Robert Festenstein

The Old Story

It is a sad fact that people’s behaviour doesn’t change very much over time.  True, in the UK at least, criminals are no longer subject to violent punishments, but in many ways little has changed in the way people conduct themselves.

For centuries the Jews have been held responsible for pretty much everything, even before the accusation of the death of Christ.  In the UK Jews were subject to attack because it was believed they were responsible for the Black Death in the 14th Century.  In Tsarist Russia in the 19th Century Jews were blamed for the assassination of Tsar Alexander II in 1881and in 1903 the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion was published blaming the Jews for trying to achieve world domination.  Both events were responsible to a greater or lesser extent for pogroms taking place across Russia where Jews were present.

And now, 120 years after the publication of the Protocols, there is a new lie.  In the late nineteenth century Tsar Alexander III was openly hostile towards the Jews, so much so that millions of Jews left Russia to escape the murderous pogroms initiated by the Tsar.  Today’s hostility comes from the modern Tsar of Russia – President Putin.  Bizarrely he has claimed on Russian television that the West put “an ethnic Jew” into power in Ukraine to cover up the country’s “glorification of Nazism.”

The idea that the Jews or in this case, a particular Jew is part of a conspiracy is classic Protocols stuff.  The allegation about those responsible is vague – the West, but the physical manifestation of this alleged plot is identified clearly as a Jew.  My initial reaction was one of surprise since I had always considered that Putin had some respect for Jewish people as a result of his positive contact with Jews as a child.  His outburst shows that when it comes to lying to get his own way, blaming the Jews is a well-trod path.

The problem for us is that some people will believe him, both within Russia and without.  Perhaps now more than ever is the time for the likes of Roman Abramovich and Moshe Kantor (former president of the European Jewish Congress) to step forward and call this allegation from Putin for what it is: Jew baiting of the most basic kind.  I refer to these men because not only are they Russian but have influence both in Russia and the West.  Similarly Mikhail Fridman, an Israeli Russian who has already made contributions to Ukraine and clearly an individual with some influence who is well placed to call our Putin’s comments for what they are.

The idea that Jews might have something to do with Nazism used to be thought just ridiculous.  Unfortunately the claims based on Israel and Nazism have become commonplace despite the manifest dishonesty behind the claim.  What makes this worse is that Putin by blaming the Jews (or this particular Jew) for covering up Nazism in Ukraine, he is by extension blaming them for the war.  In other words Putin invaded Ukraine to assist those Russians under attack and that it was the Jew Zelensky who made that necessary.

It is time for all communal leaders around the world to condemn this libel including the oligarchs who still have influence which should be brought to bear immediately, before this falsehood takes hold.  This age old accusation of Jewish control needs to be pushed back now, and with determination.

About the Author
Robert Festenstein is a solicitor based in Manchester with considerable experience in Court actions. He is active in fighting the increase in anti-Semitism in the UK and is President of the Zionist Central Council, an organisation devoted to promoting and defending the democratic State of Israel.
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