Russia Has Stopped Pretending to Be Israel’s Friend

Oct. 10 2018

Since 2015, when Russia first acknowledged its military presence in Syria, the conventional wisdom has been that relations between Jerusalem and Moscow have remained good: numerous meetings have taken place between Benjamin Netanyahu and Vladimir Putin, and Russia has continued to tolerate Israeli airstrikes in Syria. Some have even spoken of a “bromance” between the two leaders, as a result of which the Kremlin could now be counted on to restrain its ally Iran. Yet Moscow’s reaction to the recent Syrian downing of a Russian plane, and its decision to provide Damascus with the advanced S-300 anti-aircraft missiles, suggest a less sanguine conclusion. Indeed, writes Yigal Carmon, they merely reveal what was true all along: Russia is no friend of the Jewish state.

One year ago, Russia’s mask of non-hostility toward Israel was still in place, in the form of strategic coordination with Israel regarding the latter’s bombings in Syria. This allowed Russia to conceal that it fully sided with Israel’s enemies: Syria and Iran. Even as it refrained from trying to stop Israel from bombing Iranian targets in Syria, Putin’s Russia was simultaneously enabling and sponsoring Iran’s expansion into Syria. . . .

[In fact], strategic Israel-Russia coordination of Israeli bombings in Syria served Russian interests, [since] an Israel-Russia military escalation could only draw the United States into the melee and thus expose Russia as a mere regional power that was no match for the U.S. . . .

Now the picture is crystal-clear: the Russians, who originally enabled and sponsored the Iranian expansion in Syria as an anti-American measure, now also protect the Iranians in Syria from Israeli attacks. This constitutes an undeclared act of war against Israel by an enemy, i.e., Russia—since it will not be the Syrians operating the S-300s against Israeli aircraft, because [Syrian personnel] face a long learning curve [before mastering them]; it will, for an indeterminate time, be Russian officers. . . .

Russia’s true face has been revealed not only in the military/strategic sphere—by providing S-300s to Syria—but also by its reversion to the old Russian/Soviet anti-Semitism that not even President Putin’s “special relationship” with Chabad can camouflage. The former Israeli ambassador to Russia Zvi Magen noted [that] “the media blamed Israel on the day of crisis [over the Syrian downing of the Russian plane] in a well-timed orchestrated manner, filled with anti-Semitic elements. This wasn’t random.”

Given Russia’s actual policy toward Israel, this should come as no surprise.

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More about: Anti-Semitism, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Russia, Syrian civil war


For Israelis, Anti-Zionism Kills

Dec. 14 2018

This week alone, anti-Zionists have killed multiple Israelis in a series of attacks; these follow the revelations that Hizballah succeeded in digging multiple attack tunnels from Lebanon into northern Israel. Simultaneously, some recent news stories in the U.S. have occasioned pious reminders that anti-Zionism should not be conflated with anti-Semitism. Bret Stephens notes that it is anti-Zionists, not defenders of Israel, who do the most to blur that distinction:

Israelis experience anti-Zionism in a different way from, say, readers of the New York Review of Books: not as a bold sally in the world of ideas, but as a looming menace to their earthly existence, held at bay only through force of arms. . . . Anti-Zionism might have been a respectable point of view before 1948, when the question of Israel’s existence was in the future and up for debate. Today, anti-Zionism is a call for the elimination of a state—details to follow regarding the fate befalling those who currently live in it. . . .

Anti-Zionism is ideologically unique in insisting that one state, and one state only, doesn’t just have to change. It has to go. By a coincidence that its adherents insist is entirely innocent, this happens to be the Jewish state, making anti-Zionists either the most disingenuous of ideologues or the most obtuse. When then-CNN contributor Marc Lamont Hill called last month for a “free Palestine from the river to the sea” and later claimed to be ignorant of what the slogan really meant, it was hard to tell in which category he fell.

Does this make someone with Hill’s views an anti-Semite? It’s like asking whether a person who believes in [the principle of] separate-but-equal must necessarily be a racist. In theory, no. In reality, another story. The typical aim of the anti-Semite is legal or social discrimination against some set of Jews. The explicit aim of the anti-Zionist is political or physical dispossession.

What’s worse: to be denied membership in a country club because you’re Jewish, or driven from your ancestral homeland and sovereign state for the same reason? If anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are meaningfully distinct (I think they are not), the human consequences of the latter are direr.

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More about: Anti-Semitism, Anti-Zionism, Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Palestinian terror