neighboring nation. Not surprisingly, Ukrainian Jews largely support their government and condemn Russian aggression. This has caused a nasty split between Russian and Ukrainian Jews, who once considered themselves one community. Yevgeny Satanowski, a former Russian Jewish Congress president, said in an interview with Moscow’s Govorit Moskva radio station this March that he would gladly hang two of his Ukrainian Jewish colleagues: Igor Kolomoisky, a Ukrainian oligarch and former provincial governor in Ukraine under the current president and Josef Zissels, a dissident and prisoner of the Gulag under the Soviets and the leader of Ukrainian Jewry.

“Not all Ukrainian Jews enthusiastically support their government, though of course most do,” says Zissels. “In Russia the situation is also not unequivocal. While some people in the community leadership support Putin whatever he does, the majority remain silent. I call this the Stockholm syndrome: They have become hostages of the authoritarian system in Russia and cannot speak out. The difference between our two communities today is the same as the difference between our two countries. Ukraine is a democracy, Russia is not.”

Throughout the Crimea crisis and the war in eastern Ukraine, Berel Lazar has repeatedly endorsed Putin’s policies, both domestic and foreign. “I have no personal opinion about Rabbi Berel Lazar and his political choices,” says Levinson, the sociologist. “But those who, even if they are critical of him, end up saying that what he does is good, are similar to those who say the same thing about Putin. And yes, Russian Jews support Putin, but this is because they are a full part of Russian society, which supports him. There is nothing specifically Jewish about it.”

All the wars and splits notwithstanding, it is evident that—as both Putin’s supporters and detractors informed me—it has never been easier or safer to be Jewish in Russia than under his rule. In Moscow’s Marina Roshcha neighborhood, young Orthodox families throng to the kosher gourmet store, which recently opened conveniently near the small local synagogue and almost next door to the huge Chabad complex made up of a school, JCC and Jewish museum.

Though rapidly becoming something of a local Upper West Side, Marina Roshcha is only one of the capital’s 21 Jewish communities and synagogues listed in the latest issue of Moscow-Jerusalem, a free Jewish monthly. In September of this year, its glossy cover showed a pensive bearded gentleman with kippah and tzitzit, the director of a Jewish center, seated next to a red Soviet-style banner, the kind that used to proclaim the glory of the Communist Party. In the same white lettering, the banner says: “Glory to G-d!”

Glory indeed. Between glittering new synagogues and young Jews flocking services, images of Putin in a kippah attending Jewish events on state TV and the success stories of Jewish oligarchs, there is an unmistakable air of achievement among Russian Jewry today. And it is not just Chabad. Mikhail Simanovsky, who is in his late 20s, runs the Moscow Hillel from a small office in the back of a cluttered courtyard in the capital’s downtown. Hillel, he says, is thriving. Like other Jewish institutions, it suffered as a result of the crash of 2008, when funding became scarce and 11 of Russia’s 15 Hillel chapters had to close down. But just a few days before we met, four new centers opened. In Moscow, an average of 70 people come to Erev Shabbat dinner at the Hillel, but the first one this year, after the college summer break, attracted 120.

Simanovsky says the outlook for Jews is bright. “True, there is some social anti-Semitism, but there is also a growing opposite trend—Jewish is cool. People tell us we are lucky to be Jewish. This Moscow Day, we had a Hillel stand among the stands of many different organizations, and only one person of the hundreds that came to see it was unpleasant—and she was an old, obviously deranged woman.”

Gitelman has a different view of these developments. “Jewish life may be ‘booming,’ certainly in contrast to the Soviet period,” he says, “but, in my view, religious life is not. There is no ‘Jewish community’ in Russia,” he says, citing the extensive research he did for his 2012 book, Jewish Identities in Post-Communist Russia and Ukraine: An Uncertain Ethnicity. “No one speaks for all Jews, or even a majority. Chabad’s monopoly on religious institutions outside Moscow means that, on one hand, the vast majority of Jews do not associate themselves with the movement, and, on the other, the opportunities for Reform, Conservative and Modern Orthodox Judaism to establish themselves are limited. But since Russians cannot accept Judaism in any form, how can they express Jewishness?”

Anti-Semitism remains part of the cultural repertoire but generally doesn’t stir up much interest, says Levinson, who is part of an ongoing Russian Jewish Congress-commissioned study of contemporary Russian anti-Semitism. “The level of negative feelings about Jews is low, lower, for example, than about people from Central Asia,” he says. But there is plenty to contradict this assessment: anti-Semitic literature, for instance, is widely available. In a typical example, the 2014 Blue Star Against Red Star: How the Zionists Became the Gravediggers of Communism, author Vladimir Bolshakov credits Zionism, under turncoat Golda Meir, with ultimately destroying the Soviet Union. State TV warned last year that Jews are behind the Ukrainian revolution and are “preparing a second Holocaust with their own hands, just as they did the first one.”

Other disturbing sentiments survive in the Russian collective psyche. “Some focus groups showed a deep emotion, now latent, but which could be activated someday,” says Levinson. “It was connected with the image of Jews ‘always looking for a better life for themselves.’ They now like it in Russia, but if the situation changes for the worse, they will leave, they will switch loyalties, while we, true Russians, will stay regardless.” This in part is a reaction to the post-1989 Jewish exodus. Levinson says this latent emotion can easily morph into  the “incurable” Jewish traitor stereotype, along the lines of the common phrase “Zhydy prodayut Rassiyu [the Jews are betraying Russia].” Levinson adds another twist. “Jews are seen in general as liberals, and liberals as Jewish. Of course, for those who oppose the liberals, Jews are seen as zapadniki [pro-Western], fifth columnists, traitors.”

Nossik says that, in fact, many Russian Jews are giving up on their country. “Russian Jews are worried about a possible worsening of the political climate and are leaving in droves,” he says. Gessen agrees. “Russian Jews are tripping over one another to get Israeli passports,” she says. Among the Jews who have decided to leave is Veronica, a middle-aged petite woman who, with her non-Jewish husband, Andrei, is moving to Warsaw. (After much debate, they decided they were not comfortable with having their last names published.) Around the kitchen table of their recently completed dacha in the forest near Moscow, which they will be leaving behind, they explained their reasons.

They have both spent most of their professional lives in media and international organizations. Even after Andrei was briefly arrested for participating in a work-related protest, they resisted leaving. “It was simply getting too dangerous and too difficult,” says Veronica. “But we still hoped the overall situation would improve.” The last straw came when Veronica’s organization shut the doors of its Moscow office this year. The decision stemmed from a new law that requires organizations that receive funding from abroad and engage in political activities to register as “foreign agents.” In Russian, that term carries the connotation of treason and evokes memories of the Communist period when “traitors” could be put to death or jailed for many years, their families discriminated against and ostracized. And since the law defines “influencing public opinion” as a political activity, anyone could fall under its jurisdiction. Rather than stigmatize its own activists by asking them to register, Veronica’s organization ceased operations.

There are other reasons, too. “We were increasingly concerned by political changes made over the past 20 years, and totally devastated by the invasion of Ukraine,” says Veronica, who was also shaken by the death of Boris Nemtsov. Is she overreacting, given the good times many Russian Jews are experiencing? “Many Jews do not support Putin,” she protests. “Especially those who are assimilated, less religious, less involved with the community. Opposition demonstrations were full of Jewish faces; Berel Lazar is not the entire Jewish people!”

I also spoke with Veronica’s mother, Olga, who is in her 60s and is active in the secular Jewish community. She has a better opinion of the Chabad chief rabbi. “Rabbi Lazar praises Putin because he has Jewish smarts,” she says. “He has found a compromise: to hide his own emotions in order to further Jewish interests. You have to be very careful if you want to do business with Putin. And people are still genetically afraid. If you want to survive here, you need to learn mimicry. Just like in the Soviet times.”

A pivotal question is what will follow in the wake of the 63-year-old Putin’s reign. “There are two possible scenarios,” says Nossik. “There is the gray scenario of continuation or the brown scenario of nationalism. In the second case, anti-Semitic rhetoric might be used, but not necessarily followed by action. Even in the gray scenario the authorities might go down this road—but in either case, the social base is simply not there for an anti-Semitic regime.” Others I speak with do not share Nossik’s relative optimism. “The Jews of Russia must realize the dangers inherent in the possible collapse of the Putin government, understand the rules of the game and be aware of the limitations,” warned Rabbi Alexander Boroda, president of the Chabad-controlled Federation, at the Jewish education conference Limmud in Moscow in April of this year. He and others believe that the only alternative to Putin is an explicitly nationalist regime, which will result in violence against the Jews.

The Russian leader’s regime seems stable today and has impressed both the Russian public and international observers with its stunning political turnabouts, from the cowing of the oligarchs to the wars in Ukraine and now Syria. Yet there could be new, unexpected turns. The Russian economy is feeling the double impact of the sanctions imposed in response to the Ukraine war and the fall of oil prices, and incomes are down. The soldiers returning in caskets from Ukraine (even though, officially, they were never there in the first place) and now from Syria do not improve matters. This is a country intimidated, but not silenced—and with still-fresh memories of the massive anti-regime protests of just a few years ago. If Putin cannot give the people prosperity and victory, or at least one of the two, he still may have to give them something.

In Russia, traditionally, the leaders would, under such circumstances, give the people the Jews. And if not, the people would themselves hold the Jews responsible and accuse the regime of covering for them. Putin might truly not be anti-Semitic. But Russia is not a dictatorship the way it was in Soviet times. The will of one man does not decide all. Nor would his will be sufficient to stem a popular revolt.

“We may yet live to regret the good times under Putin,” says Olga, as her daughter prepares to leave the country. She is staying in Russia. She has lived longer than Olga and seen worse. But she does not, she tells me, expect to see better.

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CHRISTIANS, MUSLIMS, JEWS BREAK BREAD IN INTERFAITH MOROCCO INITIATIVE

 

When Moroccan students got together to explore the rich cultural legacy the Jewish community contributed to the North African country, they named their association Mimouna, the name of a Moroccan Jewish tradition which marks the end of Passover with inviting Muslim neighbors for shared meals.

They never guessed they’d end up creating such meals themselves.

 

Together with the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) and Jeunesse Chabad Maroc the students provided 1,500 needy Muslim families with meals in Marrakesh to help them celebrate Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan. The collaboration also included a festive interfaith dinner at the Slat al Azama synagogue in the Jewish quarter of Marrakech.

IFCJ Vice president Yael Eckstein was present at the event and stated that, since WWII, Morocco had set an example among North African societies for its treatment of Jews. She said she is honored to stand with the people of Morocco.

“We can overcome divisions and intolerance”, said Eckstein, “by building bridges of empathy.”

This is not the only example of the children of Abraham coming together around the dinner table this time of year.

In Cairo, Copts, who comprise the largest Christian minority in the Middle East, had set up tables outside their homes and invited Christians and Muslims alike to enjoy a meal as the sun sets and fasting Muslims are able to eat and drink.

Dawoud Riyad, who is Coptic, set up the tables near his Cairo home and invited Tarek Ali, a local resident, to celebrate together.

“They invited me and my kinds, and I was surprised”, said Ali, “with no difference between sheikhs, Christians, or Muslims.”

“We’re all brothers and friends”, said Riyad and pointed to another neighbor, “I’ve raised this man’s son (alongside my own son) and he’s Muslim.”

The spirit of sharing and providing for one another can also be found in Israel, where IFCJ provides food and clothing vouchers to Muslim Arab families for Ramadan, all part of the fellowship’s $5.6 million yearly aid program.

JEWS IN ETHIOPIA SUFFER AS IMMIGRATION TO ISRAEL IS DELAYED

 

When Sorafel Alamow, 22, immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia with his father and sister, he never dreamed that he would have to wait more than a decade for his five older siblings to join them.

Jewish Agency representatives in Gondar told his family more than 10 years ago that his siblings who were over the age of 18 would join them in a month or so, Alamow, who lives in Haifa, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.

 

“I’m still waiting for them [Jewish Agency officials] to call them,” Alamow said. Since his aliya, two of those siblings have died of serious illnesses.

He said that every time he speaks to officials, “they have a new excuse” about why the aliya of his siblings is being delayed but always tell him it is being handled.

“It will happen, it’s just a matter of time, but in the meantime we are losing more people,” he said.

Hen Asmamo, who lives in Holon, has been waiting 17 years for her grandmother to join her in Israel. Asmamo said that life goes on in Ethiopia and the families of those awaiting aliya naturally grow. “And then they are surprised there are more and they complain that it never ends,” she told the Post.

Neither Asmamo nor Alamow has been sitting idly waiting; both are active in a campaign called the “Struggle for the Aliya of Ethiopian Jews,” which seeks to put pressure on the government to bring the remaining members of the Ethiopian Jewish communities to Israel. The campaign was launched following a declaration of the “end of Ethiopian aliya” three years ago that left many Falash Mura families divided.

Falash Mura is the name given to those of the Beta Israel community in Ethiopia and Eritrea who – under compulsion and pressure from missionaries – converted to Christianity during the 19th and 20th centuries.

Since their ancestors converted to another religion, the Falash Mura are not covered by the Law of Return, which grants the right to immigrate and gain citizenship to anyone with a Jewish grandparent.

The Falash Mura are brought to Israel under the Law of Entry and are required to convert to Judaism once in Israel. They receive the same absorption benefits granted to immigrants who come under the Law of Return.

Between 2003 and 2010, a cabinet decision only allowed Ethiopians who are Jewish on their mother’s side to make aliya.

Slamming the fact that the Ethiopians were “taken out of the Law of Return,” MK Avraham Neguise (Likud) has previously charged that Ethiopians suffered from “a policy of discrimination,” noting that the same conditions were not applied to immigrants from other countries, such as the former Soviet Union.

Neguise made aliya from Ethiopia in 1985 and has been instrumental in the cause of the Falash Mura.

Two years ago, he and MK David Amsalem (Likud) refused to vote with the coalition until a November 2015 cabinet decision to resume Ethiopian aliya was implemented, after being put on hold for budgetary reasons.

The new cabinet decision allows anyone of Zera Yisrael, literally “the seed of Israel,” to make aliya – as long as they meet various other criteria. This means that their Jewish roots are no longer restricted to one’s mother’s side for the purpose of eligibility to immigrate.

Asmamo was five years old when she moved to Israel from Ethiopia, but is still waiting for the day when the government allows her grandmother, Yezebalm Ayleo, to join her.

Asmamo made aliya with her mother and three of her siblings, but has been told that her mother’s mother is not Jewish and thus has been prevented from making aliya. “They say she has a non-Jewish side; what can I do with that?” Asmamo said in a telephone interview with the Post. “If my mother is here, and all her siblings are here, how was my grandmother left there?”

Yezebalm Ayleo waits in Addis Ababa for permission to join her family in Israel (credit: courtesy)Yezebalm Ayleo waits in Addis Ababa for permission to join her family in Israel (credit: courtesy)

Ayleo is waiting in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, while Alamow’s family is waiting in and around Gondar city. Both have been to visit their families in Ethiopia, and Alamow said life in Gondar “is not so easy”; they still feel effects of the recent political violence there.

According to the two latest cabinet decision on the issue, the first made in November 2015 and the second in August 2016, some 9,000 Falash Mura may be brought to Israel by the end of 2020, starting with 1,300 by the end of 2017.

Sabine Hadad, spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry’s Population Registry, stressed that the number 9,000 is only a potential number, and that of those 9,000 the government will only allow into Israel those who meet the Interior Ministry’s criteria.

On Tuesday evening, 50 olim arrived from Ethiopia, following, 72 who came last week. Groups of this size are expected to keep trickling in until November, the deadline to bring the first 1,300.

“The question is what happens after those 1,300,” said Neguise.

“We have started discussing it with the Finance Ministry in order to allocate a budget to continue to bring them all to Israel,” the MK told the Post. He said the matter is under discussion and the government’s position is not yet clear.

“I am hearing mixed attitudes on the government’s side; some people say we have to continue bringing them as quickly as possible… and others say we have to wait for the 2019 budget,” he explained.

“One thing is clear; we will not give up,” Neguise said.

The Finance Ministry told the Post that the budget was not an obstacle.

Ayan Ehila, from Rishon Lezion, meets his niece at Ben-Gurion Airport (credit: Shira Frishman) Ayan Ehila, from Rishon Lezion, meets his niece at Ben-Gurion Airport (credit: Shira Frishman)

Ayan Ehila, from Rishon Lezion, was among those who greeted their relatives among the most recent group of olim. He posted to Facebook that his dream had come true. “To get to this day I went through so much in the past four years. Thank God that I get to see my brother and his children here with me…. and of course there are more families who are waiting for the reunification of their families and we have to fight until the end.”

Asmamo said, “It’s hard to see others coming and be wondering why does my grandmother remain there. It breaks my heart that have I been fighting for four years. People in the Knesset are playing with our feelings, our families, our lives.”

Asmamo is getting married in December and dreams that her grandmother will be there. She was practically raised by her grandmother during the first few years of her life and speaks to her every day.

“It really hurts to talk to her, because she doesn’t understand why she can’t reunite with us and I have no answers for her,” Asmamo said. Her grandmother does not believe she will ever see Jerusalem.

Bekalu Damte, from Petah Tikva, is another of the many Ethiopians waiting for the reunification of his family. He came to Israel in 2007 with his parents and six of his siblings. Two other siblings are still waiting in Gondar.

One of the requirements of the most recent cabinet decision is that Ethiopian immigrants must have been waiting for aliya in the Jewish communities in Gondar or Addis Ababa since January 2, 2010, at the latest. Having uprooted their lives to then wait for years for an elusive aliya date, many feel that they are in a state of limbo.

“It holds them back from advancing in their careers because they are just waiting…. they have been waiting for 17 years,” Damte said.

It also places a financial burden on their family members in Israel, many of whom send a significant portion of their salaries to their relatives in Ethiopia.

On top of that, antisemitism is another demon those left in their native country are left to battle. Asmamo told the Post that locals pushed her uncle, her grandmother’s son, from the top of a building to his death, because of his faith.

Another member of the community recently interviewed on an Israeli radio station also spoke of an antisemitic attack, one in which her relative was wounded.

Asmamo says that antisemitism is not rare in Ethiopia, and that the Falash Mura are subjected to taunts such as “What are you doing here, Falash? You shouldn’t be here.”

The Interior Ministry’s Population Registry did not answer the Post’s inquiry regarding the interviewees by press time, and Amos Arbel – who heads the Registration and Status Division – said they would not discuss individual cases with the press.

The Post also contacted the Immigration and Absorption Ministry for comment, which said the Prime Minister’s Office has the final say in the matter. The Prime Minister’s Office passed the buck to the Interior Ministry.

Take No Jewish Prisoners

I have been working on this song/poem for the last 2 weeks when I found out that the subhuman Jews on Facebook banned me for merely sharing a link exposing the evils of feminism; it is my 8th such 30 day ban in the past 13 months and it has led me to openly call for the extermination of all Jews, whether they proclaim themselves to be “good” or “evil”, they must simply die for being Jewish.  For where were these same Jews when I was facing injustice and censorship to tell their own brothers and sisters to cease with the needless meddling in my free speech human rights.  I will tell you where these subhuman Jews were; they were off swindling more non Jews/goyim to fight their evils wars and battles to further subvert the human races.  Well all that ends from this moment forward as this poem will inspire others to take their weapons and start killing Jews wherever they find them!

 

 

Take No Jewish Prisoners

You got one kike, infiltrate them
Kill them right, exterminate them
The guns will, decimate them
Kill their pride, degenerate them

The Jewish people, reprobate them
Aids will, devastate them
Diseases will, decapitate them
Take no Jewish prisoners, terminate them

I go to war, to give Jews hell
The wars will be non stop like in Germany
A beginning to this end
We know what must be done to them
Peace will be their deaths to me
Let them retreat for they are damned
Their cemetery will be a playground for the demented
A safe haven for those who walk this realm

For they are devoid of heart and soul
All is fair in hate and war
Take the Jewish life!
But don’t touch the kike’s hair
For your body is more sacred
No countries must be spared
And to their sons and daughters behold
Their deathbed!

The Jews had it all and all that they could be
Now they will be nothing for the world to see
How odd that they long to be like you and me
It’s a sad yet funny thing
No tears shall streak from my hateful stare
We must abandon them like they wreckage they are
No one cares what will happen to them
No one will dare to speak up for them
Never ask a kike what they can do to your country
Ask how your country can kill them instead
Take no Jewish prisoners, take none of their shit!

With party’s lingering anti-Semitism, who are the Jews running on Britain’s Labour ticket?

LONDON — After two leaders of the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) decided to toss their hats into the ring to square off against two pro-Israel Conservative MPs in Britain’s June 8 general election, it looks like all bets are off.

Chairman and vice-chairman of the JLM Jeremy Newmark and Mike Katz are challenging Mike Freer and Matthew Offord in the adjoining London constituencies of Finchley & Golders Green — Margaret Thatcher’s old seat — and Hendon. Both seats are in the heartland of the northwest London Jewish community and the densely-populated community is likely to have a considerable impact on the final result.

In the year and a half since Jeremy Corbyn became Labour party leader, controversies about anti-Semitism in the party — including repeated remarks made by former London mayor Ken Livingstone — have dogged media coverage. Many Jews who were lifelong Labour voters say they can’t bring themselves to put a cross next to the Labour candidate’s name on the general election ballot.

But others are just as reluctant to allow the Tory juggernaut to roll on, sweeping all before it.

In Ilford North, to the east of London, there is another dilemma: the non-Jewish but passionately pro-Israel incumbent Labour MP, Wes Streeting, is challenged by the man he defeated last time — the Jewish Tory Lee Scott. Again, this battle takes place in a constituency with a high number of Jewish voters.

UK Labour MP Wes Streeting was elected in 2015 to represent the Ilford North district (courtesy)

Attorney Jeremy Brier, in a fiercely-argued op-ed for the Jewish Chronicle, attacked Newmark and Katz for their decision to run against pro-Israel candidates. He believed it was “deeply unedifying when Jewish communal leaders make an active choice not just to stand for this Labour Party, but to do so against prominent Conservative friends of the Jewish community in relatively marginal seats.”

“Newmark and Katz — who make much of standing up for the Jewish community — seek to uproot our supporters and champions, whilst propping up a party led by a ragtag bunch of Jew-baiters,” he added.

University of London sociology professor David Hirsh takes a diametrically opposite view.

“The decision of the local Labour Party in Finchley & Golders Green to stand Jeremy Newmark against the Tory MP Mike Freer emancipates Jews, at least in this constituency, to vote as citizens. It relieves us from the humiliation of being forced to vote as Jews against anti-Semitism…

Jeremy Newmark, chair of the Jewish Labour Movement (YouTube screenshot)

“Having a choice between Newmark and Freer makes me feel a bit more British; and I hate the way Brexit and anti-Semitism have made me feel less than fully British,” he wrote in aJewish News oped.

As well as the Jewish candidates who face a tough time in the 2017 election, the so-called “Corbyn effect” is hurting two of Israel’s strongest non-Jewish supporters in Parliament. Chairman of Labour Friends of Israel, Joan Ryan, is nursing a tiny majority of just over 1,000 potential votes in the outer London seat of Enfield North. Former MP Nick de Bois may well take back the seat in this election. The LFI vice-chairman, Michael Dugher, has already announced he is leaving politics to become chief executive of UK Music.

British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn answers questions from the studio audience as he takes part in the 'May v Corbyn Live: The Battle for Number 10,' Sky News and Channel 4 event at Sky Studios in London, May 29, 2017. (AFP/Pool/Stefan Rousseau)

With the elections just days away, here is a look at the contentious constituencies where Jewish Labour hopefuls will be hashing it out.

Main battlegrounds for Jewish Labour candidates:

Bury South (north of Manchester)
Current MP: Ivan Lewis, former Labour Minister under Ed Miliband.
Held seat since: 1997.
Problem: Fired via text message by Corbyn after Lewis warned about anti-Semitism in the party, but tarred by Jewish community as toxic because he is Labour. He has been forced to tell the local Jewish newspaper “I’m not Ivan the Terrible.”

Despite pressures from anti-Israel and anti-Semitic voices within her party, Louise Ellman is running for reelection to the post she's held since 1997. (courtesy)

Liverpool Riverside
Current MP: Louise Ellman, active backbencher and chair of Transport Committee.
Held seat since: 1997.
Problem: Ellman has faced serious abuse from members of her local party, in part because of her activism as vice-chair of Labour Friends of Israel, but also because of her opposition to Corbyn.

Liverpool Wavertree
Current MP: Luciana Berger, former director of Labour Friends of Israel.
Held seat since: 2010.
Problem: She is opposed to Corbyn. Liverpool has just elected a strong Corbyn ally as its city mayor. Berger was the focus of sustained anti-Semitic online attacks for which two separate people were jailed. Corbyn appointed her Shadow Minister of Mental Health last year, but she resigned from the Shadow Cabinet in June 2016.

UK Labour MP Luciana Berger has been the target of strident anti-Semitic abuse on social media. (Emma Baum)

Leeds North West
Current MP: Liberal Democrat Greg Mulholland.
Challenged by: Jewish Labour Movement’s Alex Sobel, once northern organizer for former Labour leader Ed Miliband.
Problem: In the current climate, Sobel, who has challenged Mulholland before in 2015, is unlikely to win.

Livingston, Scotland
Current MP: Scottish Nationalist Party’s Hannah Bardell.
Challenged by: Jewish Labour Movement’s youngest candidate, Rhea Wolfson.
Problem: It is an uphill battle for the 26-year-old Wolfson — a former Jewish youth worker — because there is currently only one Labour MP in Scotland. Except for one Independent and one Conservative MP, all the rest represent the Scottish National Party. Wolfson is associated with Momentum, the far-left group which supports Corbyn.

Rhea Wolfson, standing for Labour in Livingston, Scotland. (Courtesy)

Faversham, Mid-Kent
Current MP: Conservative Helen Whately.
Challenged by: Jewish Labour Movement’s Michael Desmond.
Problem: Desmond is a Labour councilor, but this is the heartland of Conservative politics and Whately is likely to retain the seat comfortably.

Fabian Hamilton. (Courtesy)

Leeds North-East
Current MP: Labour’s Fabian Hamilton
Held seat since: 1997
Hamilton is Jewish, and, to his surprise, was made Shadow Minister for Peace and Disarmament by Corbyn in October 2016. He has held his seat for 20 years and is likely to win again. Hamilton receives strong support from Jewish voters in the neighborhoods of Alwoodly, Moortown and Roundhay.

Walsall North
Current MP: David Winnick.
At 83, Winnick is the oldest Jewish politician, and has held his seat for 38 years. He’s a tough critic of both Israel and the Palestinians, and is also the politician who asked the Home Affairs Select Committee to conduct last year’s inquiry into anti-Semitism.
Problem: His age may count against him, as well as the Corbyn effect.

British Jewish Labour MP Ruth Smeeth walks out of the launch of the party's anti-Semitism report in London on June 30, 2016, after a Jeremy Corbyn supporter accuses her of controlling the media (screen capture: YouTube)

Stoke on Trent North
Current MP: Ruth Smeeth.
Another former Jewish community staffer, Smeeth was director of public affairs at Bicom, the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre. Smeeth, who won her seat in 2015, has also been the target of prolonged social media anti-Semitism. She left last year’s public launch of Shami Chakrabarti’s anti-Semitism inquiry in tears, after being verbally abused in front of both Chakrabarti and Jeremy Corbyn himself.
Problem: She’s no Corbynista, but may suffer because of her opposition to Brexit — Stoke voted overwhelmingly to leave Europe.

Former Labour party leader Ed Miliband (C) and his wife Justine Thornton arrive at Labour party headquarters in London on May 8, 2015, the day after a general election. (AFP Photo/Justin Tallis)

Doncaster North
Current MP: former Labour leader Ed Miliband, who has held the seat since 2005.
Problem: Miliband has an 11,000 vote majority in a natural Labour seat, but voters are angry with him for resigning so fast after the last election and making way for Corbyn.

Barking
Current MP: Dame Margaret Hodge.
The Egyptian-born Hodge has held her seat since 1994 and has seen off challenges from the extreme right British National Party, with the help of Jewish community, and UKIP, a right-wing anti-immigration party.

Last June she and another Labour MP asked for a vote of no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn, which, though overwhelmingly backed, had no formal force.
Problem: Barking is another pro-Brexit constituency while Hodge is a fierce supporter of Britain staying in Europe.

Labour MP, Dame Margaret Hodge. (Flickr/The Institute for Government)

Jews responsible for all of world’s ills, says Al-Aqsa preacher

A Muslim cleric has told worshipers at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque that Jews are responsible for all of the world’s ills and that Muslims will defeat the US.

Jews are “the masters of the world and its corrupters… They are behind all the strife in the world… They cause all the killing, the slaughter, and the destruction everywhere,” he said in his address.

Sheikh Muhammad ‘Ayed, also known as Abu Abdallah, read from “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” a forged text produced in Russia at the end of the 19th century, which purports to outline Jewish plans to take over the world. It has been used by anti-Semites throughout the 20th and 21st centuries as justification for their views.

Sheikh Muhammad went on to say that the caliphate — a possible reference to the Islamic State group — would “clip America’s nails and then move on to chopping off its hands… and then we will chop off its feet and drive it out of our countries,” according to the Middle East Media Research Institute’s TV monitoring project.

“After it can no longer remain here, we will march upon it,” he added.

Palestinian men seen leaving the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem on May 29, 2017, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. (AFP Photo/Ahmad Gharabli)

The sheikh, who preaches at what is Islam’s third holiest shrine, regularly makes extremist remarks against Jews and the West.

In September, he called on Muslim migrants to Europe to produce children in order to conquer the continent “in the name of the coming caliphate.”

Top PA official: Of course Jews must be sovereign at Western Wall

A top Palestinian official said Saturday that the Palestinians recognize the Western Wall as a Jewish holy site that must remain under Jewish sovereignty.

The comments from Fatah Central Committee member Jibril Rajoub constitute a departure from the formal Palestinian position that brands all of Jerusalem’s Old City as occupied territory which must become part of a Palestinian state, and run counter to the Palestinians’ long-running campaign to deny a Jewish historical connection to Jerusalem.

Speaking to Israel’s Channel 2 TV, Rajoub, who is also head of the Palestinian Football Association, was praising US President Donald Trump’s efforts to reach a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians and commenting on his visit last month to Israel and the West Bank.

“He went to the Western Wall, which we understand is a holy place to the Jews. In the end, it must remain under Jewish sovereignty. We have no argument about that. This is a Jewish holy place,” said Rajoub, who is sometimes touted as a successor to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Palestinian Football Association head Jibril Rajoub holds a press conference on October 12, 2016, in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (Abbas Momani/AFP)

Rajoub’s remarks differ sharply from Abbas’s comments after Trump visited the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City less than two weeks ago.

At a joint press conference with Trump in Bethlehem, Abbas referred to “your historic visit to holy sites in occupied East Jerusalem.”

US President Donald Trump visits the Western Wall, Monday, May 22, 2017, in Jerusalem. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

At the same time, Rajoub insisted that the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism, which today houses the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, be given to the Palestinians in any future peace deal.

“The Temple Mount is ours, it’s not yours, you need to stop talking about it,” Rajoub said, speaking in Hebrew. “The status quo since 1967, which was set by Moshe Dayan, I think we both need to aim for that,” he said.

The current Israeli government is unlikely to agree to such a division of sovereignty, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently saying that the Temple Mount would remain under Israeli sovereignty for eternity.

Israel captured East Jerusalem — including the Temple Mount — during the June 1967 war.

Then-defense minister Dayan agreed that the day-to-day running of the Temple Mount compound would remain in the hands of Jordanian-run Islamic Waqf (Muslim trust). Under that arrangement, which still holds, Jews can visit the site, but not pray there.

US President Donald Trump (L) and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas leave following a joint press conference at the presidential palace in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on May 23, 2017. (AFP/ MANDEL NGAN)

Despite the passage of five decades, the international community does not recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, saying the issue must be resolved in peace talks with Palestinians.

In the Saturday interview, Rajoub repeatedly praised Trump and his willingness to reach a deal, saying that the US president is unlike any of his predecessors in his grasp of what it takes to end the conflict. “He’s completely different to the others.”

The US has been pressuring both the Israeli and the Palestinians to make concessions in order to get long-dormant peace talks back on track.

In order not to derail those efforts, Trump backtracked on his election promise to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, signing a waiver earlier this week that delays the move by at least six months.

Announcing the decision, the White House insisted it did not represent a weakening of his support for Israel.

“President Trump made this decision to maximize the chances of successfully negotiating a deal between Israel and the Palestinians, fulfilling his solemn obligation to defend America’s national security interests. But, as he has repeatedly stated his intention to move the embassy, the question is not if that move happens, but only when.”

Rajoub also appealed to the Israeli public, saying this was a historic opportunity and they should not doubt the commitment of the Palestinians and Abbas to reach a peace deal.

Abbas “is the godfather of the Palestinian national movement,” Rajoub said. “He is the only one with the vision and the balls to reach a deal.”

“You have a partner on the Palestinian side for a historic compromise between two peoples… Two states for two peoples,” he said, addressing another key Israeli complaint, that the Palestinians refuse to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. The Palestinian Authority has often said that the Palestinians have recognized Israel, but not as a Jewish state because that would prejudice the rights of Arab Israelis.

He said most Palestinians “certainly” believe in the two-state solution, and charged that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “doesn’t want a partner.”

“We have to do it today, not tomorrow.” Rajoub said. “I say to the Israelis, let’s do business, let’s flip the cassette, let’s pave the way forward… We recognize your right to your state, to build it and live in it in peace and in security, but in the 1967 borders,” he said.

Alan Dershowitz (Kike) Says Jews Shouldn’t Apologize for Their Power

http://www.renegadetribune.com/alan-dershowitz-says-jews-shouldnt-apologize-power/

 

Alan Dershowitz, a prominent lawyer, jurist, and author in the US, explains at a conference of the Jewish-Zionist organization StandWithUs why Jews should not apologize for being so rich, controlling the media or influencing public debate. Alan also has not apologized for being closely connected to child sex slaver Jeffrey Epstein, who is also a fellow tribesman.

Ireland jails IS-praising man who threatened to behead Jews

A Dutch national living in Ireland was sentenced to five years in jail after threatening his two French housemates, praising the Islamic State and saying he would behead Jews.

Shmael Heirouche, 40, was sentenced Wednesday in Cork Circuit Criminal Court after pleading guilty to a charge of threatening to kill or cause serious harm, the Irish Independent reported.

Heirouche, who is of Moroccan ancestry, was diagnosed as schizophrenic in Holland. However, Judge Sean O’Donnabhain called his threats a serious matter and noted that society had a right to be protected. Heirouche has refused to accept psychiatric support services, according to the report.

Heirouche praised Islamic State terror attacks in France to his French housemates saying that they gave him “great joy,” and said that those who carried out the attacks would “get a first class ticket” to paradise, according to the report. At the time of his arrest he told officers that of he had a sword he would cut off the heads of Jews.

The housemates also told the court that Heirouche described them as Zionists and said that all Zionists should “have their throats cut.”

Rivlin: Under peace deal, Jews will continue to live in Hebron

President Reuven Rivlin on Thursday declared that Jews will always live in the West Bank city of Hebron, including under any future peace deal with the Palestinians.

“I do not know if there will ever be a political agreement, and if there will be, what its nature will be,” the president told the crowd of over a thousand people in the city. “It is clear that in any agreement Jews and Arabs will continue to live here, and so all of us must care for the prosperity and flourishing of Hebron and Kiryat Arba.”

Rivlin was in the ancient city to mark the 50th jubilee of Israel’s capture of the West Bank from Jordan during the 1967 Six Day War, the subsequent establishment of the Kiryat Arba settlement and the return of a Jewish community to Hebron.

The president said the West Bank city, where a small enclave of Israeli settlers live in the midst of tens of thousands of Palestinians, should serve as an example of how the two sides can live together.

“Hebron is not an obstacle to peace, Hebron is a test of our abilities to live together, side by side,” Rivlin said, while urging the government to improve the quality of life of all of the city’s residents.

Palestinians throw stones at Israeli troops during clashes in the West Bank city of Hebron, on April 27, 2017. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

Hebron is home to some 200,000 Palestinians and fewer than 1,000 Israeli settlers, who live under heavy military protection. The city, religiously significant to both Jews and Muslims, has long been a hothouse of Israeli-Palestinian violence. Many of the Palestinian terrorists involved in the wave of terror attacks against Israelis over the past year and a half have come from Hebron or the surrounding area.

Palestinians want the West Bank and East Jerusalem as territory for a future Palestinian state and demand a full Israeli withdrawal from those areas.

Rivlin’s comments came days after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that under any future peace agreement Israel will continue to maintain a military presence in the West Bank, an arrangement flatly rejected by the Palestinians.

Hebron is the only West Bank city divided into areas of Israeli control (20%) and Palestinian control (80%). Other Palestinian West Bank cities are fully controlled by the Palestinian Authority, although Israeli retains overall authority in the West Bank.

Settlers first tried to recreate a Jewish presence in Hebron in 1968, but were moved to an area just outside, where they created the settlement of Kiryat Arba. Former prime minister Menachem Begin allowed Jews to move into Hebron itself in 1979. The previous Jewish community, which had been living in the city for centuries, was evacuated after a massacre in 1929 when local Arabs rioted and killed 69 Jews. Although some later returned, the last Jews left in 1947 shortly before the establishment of the State of Israel.