The Death of Boris Nemtsov and the Future of Jews in Russia

March 9 2015

Boris Nemtsov, the recently murdered Russian opposition politician, was born to a Jewish mother; although he converted to Russian Orthodoxy after the fall of the Soviet Union, he occasionally expressed pride in his Jewish origins. Pinchas Goldschmidt, chief rabbi of Moscow, reflects on what his death signifies for Russian Jewry:

Nemtsov and many other Russian politicians of Jewish descent, whether part of the opposition or supporters of Putin, are more reluctant today than ever before to express their Jewishness openly, trying to hide their Jewish descent behind the façade of a religious conversion, not unlike the Jews in 19th-century Germany, and not unlike Heinrich Heine, the famous German Jewish writer who considered his conversion to Christianity as the entrance ticket to European culture.

With each passing day, the Orthodox church is becoming more visible and present in the Russian state and government, not unlike pre-revolutionary times, where the state and the church were one.

This state of affairs has also had many ramifications on different levels. Practicing Jews in higher government positions are afraid to hold public life-cycle events, and Jews in higher government positions are being approached by representatives of the church with soft-sell advice to convert to the state church. Jews who converted do not necessarily find the pastures greener on the other side of the fence, and there is no guarantee that they will not be considered Jews by anti-Semites.

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More about: Anti-Semitism, Orthodox Christianity, Politics & Current Affairs, Russia, Russian Jewry

 

The Struggle for Iraq, and What It Means for Israel

Oct. 17 2018

Almost immediately after the 2003 invasion, Iraq became a battleground between the U.S. and Iran, as the latter sent troops, money, and arms to foment and support an insurgency. The war on Islamic State, along with the Obama administration’s effort to align itself with the Islamic Republic, led to a temporary truce, but also gave Tehran-backed militias a great deal of power. Iran has also established a major conduit of supplies through Iraq to support its efforts in Syria. Meanwhile, it is hard to say if the recent elections have brought a government to Baghdad that will be pro-American or pro-Iranian. Eldad Shavit and Raz Zimmt comment how these developments might affect Israel:

Although statements by the U.S. administration have addressed Iran’s overall activity in the region, they appear to emphasize the potential for confrontation in Iraq. First and foremost, this [emphasis] stems from the U.S. perception of this arena as posing the greatest danger, in light of the extensive presence of U.S. military and civilian personnel operating throughout the country, and in light of past experience, which saw many American soldiers attacked by Shiite militias under Iranian supervision. The American media have reported that U.S. intelligence possesses information indicating that the Shiite militias and other elements under Iranian auspices intend to carry out attacks against American targets and interests. . . .

In light of Iran’s intensifying confrontation with the United States and its mounting economic crisis, Tehran finds it essential to maintain its influence in Iraq, particularly in the event of a future clash with the United States. The Iranian leadership has striven to send a message of deterrence to the United States regarding the implications of a military clash. . . .

A recently published report also indicates that Iran transferred ballistic missiles to the Shiite militias it supports in Iraq. Although Iran has denied this report, it might indeed attempt to transfer advanced military equipment to the Shiite militias in order to improve their capabilities in the event of a military confrontation between Iran and the United States and/or Israel, or a confrontation between [the militias] and the central government in Baghdad.

From Israel’s perspective, after years when the Iraqi arena received little attention from Israeli decision makers, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman have mentioned the possibility of Israel’s taking action against Iranian targets in Iraq. In this context, and particularly in light of the possibility that Iraq could become an arena of greater conflict between the United States and Iran, it is critical that there be full coordination between Israel and the United States. This is of particular importance due to [the American estimation of] stability in Iraq as a major element of the the campaign against Islamic State, which, though declared a success, is not yet complete.

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More about: Barack Obama, Iran, Iraq, ISIS, Israel & Zionism, U.S. Foreign policy