Volume 6, Number 2
Friday, January 13, 2006
A Weekly Human Rights Newsletter on Antisemitism, Xenophobia, and Religious Persecution in the Former Communist World and Western Europe
EDITOR: CHARLES FENYVESI
(News and Editorial Policy within the sole discretion of the editor)
Published by UCSJ: Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union
__________________________________________________________ EIGHT MEN STABBED IN MOSCOW SYNAGOGUE. On January 11 in Moscow, a man shouting “I will kill Jews” entered the downtown Chabad Bronnaya synagogue, slashing and stabbing with a hunting knife at least eight people before Iosif Kogan, 18, the son of the synagogue’s rabbi, wrestled him to the ground, eyewitnesses told the Associated Press (AP). The attack came at a time of a crime wave by hate groups in Russia. Among those wounded were the synagogue rabbi's son-in-law, also a rabbi, who was taken to a hospital for surgery, said Avraham Berkowitz, executive director of the Federation of Jewish Communities of the Commonwealth of Independent States. Three more victims were taken to the emergency room. Among the eight wounded men were Russian, American, and Israeli citizens, along with a man from Tajikistan. No one was killed. “This was not a game, he was out to kill,” AP quoted rabbinical student Iosif Ostrovsky who said he saw the assailant stab several people aiming at their necks, heads or upper bodies while shouting “Heil Hitler!”
Chief Moscow prosecutor Anatoly Zuyev told reporters outside the synagogue that the attacker “shouted words that showed he was motivated by ethnic and religious hatred.” At the same time, however, a source within the local police force categorically denied that the suspect is a member of any extremist organizations and asserted that he is mentally ill. According to subsequent media reports, the addresses of three Moscow synagogues were found in the suspect's apartment, along with neo-Nazi literature and a large quantity of ammunition. According to one source, the suspect had a shaved head and wore a leather jacket.
The Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union (UCSJ) has called upon Russian law enforcement officials to fully investigate the attack and not to cover up the attacker's reported neo-Nazi connections. “The authorities have so far done the right thing in making an arrest and charging the suspect with a hate crime," said Micah H. Naftalin, UCSJ's national director. “However, the fact that local police immediately denied that the suspect has any neo-Nazi links -- before they even searched his apartment -- shows that the official head-in-the-sand attitude towards extremist groups is still alive and well. We hope that higher level officials will intervene forcefully and give this case the serious level of attention it deserves."
Media reports quote Borukh Gorin, a spokesman for the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia (FEOR), who called the attack “the logical result of the complete inaction of society and the lack of a response to an obvious rise of fascism in the country.” FEOR and Moscow's Main Interior Department announced the formation of a team to monitor antisemitism and xenophobia and coordinate efforts against neo-Nazism, a FEOR spokesman said on January 12.
Jewish leaders said authorities had shown leniency toward extremist groups and that had led to the recent escalation in xenophobic attacks. “This is the result of what we have seen in Russia over the last few months,” Chief Rabbi Berl Lazar said at a news conference, referring to the murders of foreign students and other dark-skinned people in St. Petersburg, Voronezh, and other cities. He said xenophobia was growing because of “the propaganda of extremism and fascism, which is conducted openly and for which no one has yet been held accountable.”According to Russian news reports, the country's top prosecutor, Vladimir Ustinov, was taking control of the investigation. “Many rights groups also say prosecutors routinely downplay hate crimes, choosing to bring less serious charges,” AP added. The Russian Orthodox Church immediately condemned the attack and called for action by the state and society to stem hate crimes. Similar statements were made by the Foreign Ministry, Chief Mufti Talgat Tadzhuddin, and senior members of both houses of parliament, including Dmitry Rogozin, head of the nationalist Rodina party. State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov said deputies might consider toughening the law on extremism.