Russian Soldier Photo: CEERI

Russia: between Israel e Palestine

The “piecemeal world war” evoked for years by Pope Francis is indeed turning into an increasingly global confrontation. Russia sees in this, the realisation of its “mission” to challenge the domination of the “collective” West. Solzhenitsyn’s words about the troubled relationship between Russians and Jews come to mind.

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Stefano Caprio

(ZENIT News – Mondo Russo (Asia News) / Milan, 10.16.2023).- Russia did not directly and unequivocally condemn the actions of Hamas terrorists, whose sudden attack on 7 October sparked the ongoing horrific conflict between Israel and Gaza, with thousands of deaths on both sides and massacres that put to shame even the horrors of Bucha and Mariupol.

Only two days after the start of the conflict did Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov make a statement, saying that “the Palestinian-Israeli armed confrontation must be absolutely stopped; the problem must be resolved with the civil authorities, who are also victims of the situation,” in particular, “focusing on the reasons for the conflict”, a hint at the need for a Palestinian state.

Out of the various statements heard at this confusing time, the most belligerent Russians exhibit a barely concealed glee that the world’s attention has shifted away from the war in Ukraine, forcing the West to make serious choices, putting support for Ukraine itself on the back burner.

Conspiracy theories aside that see Moscow’s hand behind the actions of Palestinian terrorists, the statement by the overexcited former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev applies to everyone: “So, NATO friends, you are done fiddling!”

It is not hard to understand how Russia is profiting from the multiplication of wars around the world – from those in which it is directly involved, in the Caucasus, to those in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa where the Russians are very active. While China’s invasion of Taiwan might be in the cards, it is almost surprising that conflicts in South America have not yet been reignited, like the never-ending dispute over the Amazon forests between Peru and Ecuador.

The “piecemeal world war” evoked for years by Pope Francis is indeed developing into an increasingly global clash, in which Russia sees the realisation of its “mission” to challenge the domination of the “collective” West.

State propaganda in Russia, by politicians and media agitators, reiterates that any conflict is helpful to Russia, sometimes without trying to hide it behind seemingly neutral statements.

Tigran Keosayan, a presenter on the NTV network, has said this repeatedly. On Russia-1, another mainstream TV windbag, Vladimir Solovyov, has explicitly accused the European Union and the United States of escalating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He also said: “I am Jewish, not Israeli; I do not support Israel”.

The editor-in-chief of Russia Today broadcaster, Margarita Simonyan, noted that “a country that does not make war on its neighbours, is making war on its neighbours; now we must expect the exodus of Russian pacifists from Israel … Actually, it would be better not to expect it; let us hope they go to countries that are even further away.”

The allusion is to the many Russians who fled to Israel criticising the war in Ukraine and who are now trying to return home, such as billionaire Mikhail Friedman of Alfa-Bank, who risks prosecution for high treason since he gave money to Ukrainians.

Even on the website of Russia’s Council for Foreign Policy and Defence, a comment appeared titled “Every war today is a favour to Russia”, arguing that wars are now the new normal, and that we must get used to it.

“Look, everyone is at war: Azerbaijan attacked Armenia and conquered Karabakh, Hamas lashed out at Israel, and Russian is settling the score in Ukraine.”

This “normalisation of war” is therefore not just a Russian mania, it is a worldwide phenomenon. “We have entered the era of instability and we must get used to it”, the site noted without raising an eyebrow.

Getting used to war also means realising that there will be no quick solutions to conflicts, that war will be with us for many years, the Russians keep on telling us. “It will not end tomorrow, and not even in a year … Men fight, and it will always be like this.”

It is not surprising that the Russians are increasingly bragging about global conflicts, which they feel they are the true inspirers. There is nothing to be ashamed of, we have gone too far.

Russia communicates only with a small group of allied and “friendly” countries, on the margins of the international community, and with openly authoritarian and aggressive regimes, such as Iran and North Korea, so it has nothing left to lose in terms of reputation.

The Russian people, by habit, do not challenge the “leadership”, and in the face of all this, they sink more and more into indifference and apathy, so much so that many are now suggesting to simplify the next presidential elections by replacing voting with the tsar’s acclamation.

People in Russia know well that propaganda trumps reality, both inside and outside the country, and therefore it is not worth believing anyone nor sticking your neck out to avoid having it cut off.

One of the loudest mouthpieces is philosopher Alexander Dugin, one of Putin’s greatest ideological cheerleaders, according to whom “Israel is a vassal of the US and did not support Russia during the special military operation, despite the fact that ours is a war against the Ukrainian Banderite Nazis (Banderovstsy/Бандеровцы, followers of Stepan Bandera, a collaborationist in the 1930s), who are guilty of taking part in the Holocaust of the Jews.”

For the prophet of Eurasianism, “whatever our opinions of Jews and Muslims, it is a matter of principle; Iran is our friend, ally and brother, it has supported us in the most difficult moment, while Israel has not.”

In his opinion, “Stalin’s logic now becomes more understandable; he was in favour of Israel as long as Israel was on our side, and then he went against it.”

Dugin fears that the escalation in Israel could lead to a collective reaction from the Arab world, given that “the Palestinians in this war have no chance; they cannot destroy nor defeat Israel.”

And even Israel has little hope of reconquering the Palestinian territories, which lie within its boundaries, nor can it physically exterminate all Palestinians.

Now it is time to wait and see how Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the other Gulf States and Egypt, all more or less aligned with Russia, will react.

For this reason, he concludes: “It is hard for Russia to choose a side in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; we must pay close attention to the course of events,” aware that “multipolarity is getting stronger, while the intensity of the hegemony of the collective West is weakening.”

Political and military strategies notwithstanding, a rather deep-rooted anti-Semitism is also re-emerging in Russia, which has gone through various phases in both ancient and recent history.

Persecuted Jews across Europe travelled from the Atlantic to the Black Sea coast between Russia and Ukraine, in the area called “New Russia” (Novorossiya/Новороссия). Here too, they were driven out to remove them from the Belarusian markets, which are another part of “Little Russia” (Malorossiya/Малороссия), as Ukraine is also called, i.e. the lands where the “special operation” is currently underway.

Thus, Russians and Israelis share a certain contradictory kinship, nurtured by emigration from Moscow to Tel Aviv even in Soviet times, which make Israel one of the most Russian-speaking countries in the world, a unique expression of the “Russian world”.

The founding fathers of modern Israel, from Ben Gurion to Netanyahu, come from Polish, Russian or Ukrainian-speaking families, and even Arab taxi drivers in Jerusalem know Russian.

The last great literary effort by the great Soviet dissident writer, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, published in 2001, a few years before his death, was titled Two Hundred Years Together, centred on the relationship between Russians and Jews, which he divides into two periods, 1795-1916 and then the Soviet years, 1917-1995.

As he writes in the preface, “I have long sought someone who could fully explain and in a balanced way, this red-hot relationship, but I have always come across one-sided opinions.

“On the one hand, the guilt of the Russians vis-à-vis the Jews, with all the outrage against the degradation of the Russian people; on the other, the faults of the Jews towards the Russians; both expressed passionately and indirectly, without even trying to see what must be attributed to both as merits.”

Many accused Solzhenitsyn of anti-Semitism, of getting into a very dark historical corner, far from his great visions in the Red Wheel novels in which he tried to explain the profound reasons for the revolution and the epochal changes of the 20th century.

The author of Gulag Archipelago was certainly not aligned with the dominant thoughts in the East and the West, but he was often prophetic in his visions. Today we are again faced with the dilemma, after “centuries together” and decades of illusions, reverting to divisions and war, whose reasons cannot be fathomed.

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