MOSCOW (Nov. 20)
Russian Jewish leaders have reacted sharply to comments by one of Russia’s top security officials that every Jew here has dual Russian-Israeli citizenship.
They voiced the criticisms after Boris Berezovsky, who was recently appointed deputy secretary of Russia’s National Security Council, said in an interview last week, “According to Israeli legislation, every Jew by birth, were he a half-Jew or a quarter [Jew], is an Israeli citizen.”
“There should be no illusions about that,” Berezovsky added. “Each Jew in Russia has dual citizenship.”
Berezovsky made the comment after two Moscow newspapers reported earlier this month that Berezovsky received Israeli citizenship during a visit three years ago to the Jewish state.
Berezovsky denied at the time that he had dual citizenship and said he would sue the newspapers for libel.
But he later admitted to reporters that he had indeed at one time possessed an Israeli passport, adding that he had requested that the passport be annulled after he became involved in Russian politics.
Israel’s ambassador in Moscow, Aliza Shenhar, confirmed Wednesday that Berezovsky no longer has Israeli citizenship.
Berezovsky’s latest remarks were attacked by several Russian Jewish leaders.
Tankred Golenpolsky, founder of Evreiskaya Gazeta, Russia’s largest Jewish newspaper, called the comments either a “provocation or nonsense.”
Berezovsky’s remarks raise the issue of Jewish loyalty to the Russian state, Golenpolsky said.
If every Jew here had dual Russian-Israeli citizenship, he said, it would be logical “to proclaim the entirety of Russian Jewry agents of foreign powers.”
Alexander Osovtsov, executive vice president of the Russian Jewish Congress, called the remark “extremely unpleasant” and added that Berezovsky “is obviously an inexperienced politician.”
Mikhail Chlenov, president of the Va’ad, the Jewish Confederation of Russia, said Berezovsky had made “a hasty statement that might lead to some unexpected consequences.”
A spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Moscow said that while Russian Jews could apply for Israeli citizenship under Israel’s Law of Return, some applications could be denied.
Israel’s law is quite different from what Berezovsky said in the interview, the spokesman said.
In a televised interview that was broadcast live after his earlier comments, Berezovsky stepped back from his earlier stance, saying, “Each Jew has the right to become an Israeli citizen.”