It’s obvious that there is a strong Jewish influence in the West opposed to Russia, particularly noticeable among the Israel Lobby and the neocons — Victoria Nuland‘s family ties and her role in the Ukrainian revolution come to mind.
There are many reasons for this, certainly including Russia’s alliance with Iran and Syria at a time when Israel and the Israel Lobby are doing all they can to promote war with both. Quite simply, Jewish hostility stems from the fact that Russia under Vladimir Putin has proved to be far more nationalistic than is good for the Jews or for Israel.
An article in The Jerusalem Post, excerpted below, notes the very prominent role of Jews within Russia in opposing Putin — Putin refers to the opposition as a “fifth column” in Russia. But, in addition to foreign policy differences, there are also overtones of festering resentment about the role of Jewish oligarchs under Yeltsin in looting the country. Nemtsov, as noted in the article, was second in command to Yeltsin.
The article again raises basic issues about Jewish loyalties in the Diaspora. As in the period from 1880 to 1917 (here, pp 66-67), there is a common stance among the organized Jewish community in the Diaspora against Russia, now tinged with Jewish loyalties to Israel at a time when war with Iran has assumed center stage for the Israel Lobby. As in the 1880-1917 period, this has resulted in Diaspora Jewish communities favoring foreign policies that are not necessarily aligned with the interests of the countries they live in but are aligned with international Jewish interests.
From The Jerusalem Post (“Nemtsov murder reminds Russian Jews of lingering anti-Semitism”
A Jewish scholar of education from St. Petersburg, Zicer, 55, has limited hope for change in a country that is ranked 148th in the Press Freedom Index and where several of Putin’s critics have either died under mysterious circumstances or been jailed for what they and many Western observers say are trumped-up corruption charges.
On Sunday, however, Zicer marched through St. Petersburg with 10,000 people, many of them Jewish, in protest of the murder in central Moscow of Boris Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister. Nemtsov, an opposition leader, was gunned down on Saturday just hours after he urged fellow citizens to attend a rally against Russia’s involvement in the war in Ukraine. …
“This murder and the incitement that preceded it is so shocking that I could no longer remain an observer,” Zicer said.
Whether or not the Kremlin ordered the killing, as some have accused, Zicer holds the Russian president responsible because of the “the wild incitement he allowed on media in recent months against Nemtsov and other opposition figures.”
Kremlin spokesmen have denied any involvement in the slaying.
To many Russian Jews, the murder of Nemtsov — a physicist turned liberal politician, born to a Jewish mother but baptized in the Orthodox Church — is a troubling reminder of vulnerability as members of a relatively affluent minority with a history of being scapegoated, strong ties to the West and a deep attachment to cosmopolitan values and human rights.
As in the U.S. and throughout the West, Jews in Russia adopt views that benefit Jews in the Diaspora, advocating “cosmopolitan values and human rights” while also strongly supporting Israel with its strong ethnonationalist values and systematic oppression and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. Jews correctly see the West as representing cosmopolitan values opposed to the identification of nation with the ethnic or nationalist interests of its traditional peoples, and, as noted here repeatedly and as the main message of The Culture of Critique, the creation of the West as cosmopolitan has been a Jewish project throughout the 20th century, coming to fruition in the 1960s and accelerating in the ensuing decades.
The murder hit Russia’s sizable Jewish intelligentsia particularly hard because “nearly all the leaders of the liberal opposition are either fully Jewish or have Jewish background,” said Michael Edelstein, a lecturer at Moscow State University and a writer for the Jewish monthly magazine L’chaim. “His murder is the low point in a process that started about two years ago which has left the Jewish intelligentsia and its milieu feeling more uneasy than ever before in post-communist Russia.” …
In an interview conducted with Newsweek hours before his death, Nemtsov said that because of Putin’s policy, Russia’s economy is collapsing.
Russia’s support for separatists in Ukraine was “wading into a costly, fratricidal war in Ukraine and into pointless confrontation with the West,” Nemtsov told the magazine.
“We all feel the effects of this insane policy,” Nemtsov said, adding that Putin’s use of media reminded him of the Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels.
Putin responded to such criticisms by referring to opponents of Russia’s actions in Ukraine — and especially the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula — as a fifth column. And though Putin did not name Nemtsov, the president was widely thought to be referring to him, the liberal camp’s most senior politician. Russian media considered to have close Kremlin ties published Nemtsov’s name on lists of suspected traitors that started circulating shortly after those included on the lists expressed their opposition to Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014.
Labeling the liberal opposition as a fifth column is tantamount to questioning their loyalty to Russian national interests in retaining close economic and cultural ties with neighboring countries (see John Mearsheimer’s “Why the Ukraine crisis is the West’s fault“). Again, given the divergence in the foreign policy concerns of Russia versus Israel and diaspora Jewish communities, there is more than a whiff here of the charge of disloyalty.
In a 2010 televised interview, Putin said that Nemtsov and other opposition figures stole billions from Russians and would “sell off the whole of Russia” if given the chance.
On the face of it, this would appear to be a reference to the notoriously corrupt, overwhelmingly Jewish oligarchs who ended up controlling the basic industries in Russia during the Yeltsin era. The statement alludes to their lack of feelings and concern for Russia; much of the wealth of the oligarchs ended up in the West in Swiss bank accounts, etc. It truly was a matter of looting Russia by people with no ethnic ties to the Russian people — a financial version of the aftermath of the Bolshevik Revolution.
“Nemtsov was on every list of traitors published on the Internet and aired on state TV,” the Russian-Jewish journalist Leonid Bershidsky wrote on Bloomberg View after the murder.
Bershidsky added, “It did not help that he was Jewish. There was a strong undercurrent of anti-Semitism in the smear campaign.”
However, some Russians doubt that Putin would go to the trouble of ordering the assassination of a high-profile figure who ultimately may be more trouble dead than alive. Nemtsov, after all, had failed to gain widespread popularity outside the urban elite and thus never constituted any real political threat to Putin.
Edelstein noted that “there may have been anti-Semitic incitement online and in far-right circles,” but “Nemtsov wasn’t perceived as a Jew and wasn’t attacked as such.”
The evidence in Nemtsov’s killing, Edelstein believes, “points to ultra-nationalists, perhaps militiamen who fought in Ukraine, perhaps only their sympathizers.”
Nemstov himself was open about being born to a Jewish mother and said he rarely felt any discrimination.
Nevertheless, this is a Jewish story and one with sobering implications for how one thinks about the liberal opposition movement in Russia and the demonization of Russia in Western media and political circles.