Skip To Content

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
Breaking News

Israel Envoy Blames Russia For Blocking International Anti-Semitism Definition

(JTA) — Israel’s ambassador in Moscow criticized Russia for blocking the international adoption of a definition of anti-Semitism, which he linked to a recent string of allegedly racist statements about Jews by Russian politicians.

Gary Koren’s unusual statement on anti-Semitism in Russia was in an interview for Interfax, the news agency reported Wednesday, in which he singled out Russia for blocking the definition’s adoption by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe – an intergovernmental group of 57 member states.

“The OSCE has attempted to determine a text, which ought to define what can be classified as anti-Semitism and what its working definition is. We are discussing this issue with the Russian Foreign Ministry and hope that Russia will adopt this definition in the future,” Koren said.

Israeli ambassadors to Russia rarely comment on issues that do not involve Israel and bilateral relations directly.

His statement came as confirmation to reports, including by the president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Jonathan Arkush, that Russia was the only country blocking the adoption of the definition, which is controversial because it lists some forms of hate speech on Israel as an example of anti-Semitism.

“All the other countries accepted the definition but Russia,” Arkush revealed during an address on Feb. 4 at the Limmud FSU Europe conference on Jewish learning in London. “I expect we will see some diplomatic action on Israel’s part in the near future on this issue,” Arkush added.

In the Interfax interview, Koren added an apparent reference to a recent spate of incidents involving Russian politicians who used what critics regard as anti-Semitic hate speech.

Russia’s endorsement of the definition “will be clarified for people who try to justify themselves by saying that their statements allegedly hold no insult to the Jews,” Koren said.

This week, a lawmaker in the state parliament of St. Petersburg, Vitaly Milonov, said that Christians survived despite how ancestors of Boris Lazarevich Vishnevsky and Maxim Lvovich Reznik, two Jewish Russian lawmakers serving in the same parliament, “boiled us in cauldrons and fed us to animals.”

The previous month, Peter Tolstoy, a lawmaker in the federal parliament, appeared to blame Jews for anti-religious persecution under communism. He referred to the descendants of people who in 1917 “jumped out of the Pale of Settlement” – the area beyond which Jews were not allowed to live in Czarist Russia — to try to “topple our churches.”

Both men denied their statements, which Russian Jews strongly condemned, were anti-Semitic.

The definition that reportedly is being blocked by Russia resembles the one recently adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance – an intergovernmental agency of 31 Western nations.

That definition was adopted by the Alliance and by the British government last year after the European Union’s agency for fighting racism removed from its website a similar text that it called its “working definition” of anti-Semitism amid protests by pro-Palestinian groups against the reference to Israel.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.