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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EDITORIAL: Where Are The Calls for Tolerance?




This summer has seen some horrible attacks on Jews in Moscow. In May, two synagogues were targeted in separate bombings; no one was injured. In mid-July, the head of a Moscow Jewish community center was stabbed by a young man with a swastika painted on his chest.


Perhaps most horrible was a powerful bomb planted at a synagogue near Pushkin Square at the end of July. The bomb was timed to go off during a children's religious ceremony attended by 200 people; it was only found in time by sheer chance.


Hate crimes occur all around the world. Witness this week's shootings in Los Angeles, where a man sent what he called "a wake-up call to America to kill Jews" by shooting and wounding five people, including a 5-year-old boy. But even so, it is fair to devote particular concern to hate crimes in a country as economically and politically troubled - and with as distressing a historical penchant for race-based hate - as Russia. The last thing Russia needs is another major socio-political problem in the form of a wave of anti-Semitism.


What Russia does need is tolerance. And this is where recent discussions of anti-Semitism in Russia have been so dissatisfying.


Jewish groups should be linking up with the Caucasians - Russia's other great victims of hate. They should be joining lobbies to pressure the Russian government, the media and society to do what it can to end racism of all types.


Surely that is the lesson of the famous quote by the German Protestant minister Martin Neimoller:


"In [Nazi] Germany, they came first for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up because I was Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up."


In Russia, they came for the Caucasians long ago, and no one spoke up.


Nor has that changed. Jewish groups today are still too focused on winning assurances from each new prime minister that Jews in Moscow will be protected.


Such assurances are given with an ease that reflects their meaninglessness. What's more, they come courtesy of officials who loathe well-intentioned environmentalists like Alexander Nikitin, and who encourage the scapegoating of Caucasians.


This is the cycle of hate those worried about anti-Semitism should be talking about.