Russian Court Rules Against Pamyat, Saying Its Paper Libeled an Israeli

In a landmark decision, a Russian court has ruled that a newspaper published by the anti-Semitic group Pamyat libeled Professor Herman Branover of Israel.

The Dzherzinski District Court in Moscow ruled that the newspaper, Nash Sovremenyik (“Our Contemporaries”), must publicly apologize to Branover, a former Soviet citizen, and retract false statements it made against him.

The court also awarded damages to Branover, yet to be determined, said Dr. Marvin Aschendorf, executive director of American Friends of SHAMIR, the Association of Jewish Professionals from the Soviet Union in Israel, which Branover founded.

Branover, a prominent physicist and scholar, had asked for 100,000 rubles, or about $1,000.

Branover never appeared at the court proceedings, which took place over the course of 10 months. He was represented free of charge by a Moscow Jewish lawyer, Henry Reznik. A SHAMIR representative often attended as Branover’s envoy.

The charges were filed against the Russian paper after it published an article falsely quoting Branover’s autobiography as saying that among the accomplishments of early communism was the killing of many non-Jews.

It also quoted Branover as having written that in Israel, a national hero is one who kills the greatest number of non-Jews.

The newspaper has a circulation of 500,000 and is the largest of all Pamyat-supported publications, Branover said.

His autobiography, “The Return,” is about the former atheist’s embrace of his Jewish identity, Orthodox Judaism and ultimately, his aliyah.

SOVIET JEWRY GROUP GRATIFIED

The prominent physicist, who was thrown out of the Soviet Union in 1972 for asking to leave for Israel, expressed gratification at the ruling.

Branover acknowledged he had been reluctant to initiate the proceedings. He credited Jews in Russia with pushing him to take on Pamyat.

“I got a number of letters from Jews in Moscow, and they urged me to do it, because they believed it was very important for their sake. And I gave in,” said Branover, who was in New York for a two-day visit this week.

Branover’s victory over the virulently anti-Semitic Pamyat drew warm praise from the National Conference on Soviet Jewry.

Shoshana Cardin, chairman of the conference, said, “We are gratified by the decision in the Branover case, as it indicates that the rule of law is at work in Russia. We also are pleased that the decision may affect the activities of Pamyat.”

Branover, who helps emigres from the former Soviet Union find professionally meaningful work in Israel, has been invited by the highest levels of the Russian government to develop technological and economic exchange programs with Russia.

He is the first Israeli to be named an exofficio member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, as well as its Latvian counterpart.

And he has been invited by the Russian Academy of Sciences to edit a five-volume encyclopedia about the Jews of Russia from the Middle Ages to the present. The academy recently opened an office in Israel expressly for this purpose.

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