Last Saturday, Pnina Rosenblum appeared on the Russian TV program "Persona" on Channel Nine. "I am like [U.S. president-elect Barack] Obama," she said of herself. "He had to deal with the fact that he is black, and I must deal with the fact that I'm blonde and beautiful." The problem with her remarks is not what you are thinking. It's that Rosenblum is unaware how much Russian-speaking rightists in Israel dislike Obama. Without, heaven forbid, making generalizations, large sections of that public are far from appreciating the historic victory in the U.S. elections.
If we are to judge by Web sites and blogs, this is a difficult time for many Russian-speaking Israelis. In fact, they think the whole world has gone mad. Some bloggers described this week, which saw memorial ceremonies for murdered prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, as a "week of hatred" against the right. Add to this the fact that America this week elected a black leader.
If Russian-speaking rightists have long despaired of democracy in Israel, they are now writing with sorrow: "Goodbye America," or "God, watch over America," because of a certain black politician whom they still refer to as "Hussein."
While, in the eyes of Russian-speaking rightists, Obama's victory appears to have leveled the most severe blow, Yigal Amir was the focus of much attention last week. This is not a matter of conspiracy theories. The majority of Russian immigrants had not yet moved to Israel, or were too young or detached from Israeli society to be familiar with Rabin. They only know of the assassin who remained alive, and they lash out at Israeli democracy not over the murder but over the restrictions that are currently being imposed on the assassin.
When Larissa Trimbobler complains in her Russian blog about not being able to meet with her husband, Yigal Amir, in the coming weeks, other bloggers comfort her by saying that an interview with Amir would have been unheard of a few years ago, but that this year it actually took place - it just has yet to be broadcast.
Be that as it may, these bloggers foresee "three months of hatred" until the national elections take place, during which time their freedom of expression will be trampled on even further. "It is hard for me to predict what the elections in another three months will bring, but it is easy for me to know what we will witness during these months," a well-known blogger wrote.
"There will be a lot of Yigal Amir and a lot of Talia Sasson; there will be a lot of provocations against the settlers, and a lot of calls to make order in Judea and Samaria will emanate from cabinet meetings."
Meanwhile, it is easier to see what is missing. There has been (nearly) nothing published about Rabin's assassination in the Russian-language media, and there were hardly any Russian speakers at the memorial rally. The latter phenomenon can be explained somewhat - many of those who go to the rally at Rabin Square are part of some political movement. Since MK Roman Bronfman left the Knesset, Russian speakers have found themselves largely out of the political loop. On an individual basis, there are also difficulties. "I have never gone there," says a recent immigrant who is a left-wing activist. "I simply don't know anyone who goes."
From victims to aggressors
Bronfman, who takes pains to go to the rally every year, offers an alternative explanation: "The Russians have the feeling that there is too much pressure from above at these memorial ceremonies, and that arouses their antagonism. The Russians like to apply pressure to others, especially to those who are weaker than they are, but they very much dislike having pressure applied to them. It can be understood - they are all former victims of a totalitarian state."
But the common revulsion to the election of a black man to the presidency is not limited to any one country or continent. In the virtual Russian-language town square, new immigrant bloggers from Israel communicate with Jews from the former Soviet Union living in other countries.
"My friends laugh and say that I'll have a lot of work now taking care of all those who are suffering from nausea over the election, and they are also hysterical over what they've heard about this man from Russian-speaking Jewish organizations," wrote a Russian Jewish doctor living in the U.S., to a new immigrant friend in Israel.
She counts herself among the minority of Jewish Russian speakers in the U.S., who voted for the Democratic candidate (according to estimates, some 10 percent); the vast majority of Jewish Russian-speaking immigrants cast their votes for McCain.
According to remarks made on the Internet, in the media and in private conversations, Obama's greatest shortcoming, in the eyes of Russian-speaking rightists, is the color of his skin - even more so than his so-called "Muslim affiliation." "Ethnic origin is more important to Russians than religion," a maven on the subject explained. Another, who considers himself an expert on both Israeli and American societies, explained that "black people are like Sephardi Jews. They do nothing and they accuse everybody." And he added: "After all, everyone knows that the whites voted for Obama because they were afraid of pogroms on the part of black people."
In a discussion with friends at a Tel Aviv home, one Russian immigrant proposed an election conspiracy theory.
According to this theory, the Republican party intentionally appointed a weak candidate, who would lose to a black Democrat, so that the party would grab a landslide victory in the following election. Conspiracy theories since Rabin's murder have certainly taken on new twists.
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