Australian Jews Protest Planned Zhirinovsky Visit

Leaders of Jewish organizations here are protesting a visit planned for next month by Russian ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, but they concede there is little they can do to prevent it.

“The man is a self-confessed racist and anti-Semite. He should stay out of Australia,” Mark Leibler, the president of the Australian Zionist Federation, told a local radio interviewer.

“I don’t think he should be granted a visa to enter this country,” Leibler said.

Despite the protests of Leibler and other Jewish leaders here, government sources have confirmed there are no apparent legal grounds to deny Zhirinovsky entry to Australia.

Diane Shteinman, who is active with the Australian Campaign for Soviet Jewry, said she did not think the government had “really legitimate reasons” to deny Zhirinovsky a visa.

But she expressed hope that Australia would accurately regard him as “a destabilizing influence” and be “extremely vigilant” overseeing his activities.

Zhirinovsky’s anti-Jewish statements have drawn wide notice in the media, along with recollections that this son of a Jewish father once received an invitation, which he sought, to make aliyah, and that he was active in a KGB-backed Jewish cultural organization in the 1980s.

Australian representatives of Zhirinovsky’s far right-wing Liberal Democratic Party have said he is planning to visit Australia next month. The purpose of his visit, they say, is to visit a niece and conduct “business.”

Natalia Soklova, Zhirinovsky’s niece, lives in the Sydney suburb of Redfern, which is home to a large proportion of Jewish emigres from the former Soviet Union.

Preparations for Zhirinovsky’s planned visit are being handled by Noel Hughes, who has said he is in business with Soklova.

COULD BE DEPORTED IF HE INCITES VIOLENCE

Hughes said he is interested in establishing trade deals with Russia which Zhirinovsky might be able to facilitate.

Zhirinovsky startled the world with his strong showing in Russia’s parliamentary elections, held Dec. 12. Zhirinovsky, who is widely seen as fascist, anti-Semitic, xenophobic and militantly ultranationalist, won 24 percent of the vote.

As of Dec. 24, Zhirinovsky had not applied for a visa to enter Australia, but a spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs in Canberra, the capital, confirmed that there are no legal obstacles to his planned visit.

If he does make the trip, however, Zhirinovsky will be bound to respect Australian law while in the country. As a result, he could be deported if he becomes involved in activities inciting violence during his stay.

Last week, Zhirinovsky caused a major stir when he met with two right-wing hosts in Europe.

On Dec. 21, he met in Munich with Gerhard Frey, the head of the German People’s Union, a prominent right-wing group whose newspaper has questioned the existence of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz.

The following day, Zhirinovsky traveled to the Austrian Alps, where he was hosted at a ski resort by Edwin Neuwirth, an Austrian who is a veteran of the Nazi-era Waffen SS. The two held a news conference in which Neuwirth also voiced doubts about the existence of gas chambers.

Germans of all stripes raised an uproar and called for a ban on Zhirinovsky entering Germany again.

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