And so, brothers and sisters, because of the malicious provocation of the Jewish air force, our airplane, with 15 Russian souls on board, was downed by the friendly fire of our ally. The Jewish aircraft took cover behind our larger plane, in keeping with the Eastern ruses that have characterized this people for thousands of years. How and why were the Jews able to fly in airspace that Russia had entirely closed to flights from foreign aircraft?
The answer is clear: The Jews’ leaders come to Moscow and repeatedly whine and ultimately Russia permits them to do things beyond the letter of the rules. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu embrace and finalize things man-to-man, but we all know how Jewish men stand by their Jewish word – and we are witness to the difficult outcome.
No, this isn’t the official Russian interpretation of the interception of a Russian Ilyushin-20 cargo plane by Syrian anti-aircraft missiles (the September 17 disaster, as it has been called by Russia’s media). It’s a synopsis of a discussion between the two leading commentators of the extremist nationalist-religious Rusprav “Pravoslavic Russia” internet channel.
One of the two, Konstantin Dushenov, is a journalist who calls himself “anti-Semitic in the loftiest and most noble sense of the word,” and who in the past was sentenced to a jail term for racist incitement. The other is Andrei Papalov, who is also one of the most prominent self-declared anti-Semitic journalists in contemporary Russia.
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Their conversation took place two days after the aviation incident – on a current affairs program on the web channel. But just as more extreme figures in Israel sometimes state clearly what Netanyahu tries to downplay but believes in his heart of hearts, the blatant anti-Semites of Pravoslavic Russia are now openly stating what is veiled in the Kremlin’s official stance and on the main Russian media outlets with regard to the downing of the cargo plane.
About a week before the release of the official Russian investigation on the downing of the plane, which found that Israeli air force planes used the Russian plane as cover against the Syrian army’s anti-aircraft missiles, the same claim had been made by pro-Putin media outlets as an indisputable fact. The lead report on Russia’s Channel One, which is clearly a loyal mouthpiece of the Kremlin, proclaimed shortly after the incident that the Israeli planes had hid behind the Ilyushin and “exposed it to a hit” from the Syrian forces.
Although the term “expose” may appear at most in this context to hint at one degree or another of negligence that doesn’t necessarily include malicious intent, the Russian term that was used in the media and which is commonly used in somewhat criminal parlance, means knowingly and treacherously putting someone else in danger. Anyone with even a bit of sensitivity to the significance of “Jewish treachery” in Russian nationalist discourse would not be able to ignore the deeply anti-Semitic basis that the Russian response included from the outset.
The conclusions of the Russian “investigation” of the incident, which were not expected to undermine the prior adamant claim of “treacherous” conduct on Israel’s part, clearly included familiar anti-Semitic overtones, notably including the theme of Israeli ingratitude. In fact there is no doubt that many Russians – who hear on Putin’s media outlets that in exchange for giving permission to use Syrian airspace and a number of other gestures to the Jewish people of Israel, their country had paid with the Ilyushin disaster – easily identify the popular anti-Semitic image of ungrateful Soviet Jews who were saved by Stalin and by the Russian people from annihilation but who continued to cultivate ties with the enemies of the Soviet Union.
Even in an interview granted by official Russian Foreign Ministry representative Maria Zakharova to the Italian weekly Panorama last week, clearly anti-Semitic overtones were apparent. Calling Israelis actions “unprofessional” and “cowardly” is liable to get many Russians to make the necessary association to another malicious and particularly false anti-Semitic image – that “Jews fought in Tashkent.”
The expression is meant to disparage the Jews as a cowardly people who don’t know how to fight and who purportedly fled the front en masse during World War II to Soviet Central Asia, hiding behind the Russian people.
Most Israelis, along with their prime minister, are beginning to apparently understand that the crisis with Russia is not a passing matter, but they are having trouble figuring out what the problem means. They are not aware of the ongoing depth of the anti-Semitic trends in Russian nationalistic-religious discourse, which has been intensifying in Russia just as nationalistic sentiment has been increasing in Central Europe, the United States and Israel. They are unaware of the not inconsiderable public discomfort that has sometimes surfaced in social media in Russia as relations between Putin and Netanyahu have gotten closer in recent years.
They don’t know that in the view of many Russians, what is interpreted in Israel as evidence of a “wonderful friendship” between the leaders of the two countries is seen mainly as a show of “bothersome Jewish flattery” in an attempt to extract more and more favors from “the great Russian soul.” And then, with the downing of the Russian plane with “15 Russian souls on board,” all of the derision and grudges towards those “whining” and “treacherous” Jews who have been begging for patronage from the great Russian empire have suddenly burst forth.
But it can be assumed that even if Benjamin Netanyahu and his associates and the masses of his supporters were to suddenly understand the comic aspect of this and the self-deprecation involved in Israel’s repeated lobbying efforts in the court of the post-modern Russian czar, it appears that they would still persist in their pathetic efforts.
They would persist not out of a desire to put a stop to the Iranian threat to Israeli hegemony in the Middle East (and Russia’s ability and desire to assist Israel in that regard were doubtful from the beginning). Instead there is a different reason entirely and that is the deep and authentic admiration that Netanyahu and his supporters have for Vladimir Putin.
He was selected as the international man of the year three years ago by readers of Israel’s Walla news website. He managed to take over sovereign territory from one of Russia’s neighbors without paying a real price. He will also continue to serve as an example for a country that is into its sixth decade in trampling international law and that fervently awaits the approval of the nations of the world to continue its illegitimate policy of oppression and terror against a neighboring people.