Putin: Jews Fleeing Western Europe Should Move to Russia
Russian president’s informal suggestion met with some hostility and derision by Jews, though Moshe Kantor of the European Jewish Congress, with whom Putin was meeting, laughed and then praised Putin for “fighting those who target Jews.”
VLADIMIR PUTIN said Tuesday that Jews who flee Western Europe due to “anti-Semitic violence” should move to Russia.
In an apparently unplanned and off-the-cuff interruption of a Jewish speaker at a meeting, Putin said with a smile: “Let them come to us. In the Soviet Union they used to go away, now let them come back.”
Putin then made a “come here” gesture with his forefinger and, in an uncharacteristically gentle manner, instructed the Jewish delegation and the Jews of Europe, saying: “Here, to us. They should come to us.”
“That is a fundamentally new idea,” said a surprised Kantor, who reportedly showed signs of experiencing visible difficulties in containing his laughter. All six fellow Jewish delegates sitting around Kantor likewise giggled.
“I have seen those reports of the situation in European countries and of people even attempting to hide their nationality,” said Putin. “People are even afraid of wearing their Kippah in public.”
The Russian President added that the situation of Russian Jews was currently the best of any place in Europe.
This would be far from the first time that Putin has made such comments at a Jewish gathering. In July of 2014 he thanked a gathering of prominent Israeli and European rabbis for what he categorized as their “help in Russia’s fight against the revival of Nazism.” In fact, Putin’s magnanimous offer was the latest gambit in the contentious leveraging of the issue of anti-Semitism in the continuing Russian-Ukrainian conflict.
Putin made the remarks after he heard that Western Europe faces a “very real prospect of an exodus of Jews,” according to the European Jewish Congress (EJC).
EJC president Moshe Kantor issued the warning during a meeting between the Russian president and Jewish delegates from seven European Union member states, the EJC said in a statement. “While Jews were once again a prominent target for global terror during 2015, the attacks in Paris, the US, and elsewhere, and the mass murder of Russians on an airline in the Sinai, show that the terrorists target us all,” Kantor said during the meeting, which was also attended by EJC delegates from France, Britain, Spain, Austria, Belgium, Switzerland, and Latvia.
“There is a very real prospect of an exodus of Jews from certain parts” of the continent, where Jews are feeling less safe than a decade ago, Kantor told Putin.
The Jewish leader was born in what is today Russia, and has business enterprises there.
Kantor said that “pragmatic nations” must unite “in defeating global terror, which is being led by the so-called Islamic State.”
He noted that the delegation was pleased by the statistical decrease of anti-Semitism in Russia.
“We commend the Russian authorities in the fight against those who target Jews,” he said.
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