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Russians See an Israeli Parallel After Terror Bombings Strike Moscow

July 8, 2003
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The first-ever suicide bombings to rock Moscow are causing Russians to draw parallels between themselves and Israelis.

“To Live Like in Jerusalem” read a large-print headline above the huge terrifying front-page photo of dead bodies taken at the site of the Moscow tragedy and published on Monday in Gazeta, a Moscow daily newspaper.

The event that prompted the comparisons occurred Saturday, when two young women wearing explosive belts packed with scraps of metal blew themselves up outside a Moscow rock festival.

The blasts killed 13 victims and injured more than 60.

No one claimed responsibility for the attack, but Russian authorities immediately blamed the double suicide bombing on Muslim separatists from Chechnya.

Another Moscow daily newspaper, Vremya Novosti, ran an article by its Israeli correspondent describing personal safety tips that have become common in the Jewish state and that may now become relevant to Russia.

Many Russians, Jewish or not, strongly believe in Israel’s image of a strong state leading an uncompromising war against terror.

Russian liberals have long criticized President Vladimir Putin’s hard-line policy on Chechnya.

Yet an increasing number of Russians believe that a tough Kremlin policy toward the Muslim separatists in Chechnya is justified now that suicide bombings have come to Moscow.

Some point to Israeli policy toward Palestinian terror as an example.

“The government should start doing serious things, and not play games with terrorists,” said Leva, leader of Bi-2, a Russian pop group that played at the festival, held on a Russian airfield.

In 1991, he and another future bandleader emigrated to Israel, where Leva lived for seven years and completed a three-year term in the Israeli army.

“We lived in Israel for a long time,” Leva said in an interview after the concert, “and we understand that these people,” referring to terrorists, “should be destroyed, not talked to.”

Not everyone agrees that the Israeli parallel works.

“Russia cannot be compared with Israel where terrorist attacks occur more often. Yet certain aspects” of Israel’s “fight with terrorism may and should be adopted,” Adolph Shayevich, one of Russia’s two chief rabbis, was quoted as saying in an interview.

The Novye Izvestia daily wrote this week that Israel has a “smaller territory, more money and craftier special services” than Russia.

Some say the major difference in matters of terrorism between Russia and Israel lies in public reaction to such tragedies in the two countries.

Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and Russia’s interior minister, Boris Gryzlov, made their first statements on Saturday speaking over the uncovered bodies of the victims lying under the hot July sun, an act that surprised some people.

“This is something I wouldn’t expect to happen in Israel,” said Georgi Kapler, a middle-aged Jewish Muscovite who was browsing through the Judaica section at a Moscow bookstore when the television first aired the footage of the two officials on Saturday afternoon. “Perhaps people here are less sensitive to the tragedies like this one, or are simply at a loss when such things happen.”

Some criticized the city authorities for not canceling the concert after the blasts.

The authorities said they wanted to avoid a stampede by the 40,000 spectators.

The show went on for six more hours after the attacks, and some of the spectators said afterward they knew what had happened nearby but didn’t want to cut their fun short.

Meanwhile, one Russian Jewish group said it was considering allocating some of its charity funds to help victims of the Moscow blasts.

Valery Engel, executive director of the World Congress of Russian Jewry, told JTA that his organization’s charity arm will discuss this week whether they should launch a new campaign to benefit those who were injured in Moscow or earmark some of the funds raised to help Israeli victims of terror for that purpose.

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