Russian Jewish leaders slam official report on anti-Semitism

MOSCOW, April 18 (JTA) — Russian Jewish leaders are criticizing a Justice Ministry report that absolves the Communist Party from responsibility for anti-Semitic remarks made late last year by some of its legislators. The report, issued last week, concluded that those remarks were isolated episodes. Two months ago, the Justice Ministry announced it would investigate the party following virulent anti-Semitic remarks by some of its prominent party members, including legislators Albert Makashov and Viktor Ilyukhin. In addition to being prompted by anti-Semitism, which led some lawmakers to call for the party to be banned, the investigation was launched after Communist leaders made several statements insulting Russian President Boris Yeltsin. The Justice Ministry is in charge of registering political groups and monitoring their activities. In its report, the ministry labeled as “impermissible” the anti-Semitic statements by Makashov and Ilyukhin. Yet the party as a whole is not accountable for these statements, the report said, because these could not be considered objectives of the Communist Party or reflecting its policies. Referring to the fact that the report ignored comments made in an article by Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov in which he lashed out at Zionists and alleged that they are behind a plot to dominate the world and harm Russian interests, Moscow’s chief rabbi, Pinchas Goldschmidt, said the “Justice Ministry is basically taking the old Soviet stand” on Jews and Zionism. In the Soviet era, state-sponsored propaganda often used “Zionists” as a code word for Jews. Goldschmidt promised that the Russian Jewish community would respond to the report.

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