March 12, 2014

JTA: "Putin's Jewish embrace: Is it love or politics?"

Last week, I argued that there were long-term trends pushing Russia and Israel closer together. From the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, (the 97 year old international Jewish news agency):
Putin’s Jewish embrace: Is it love or politics? 
By Cnaan Liphshiz and Talia Lavin    March 11, 2014 5:32pm

(JTA) — When even Russian policemen had to pass security checks to enter the Sochi Winter Olympics, Rabbi Berel Lazar was waved in without ever showing his ID. 
Lazar, a Chabad-affiliated chief rabbi of Russia, was invited to the opening ceremony of the games last month by President Vladimir Putin’s office. But since the event was on Shabbat, Lazar initially declined the invitation, explaining he was prevented from carrying documents, among other religious restrictions.
So Putin ordered his staff to prepare an alternative entrance and security-free route just for the rabbi, according to one of Lazar’s top associates, Rabbi Boruch Gorin. 
“It is unusual, but the security detail acted like kosher supervisors so Rabbi Lazar could attend,” Gorin said. 
To him, the Sochi anecdote illustrates Putin’s positive attitude toward Russian Jewry — an attitude Gorin says is sincere, unprecedented in Russian history and hugely beneficial for Jewish life in the country. 
Others, however, see more cynical motives behind Putin’s embrace of Russian Jewry. 
“Putin has been facing international criticism for a long time now over human rights issues,” said Roman Bronfman, a former Israeli Knesset member who was born in the Soviet Union. “He needs a shield, and that’s the Jews. His warm relations with Russia’s so-called official Jews are instrumental.” 
In recent weeks, Putin has positioned himself as a defender of Jews as part of his effort to discredit the revolution that ousted his ally, former Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych. During a March 4 news conference, Putin called the anti-Yanukovych protesters “reactionary, nationalist and anti-Semitic forces.” 
While right-wing Ukrainian factions — including some that have embraced anti-Semitic rhetoric in the past — played a prominent role in the opposition movement, Ukrainian Jewish leaders have sharply disputed Putin’s characterization and condemned Russian incursions into Crimea. Some individual Jews, however, have told JTA that they agree with Putin’s analysis and welcomed the intervention by Russia. 
Few would dispute that Putin has been friendly to Jewish institutional life in Russia — especially to organizations and leaders that belong to the Chabad Hasidic movement. 
Gorin, a Chabad rabbi and chairman of Moscow’s $50 million Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center, credits Putin personally for providing state funding for the institution, which opened in 2012. Putin also donated a month’s wages to the museum.

Well, I'm sure that was quite a sacrifice for Putin since his official salary is no doubt his only source of income.
... Putin’s relationship with the Jewish community is consistent with his larger strategy for governing Russia. His brand of Russian nationalism extends beyond just ethnic Russians to include the country’s many minorities. Putin has carefully cultivated relationships with Russia’s many subgroups and regions as a means of projecting his government’s authority.

In other words, Putin's Russia is far less a Russian ethno-state than a multiculturalist empire.
Mikhail Chlenov, secretary general of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, says Putin’s pro-Jewish tendencies are part of the reason that anti-Semitic incidents are relatively rare in Russia. In 2013, the Russian Jewish Congress documented only 10 anti-Jewish attacks and acts of vandalism, compared to dozens in France. 
Under Putin, harsh laws have led to a crackdown on ultranationalist groups that once had flourished in Russia. At the same time, anti-extremism legislation has been used as well to prosecute political protesters, including the punk rock collective Pussy Riot. 

I suspect from Putin's point of view, he's just being politically correct and trying to advance tolerance among the diverse elements of his country. He's not going to let Russian nationalist soccer hooligans insult Chechens like his close personal friend Ramzan Kadyrov, and he's not going to let Pussy Riot invade an Orthodox cathedral and insult the faithful, just as he'd arrest anti-Semites for doing the same thing in a synagogue. Putin's just promoting tolerance by cracking down on extremist provocateurs. But, the old KGB man just doesn't get just how Leninist the West has gotten in its Who-Whom thinking.
Some Russian Jews recoil at Putin’s authoritarian tendencies. Freedom of expression has been severely restricted and politically motivated prosecutions remain widespread under Putin, according to Amnesty International’s 2013 report on Russia. 
“Putin may be good for Jews, but he’s bad for Russia,” said Michael Edelstein, a lecturer at Moscow State University and a journalist for the L’chaim Jewish newspaper. 
Putin traces his earliest connection to Judaism back to his early childhood in Leningrad, now St. Petersburg, when he befriended a Jewish family that lived in his apartment block. In his 2000 autobiography, Putin wrote that the unnamed family loved him and that he used to seek its company. 
... Another influential Jewish figure for Putin was his wrestling coach, Anatoly Rakhlin, who sparked the young Putin’s interest in sports and got him off the rough streets of Leningrad, where Putin would get into fights while his parents worked. At Rakhlin’s funeral last year, Putin, reportedly overcome by emotion, ditched his security detail and went on a short, solitary walk. 
Bronfman calls Putin’s childhood accounts “a smokescreen” and likens them to the Russian leader’s friendly gestures toward Israel, which he last visited in 2012.
Putin, who already led Russia to sign a visa waiver program with Israel in 2008, said during his visit to Israel that he “would not let a million Russians live under threat,” referring sympathetically to the regional dangers facing Israel and its Russian-speaking immigrant population.

Now, that's interesting. A general theme of Russian history for several hundred years has been Russia seeing itself as a "protector" of populations in foreign countries with some sort of connection to Russia: e.g., Orthodox Christians in the Ottoman Empire at the time of the Crimean War, Slavs in Serbia in 1914, and now Russians (defined vaguely) in Crimea and perhaps other parts of Ukraine. (By the way, how did the Crimean War and the Great War work out for Russia?) Hence, this same vague logic could at some point be extended to Moscow becoming an ally of Israel in the name of helping protect all the Russians in Israel.
But at the same time Russia has criticized European sanctions on Iran, a major Russian trading partner, and negotiated the sale of the advanced S-300 air defense system to Syria. 
“It’s all pragmatic with Putin,” Bronfman said. “He says he regards the million Russian speakers living in Israel as a bridge connecting Russia to Israel, but when it comes to Russian interests in Syria or Iran, this friendship counts for very little.” 
... Shortly after taking office, the Putin government clashed with several prominent Jewish business moguls, including Vladimir Gusinsky and Boris Berezovsky, both of whom went into self-imposed exile. 
“When he went after these oligarchs, Putin sensed that this could be interpreted as anti-Semitism,” Gitelman said. “He immediately, publicly, demonstratively and dramatically embraced Chabad.” 
     

39 comments:

Anonymous said...

Seems like another case of damned if you do and damned if you don't.

Anonymous said...

"and he's not going to let Pussy Riot invade an Orthodox cathedral and insult the faithful, just as he'd arrest anti-Semites for doing the same thing in a synagogue. Putin's just promoting tolerance by cracking down on extremist provocateurs. But, the old KGB man just doesn't get just how Leninist the West has gotten in its Who-Whom thinking."

Perhaps Putin needs to engage in some artful manipulation. Ignore Pussy Riot when it indulges in anti-Orthodox agitprop while simultaneously maneuvering them (via agents provacateur) to do the same sort of stuff in front of mosques. That way, he can declare them Islamophobic.

Anonymous said...

RE: Putin and the Jews,

Seems as though he's trying to follow what Steve has described as the Rupert Murdoch strategy. Find some Jews who are congenial to your way of thinking, and cultivate an alliance with them.

Putin's problem, though, seems to lie in the fact that his Jews are not clubbable; they just don't seem like the sort of Jews who get invited to Davos or receive Rhodes Scholarships.

Anonymous said...

In other words, Putin's Russia is far less a Russian ethno-state than a multiculturalist empire.

In other other words, Putin is what Steve calls a citizenist. Should he be, does he have much of a choice in such a diverse country - those are interesting questions.

IHTG said...

Roman Bronfman was the token leftist in the Russian immigrant "Yisrael BaAliyah" party that was in the Israeli parliament in the 1990s. They were absorbed into the Likud over a decade ago, and he went off on his own into the political wilderness.

Nobody in Israel really cares about this guy AFAIK.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous:"In other other words, Putin is what Steve calls a citizenist."

Don't confuse terms. Citizenism is not the same as a multicultural empire. Citizenism essentially structures itself around the last great epoch of American life, 1924-1965, when the goal was to produce an American people, not a boarding house full of hyphenates. Multicultural Empires, in contrast, are conglomerations of distinct ethnies, ruled over by a more or less authoritarian leader.

Of course, the current leadership in America seems to want us to reject citizenism in favor of being a multicultural empire....

Anonymous said...

"Russian ethno-state" My understanding is Russian is a language and a nationality, Slavic is the dominant ethnicity in Russia.

Search on [Chabad cult].

10 incidents in Russia vs "dozens" (24?) in France seems to mean both countries have only a tiny number of incidents. I think in the statistical sense they are the same.

Anonymous said...

“Putin may be good for Jews, but he’s bad for Russia,” said Michael Edelstein, a lecturer at Moscow State University and a journalist for the L’chaim Jewish newspaper.

So, good for Russia, bad for Jews, in other words.

Baloo said...

"helping protect all the Russians in Israel"
Well. there goes my good night's sleep.

Anonymous said...

Hey Steve, do you know who is the current Head of Russia's Foreign Intelligence?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fradkov

"Mikhail Yefimovich Fradkov (Russian: Михаи́л Ефи́мович Фрадко́в; born 1 September 1950) is a Russian politician and statesman who was the Prime Minister of Russia from March 2004 to September 2007. Fradkov has been the head of Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service since 2007."

"Fradkov was born near the city now known as Samara, to a family of Jewish origin on his father's side.[1] He studied at both the Moscow Machine Tool Design (станкоинструментальный) Institute (graduated 1972) and the Foreign Trade Academy (graduated 1981). In 1973, he was posted to the economic section of the Soviet Union's embassy in India, where he remained for two years. He later held several positions back in Russia. In 1991, he was Russia's representative to General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in Geneva."

Anonymous said...

Hey Steve, do you know who is the current Head of Russia's Foreign Intelligence?

However, on the right hand side of his wiki page, it lists his religion as 'Russian Orthodox'.

Whiskey said...

Putin is now saying the dissolution of the Soviet Union was illegal, thus Ukriane, and also the Baltics have no soveriegnty. See also Eastern Europe. Weakness has consequence and eithe Eastern Europe nukes up FAST or gets eaten.

Re Putins multiculturalism, better low level anti semitism with nationalism that is robust and has civic culture than a multicult empire Putin is trying to restore.

Because multicult empires don't survive good czars very long, eventually you get bad ones. And bad ones create rivers of blood. Good fences make good neighbors. Robert Frost is not great for love poems but is good for nations where unitary is better than a multi cult empire.

Anonymous said...

"the old KGB man just doesn't get just how Leninist the West has gotten in its Who-Whom thinking."

The KGB wasn't Leninist. The Cheka was. By the time that organization was renamed into the KGB there was nothing Leninist left in it. Post-WWII USSR was the opposite of pre-WWII USSR in most things.

sunbeam said...

From the linked article:

“It’s all pragmatic with Putin,” Bronfman said. “He says he regards the million Russian speakers living in Israel as a bridge connecting Russia to Israel, but when it comes to Russian interests in Syria or Iran, this friendship counts for very little.”

I read all kinds of stuff. Sometimes it makes sense, sometimes it doesn't.

What exactly does Israel want as regards Syria, and as regards Iran?

Can someone explain it to me? I don't mind Realpolitik and coldblooded pragmatism, but I really don't get what they are hoping to accomplish.

I also want whoever may respond, to explain to me exactly how Iran and Israel would have a conflict. I just don't get it, mechanically I mean. How would it work? Where would they fight?

Why do they give a flipping rip about one another? I understand the religious angle, but it is hard to imagine Iran getting hopped up about a bunch of Arabs getting pushed around by Israel.

And as for Israel... drawing a blank on why they care so much about Iran. If there is ever a new Caliphate or whatever, I am reasonably certain it won't be headquartered in Tehran.

Dunno maybe they are channeling racial memories about the Parthians or something.

Steve Sailer said...

"Putin's problem, though, seems to lie in the fact that his Jews are not clubbable; they just don't seem like the sort of Jews who get invited to Davos or receive Rhodes Scholarships."

Right, Putin has reached out to the really Jewish Jews.

Anonymous said...

Steve said: "In other words, Putin's Russia is far less a Russian ethno-state than a multiculturalist empire."

B-i-n-g-o.

Look, I want to believe the guy is a closet Russians-first nationalist just as much as many of you guys, but the facts just aren't there. At. All. In fact, statements and policies from both Putin and Medvedev, especially in recent years, indicate they are even *worse* than our elites on many multicultural/immigration issues. They want a sort of amnesty in Russia for their illegal aliens; easy access to visas for students (echoes of H-1bs/visa-to-citizenship in the US); "hate speech" is against the law (which makes Russia even worse than the US, and really, many European countries in this regard); they have banned nationalist parties (seems to me you only do that if you find them threatening to your power and agenda - otherwise you ally with them!); and while left-wingers like P***y Riot and anti-fas were recently freed, nationalist "extremists" still languish in prison. Putin has indeed, on multiple occasions, stressed the multicultural roots of Russia, and declaimed the idea that there is, in so many words, such a thing as a true, pure Russian ethnicity. All these things do not a Russian nationalist make.

That doesn't get into the corruption and other problems. I wish it was otherwise, but for me, Putin is just good for sticking a thumb in the eye of a decadent and arrogant Western world. He's no savior and is in fact, not a very nice guy, or someone conservatives should admire.

Putin is about... Putinism: a kind of post-Soviet, still-multicultural autocracy. He is not the faithful, selfless servant of ethnic Russians. As much as he wants a stronger Russia, it is only to serve those Putinist ends; if ethnic Russians get a benefit, that's great, but hardly essential, and if ethnic Russians are hurt in the process, that's OK too.

Anonymous said...

Wow, really surprised that some here haven't yet attempted to make an argument that this would demonstrate that perhaps Putin has some Jewish heritage somewhere in his ancestry.

David in particular tried to make a claim that surnames are a dead giveaway. Putin, I don't know and cant exactly tell. Maybe, but perhaps not.

Certainly David and others here could make a more persuasive argument that Putin is in fact Jewish by ancestry far more convincingly than they ever did when taking up NFLer Richard Sherman's case. Sherman, isn't Jewish.

But Putin?

Interesting.

Anonymous said...

"At the same time, anti-extremism legislation has been used as well to prosecute political protesters, including the punk rock collective Pussy Riot."

Ha. 'Punk rock collective'! That's funnier than Pussy Riot.

Gilbert P.

Anonymous said...

"In other words, Putin's Russia is far less a Russian ethno-state than a multiculturalist empire."

Perhaps he has fallen for US "diversity is our strength" propaganda, seeing it as the means to eventually regain Russia's position as a world power.

Anonymous said...

@sunbeam

"What exactly does Israel want as regards Syria, and as regards Iran?"

Zero **possible** threat - not just won't but can't.

.

"Dunno maybe they are channeling racial memories about the Parthians or something"

google purim

.

"I want to believe the guy is a closet Russians-first nationalist...but for me, Putin is just good for sticking a thumb in the eye of a decadent and arrogant Western world."

Quite - which is enough.

Big Bill said...

This could get very, very interesting.

Israel seculars are now choking on the ultra-Orthodox population, who want nothing more than to get their social subsidies and be left alone. No draft, no "bringing them into the 21st Century", no government feminism or government school curriculum.

The only problem is that there are so many of them and they are increasingly calling the political shots in Israel. Secular shrimp-eating Israeli Jews are freaked out.

All the ultra-Orthdox want is to pay off the Prince and have him leave them alone ... and that is the one thing that Secular Israeli Jews cannot do, given their shrinking (relative) numbers.

So what happens when Putin befriends the Orthodox, exempts them from the Russian draft and clucks when their cousins in Israel are mistreated by secular Israeli Jews?

Putin, the champion of multiculturalism, tolerance, and the free exercise of religion. Putin lecturing Likud on its mistreatment of Jews in Israel.

My goodness gracious! Won't that be a twist! And what can secular Jews call Putin for defending the ultra-Orthodox from the shrimp-eaters? Anti-semite? Ha!

If I am right, this guy Putin is a politician genius.

Big Bill said...

Obama is such a political chump. He could have worked the religious wedge issue like Putin is doing now.

Obama could have invited Neturei Karta to the White House for photo ops and asked their opinion on whether the US should support the Israeli government. (Answer: "No!")

Maybe sit NK down at a White House dinner right next to Abe Foxman and watch the sparks fly.

When the ultra-Orthodox started rioting about being drafted in Israel, Obama could have said that "respect for conscientious objectors is a hallmark of a civilized society" or some such drivel. Make Netanyahu squirm and back off a bit.

But Obama is such a tool. He has no political imagination. Putin, on the other hand ... .

Anonymous said...

http://nplusonemag.com/boris-berezovsky-1946-2013

IHTG said...

Big Bill: Actually, Chabad are the one Ultra-Orthodox group that DOES support military service.

Try harder.

Anonymous said...

Russia has always been "multi-confessional". Putin is a realist. He knows that Russia cannot "get rid" of its Muslims and so it needs a sensible policy of keeping them in check. And he won't persecute Jews since there are so few left and he jailed the troublesome ones. Smart guy.

neil craig said...

Being nice to Jews makes sense. Jerry Pournelle recently said Putin's aim is to preserve Russia by finding Russians to populate it (I suggested it would be easier to give lots of state funding for babies).

However if you can't find Russians the next best thing is a minority whose loyalty does not lie with somebody outside the country (ie no Moslems). Jews work - they may be enthusiastic about Israel but that is a small country and Putin can live with it - indeed if Israel fails Russia could provide homes for millions of Israelis with ease.

It may be a bonus that they are not going to be in any way loyal to Islam.

A Russia in which 15% of the population were Jewish would still be Russian in a way which 15% Islamic or even Catholic wouldn't.

And of course, Jews are smart, and if American politicians aren't allowed to notice that Putin probably is.

Anonymous said...

"10 anti-Semitic incidents in Russia compared to dozens in France.."

I would bet my bottom dollar all of those incidents in France were from its huge muslim/Arab/African population and not from the native French.

Yet Jews universally welcome, and have largely engineered non-white immigration to the west with open arms.....

Anonymous said...

A Russia in which 15% of the population were Jewish would still be Russian in a way which 15% Islamic or even Catholic wouldn't.

Right. Jews are just 2 percent of America, but did the heavy lifting on demographic change which all of us on this blog agree is the number one problem we face. I can't imagine what they could do with 15%. I am sure it would be a nightmare.

IHTG said...

I can't imagine what they could do with 15%. I am sure it would be a nightmare.

Well now, that depends on your opinion of 19th century Poland.

Anonymous said...

Well now, that depends on your opinion of 19th century Poland.

Please elaborate. I am not going to pretend to know the ins and outs of Polish history.

Anonymous said...

A Russia in which 15% of the population were Jewish would still be Russian in a way which 15% Islamic or even Catholic wouldn't.

And what percent of the Japanese population is Jewish, Islamic, or Catholic?

Hunsdon said...

neil craig said: However if you can't find Russians the next best thing is a minority whose loyalty does not lie with somebody outside the country (ie no Moslems). Jews work - they may be enthusiastic about Israel but that is a small country and Putin can live with it - indeed if Israel fails Russia could provide homes for millions of Israelis with ease.

Hunsdon said: You honestly believe that Russian Jews feel no loyalty to Israel, or that if so, it can be hand-waved away?

Hunsdon said...

IHTG said: Well now, that depends on your opinion of 19th century Poland.

Hunsdon said: Occupied by Prussia, Austria-Hungary, or Russia? I'd rather pass.

Anonymous said...

"Putin's problem, though, seems to lie in the fact that his Jews are not clubbable; they just don't seem like the sort of Jews who get invited to Davos or receive Rhodes Scholarships."

"Right, Putin has reached out to the really Jewish Jews."

Maybe reaching out to such Jews makes the powerful secular Jews hate Putin even more.

Suppose the Chinese reached out to hardline peckerwood Scotch-Irish rednecks in the Souuuuth with the idea of winning over American whites. But lib wasp whites might actually take offense at that as they look down on redneck power and seek to check and suppress it.

With the Chinese giving recognition to the 'trash' white rightists despised by lib wasp whites(who have the real power), the latter may come to hate the Chinese even more for empowering the 'white trash' Creationist elements.

So, supporting right-wing Jews is a double-edged sword. While ALL Jews may take notice of the friendly gesture to Jews, it favors the family rivals of the lib secular Jews.

Suppose a family has a strong familial bond, but nevertheless, there's a lot of tensions between the brothers.

Suppose you try to win goodwill from the family by favoring one of the brothers. While the family might appreciate it, the brother that was not approached will feel angry.

Anonymous said...

"However if you can't find Russians the next best thing is a minority whose loyalty does not lie with somebody outside the country"

One of the many, many ways this is a very bad idea relates to the "Farewell to Alms" model.

If your population have a market dominant minority then they can't evolve.

If you have a homogenous population in a sealed ecosystem then the 10% smartest will fill the key economic niches. It doesn't matter what the average IQ of the population is the *top* 10% will fill that niche and thus - assuming reproductive advantage - over time the average IQ of that population will go up.

If that niche is filled by outsiders - even if they're smarter and currently better at performing that niche's function - then that evolutionary process can't happen.

This is the Booker T Washington argument but it applies equally in Malaya or Russia.

neil craig said...

No, I honestly believe Russian Jews are proud of Israel & want it to do well (thus Putin is making nice to Israel) but that their prime loyalty is to the Rodina & that anyway Israel is no threat to Russia so the 2 don't conflict (pretty much the same as US Jews)

Anonymous said...

"Wow, really surprised that some here haven't yet attempted to make an argument that this would demonstrate that perhaps Putin has some Jewish heritage somewhere in his ancestry."

Interestingly enough, there has been a long-standing rumor that Putin's ancestors came from Northern Italy. The reason seems to be that Putin is coincidentally a somewhat common surname in the Venice region. The rumor had enough legs that several major news outlets reported it around 2001. The Russians themselves claimed to have long-since debunked that rumor. Now, I've always though Putin was more Western-European in appearance than his predecessors, lacking the more "Classic Russian" look of Yeltsin or Brezhnev.

Anonymous said...

"Putin's problem, though, seems to lie in the fact that his Jews are not clubbable."

Ah, but they the kind of Jews who actually have a future.

Anonymous said...

"Interestingly enough, there has been a long-standing rumor that Putin's ancestors came from Northern Italy."

Yup, Putin's looks just scream Italian.

If Italians were called Ghenghis.