Thursday, July 07, 2005

Russian Jews blast Moscow over anti-Semitism 

Wed., July 06, 2005 Sivan 29, 5765
By The Associated Press

MOSCOW - Anti-Semitism and xenophobia are persistent in Russian society, the country's Jewish leaders said yesterday, criticizing law enforcement officials for not doing more to punish nationalist crimes.

Borukh Gorin, a spokesman for the Federation of Russia's Jewish Organizations, said an investigation by prosecutors into whether an ancient Jewish religious text was inciting religious hatred "was a sign of a serious illness of our society."

Last week, prosecutors dropped the inquiry into whether the Russian translation of a 19th century summary of Jewish religious laws called Kitsur Shulhan Arukh provoked religious hatred. The inquiry had been prompted by a complaint by two nationalist activists.

The issue of the translation arose in January, when 19 lawmakers signed a letter that accused Jews of fomenting ethnic hatred and anti-Semitism. They asked prosecutors to conduct an investigation aimed at outlawing Jewish organizations.

Prosecutors later investigated whether the letter itself incited ethnic hatred, but concluded it did not.

Gorin said xenophobia in Russia was directed not only against Jews, but also against non-Slavic people, especially those from Central Asian countries and other dark-skinned migrants, who face severe discrimination.

"This is not just a wave of anti-Semitism. There are very dangerous xenophobic tendencies in Russia," Gorin said. "National hatred is high in Russian society."

Many experts believe the rise in xenophobia has its roots in Russia's economic problems, which resulted in high unemployment, and the collapse of the Soviet Union, which sent large numbers of job-seeking migrants from poorer former Soviet republics to Russia.

Alexandr Boroda, chairman of Federation of Russia's Jewish Organizations, said law enforcement officials should do more to combat nationalist crimes.

"Until there is a clear-cut connection between action and punishment, and until others see what such actions can lead to, I am afraid we will be seeing similar phenomena," Boroda said.

Many rights groups accuse Russian leaders of remaining silent in the face of rising xenophobia and anti-Semitism, pointing to the occasional desecration of Jewish cemeteries and the growing frequency of skinhead attacks against dark-skinned foreigners.
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