Russian Chief Rabbi: “Common ground” with Far-Right Politicians

Back in 1998, far-right Russian politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky caused bemusement with a visit to a concert at a synagogue which had been bombed. The JTA reported at the time:

After the concert, the leader of the ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party got up on stage, said he was outraged by the synagogue bombing and added that he would support any anti-vandalism bill brought before Russia’s Parliament.

Zhirinovsky, who heads the third largest faction in the Duma, the parliament’s lower house, also spoke positively about the Jewish contribution to Russian culture, economy and politics.

…Berel Lazar, the rabbi of the bombed Marina Roscha synagogue, said he was bewildered by Zhirinovsky.

As well he might be:

At a news conference in Moscow [the prior April], Zhirinovsky blamed Jews for starting World War II, provoking the Holocaust, sparking the 1917 Bolshevik revolution — and destroying the country ever since.

However, this was just the unlikely beginning of their even more unlikely relationship. In 2001, Zhirinovsky actually admitted to being himself partly Jewish, but added:

“Why should I reject Russian blood, Russian culture, Russian land, and fall in love with the Jewish people only because of that single drop of blood that my father left in my mother’s body?” he writes.

At that time, Lazar commented that:

…it has become fashionable for people who formerly hid their Jewish roots to advertise them publicly.

“Thousands and thousands of people who knew they were Jewish and were hiding it…are opening up their closets,” he told the Associated Press news agency.

But now the rapprochement between Lazar and Zhirinovsky has become even greater (square brackets in original):

Russian Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar met this week with Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Dmitri Rogozin, the heads of two Russian nationalist parties that disseminate anti-Semitic propaganda.

…Following the meeting, a statement on the official Web site of the Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS, which Lazar heads, declared: “There is common ground. Both sides [the Jews and the nationalist anti-Semites – Y.M.] adopt patriotic positions.”

…A spokesman for Lazar, who was in New York on Wednesday, said: “The Foreign Ministry forgets that the rabbi is committed to the well-being of Jews in Russia. The meetings were public and demonstrate the status of the Jews to all the supporters of these parties; moreover, the two leaders with whom he met undertook not to persist with their [anti-Semitic] declarations.”

Responding to criticism from Israel, a spokesman for the Federation said that:

“…Lazar knows what is beneficial and how to take care of Russia’s Jewish community better than any Foreign Ministry official.”

Dmitri Rogozin’s Rodina (“Motherland”) bloc is also virulently anti-Semitic: its members have called for Judaism to be banned and blamed Israel for the recent bombings in Jordan. Russian prosecutors are also currently investigating a TV advert the bloc recently ran which inferred that dark-skinned immigrants were “trash” that needed to be “cleaned up”.

(Tipped from Failed Messiah)