WITHIN a week of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, Western governments froze the majority of Russia’s foreign assets, axed Russian banks from the SWIFT messaging network and imposed punitive sanctions. As quick was the seizing of assets belonging to Russian oligarchs, including Jews such as Roman Abramovich, a prolific funder of Jewish causes and charities.
Abramovich has given over half a billion dollars to the Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem, the Anti-Defamation League and the Jewish Agency. Other Jewish oligarchs, such as Mikhail Fridman and Moshe Kantor, are also major philanthropic supporters of their fellow Jews. US President Joe ‘Beijing’ Biden has, without much proof, accused all three of being too close to Putin.
This attack on Jewish oligarchs is spearheaded by the US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland. Invoking an anti-Semitic trope, Nuland warned Israel not to be a ‘last haven for dirty money’. Surely she cannot be unaware that Israel is home to thousands of Russian Jews.
Given the hostile attitude of the Biden administration towards Israel and Jews, one could be forgiven for thinking that this is the deliberate targeting of Russian Jews. Not only is Nuland is an enthusiastic punisher of Russian Jews but she has constantly shown a wilful lack of understanding of the violent onslaught that Israel faces from Islamist terrorists. Her colleague, the US ambassador to Israel, Thomas Nides, all but advocates the ethnic cleansing of Jews from Jerusalem. The Democratic Party has form when it comes to anti-Semitism.
Few are questioning why Russian Jews are being targeted by Biden, and why the Israeli government is so keen to kowtow to a White House administration steeped in anti-Semitism and bar Jews seeking sanctuary in the Jewish state. Abramovich flew to Israel on March 15 but was denied refuge there in a disturbing violation of the Law of Return, which states that all Jews should be allowed to enter Israel, with very few exceptions.
It’s not only Jewish oligarchs who have felt the bite of Nuland’s pernicious and obtuse sanctions, but also ordinary Russian Jews already living in Israel. They have been denied access to their funds in Russian banks, even though Israel hasn’t yet jumped on board the sanctions bus. How unconscionable that Jews should be punished like this by their own government on instructions from an anti-Semitic White House.
Seeking to flee a decaying Russia, thousands of Jews have applied to emigrate to Israel. Their plans are hampered by both Putin’s ban on Russian residents transferring foreign currency overseas and by the US-led sanctions. This echoes the disturbing history of anti-Semitism in Russia. Under the Soviets, Jews were viewed as enemies of the state, forbidden from practising their faith and thrown into the gulag. Jews wanting to flee oppression were not allowed to leave. Known as ‘refuseniks’, many were fired from their jobs if they applied to leave, and many were exiled to Siberia.
In their war against the US, the Soviets supported Palestinian terrorist organisations, financing missiles and rockets used to attack Israel.
Russia also is the birthplace of that Tsarist forgery, ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’, which was partly responsible for pogroms in the Pale of Settlement and the dissemination of contemporary anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.
Ukrainian Jews are suffering too. Jewish families have fled cities such as Kharkov, which is close to the Russian border and has been bombed by Putin’s troops. Thousands of Jews have been forced to hide in underground stations for days or seek refuge in synagogues which haven’t yet been bombed. The lucky ones are being rescued by Jewish organisations such as Chabad. Men between the ages of 18-60 are forbidden to leave Ukraine, which means Jewish families are leaving husbands, fathers and sons behind in this war zone.
This too has an ominous resonance with the history of the Jews in the area. My great-grandparents fled from pogroms in Ukraine in 1917 for the sanctuary of Britain. The country is also the site of the Babi Yar massacre in 1941. Over two days, Ukrainian prisoners served the Nazis as local police and helped round up 34,000 Jews, who were stripped and machine-gunned into a ravine near Kiev which served as a mass grave. During the Holocaust, Ukrainian nationalists enrolled in the Division Galicia, which targeted Jews for persecution. Their virulently anti-Semitic leader, Stepan Bandera, is still feted by some in Ukraine today. On President Volodymyr Zelensky’s watch, a rise of nationalism and anti-Russian sentiment in Ukraine has led to Bandera being resurrected as a patriotic hero.
There is something unedifying in watching Jews being chased from one country to another on the say-so of an anti-Semitic alliance. Neither Ukraine nor Russia is a friend of Israel, although Israel does have a slightly warmer relationship with the latter, a necessity given Putin’s meddling in Syria. Both countries have constantly voted against Israel at the UN, with Zelensky’s government supporting Islamist terrorists intent on killing Jews. In an astonishing display of hypocrisy, Putin and Zelensky have previously urged Israel’s ‘restraint’ when the Jewish state has been attacked with missiles and bombs launched by terrorists in Gaza, and criticised its supposed use of ‘disproportionate’ force in defending itself from terrorists.
How curious then that Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett allowed Zelensky to address the Knesset ten days ago. Proving that he is not the golden boy the Western establishment makes him out to be, Zelensky indulged in an alarming rant riddled with soft Holocaust denial. The only conclusion is that Bennett is desperately and naively trying to appease the Democrats by dancing to their tune, hoping that their resurrection of the insidious Iran deal won’t harm Israel. Even if it means punishing his fellow Jews. But capitulating to terror regimes never works.
Biden’s aggression towards Russia hasn’t stopped him from partnering with Putin to negotiate the Iran deal. His administration is so keen to clear the pathway to Iran’s nuclear enrichment that it’s considering permission for Russia to buy Iran’s excess enriched uranium.This will benefit both the nuclear ambitions of Putin and the mullahs of Tehran.
An unsettling thought is that the punitive and warmongering reaction to Russia by the Democrats and their Western allies is a means to force Putin to fall in line with Biden’s demands for the Iran deal.
The real threat to Jews is not Putin or the conflict in Ukraine, but the traitorous Biden administration and their cosying up to terror states like Iran. Bennett needs to wake up and stop waving the white flag. Israel must remain neutral and focus instead on the forgotten Jewish victims of this war between Russia and Ukraine, despite the ire this will invoke in the White House.