Russian Lawmakers Targets Jewish Groups
MOSCOW (AP) - A group of nationalist Russian lawmakers called Monday for a sweeping investigation aimed at outlawing all Jewish organizations and punishing officials who support them, accusing Jews of fomenting ethnic hatred and saying they provoke anti-Semitism.
In a letter dated Jan. 13, about 20 members of the lower house of parliament, the State Duma, asked Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov to investigate their claims and to launch proceedings 'on the prohibition in our country of all religious and ethnic Jewish organizations as extremist.'
The letter, faxed in part to The Associated Press by the office of lawmaker Alexander Krutov, said, 'The negative assessments by Russian patriots of the qualities and actions against non-Jews that are typical of Jews correspond to the truth ... The statements and publications against Jews that have incriminated patriots are self-defense, which is not always stylistically correct but is justified in essence.'
The stunning call to ban all Jewish groups raised concerns of persistent anti-Semitism in Russia.
Jewish leaders have praised President Vladimir Putin's government for encouraging religious tolerance, but rights groups accuse the authorities of failing to prosecute the perpetrators of anti-Semitic and racial violence.
Russia's chief rabbi, Berel Lazar, said lawmakers were looking for support 'by playing the anti-Semitic card.'
The prosecutor general's office could not immediately be reached for comment on the letter, which the Interfax news agency said was signed by lawmakers from the nationalist Rodina and Liberal Democratic parties as well as the Communist Party.
Krutov, a Rodina member, is deputy chief of the Duma's Committee on Information Policy.
With Putin planning to join events this week commemorating the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp by Soviet troops, Russia's Holocaust Foundation head Alla Gerber said it was "horrible that as we're marking the 60th anniversary of this tragic and great day ... we can speak of the danger of fascism in the countries that defeated fascism."
While the Russian state itself is no longer anti-Semitic, there are "anti-Semitic campaigns that are led by all sorts of organizations," she said.
"The economic situation is ripe for this. An enemy is needed, and the enemy is well-known, traditional," Gerber said.
Echoing anti-Semitic tracts of the Czarist era, the letter's authors accuse Jews of working against the interests of the countries where they live and of monopolizing power worldwide. They say the United States "has become an instrument for achieving the global aims of Judaism."
"It is possible to say that the entire democratic world today is under the monetary and political control of international Judaism, which high-profile bankers are openly proud of," the letter says.
Along with outlawing Jewish organizations, the lawmakers call for the prosecution of "individuals responsible for providing these groups with state and municipal property, privileges and state financing."
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