Sharansky rails against Peres, who thanked Russia for ‘thousand years of hospitality’
Why did world Jewry have to struggle on behalf of Soviet brethren if the country was so friendly to Jews, USSR-born ex-prisoner of Zion asks By Raphael Ahren |
Jewish Agency chairman and former cabinet minister Natan Sharansky (photo credit: courtesy JAFI)
Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky on Tuesday criticized President Shimon Peres for thanking the Russian people for “a thousand years of hospitality.” Centuries of discriminatory laws and pogroms clearly showed that the country was not always the most welcoming place for Jews, Sharansky noted.
“I really don’t understand what this means,” said Sharansky — who was born in the former USSR and spent years in a Soviet prison fighting for his right to immigrate to Israel — in response to Peres’s comments, which were made during a visit to Moscow last week. “For several hundred years, the Jews weren’t allowed to enter Russia, and after that there were 300 years during which a thousand anti-Jews laws were published. I have a book of a thousand laws against the Jews that were passed in Russia. And I am not even talking about pogroms,” he told Israel Radio.
“Why did world Jewry have to fight to liberate the Jews from the Soviet Union, if there was such great hospitality?” Sharansky added.
On Thursday, Peres attended the inauguration of the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow and spoke very warmly about Russia’s treatment of the Jews.
Shimon Peres speaks at the opening of the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow, Russia. November 08, 2012. Photo credit: Mark Neyman/GPO/Flash90)
“I came here to say thank you. Thank you for a thousand years of hospitality,” he said. “A thousand years that the great country of Russia gave to my small nation. It is a historical thank you that remains fresh today.”
Many Jews tend to think of czarist Russia, and its successor state, the Soviet Union, as a place where Jews were systematically persecuted and at the best of times barely tolerated. But according to Hebrew University’s Jonathan Dekel-Chen, a leading expert on the history of Russian Jewry, the historical reality is too complex to be summed up in slogans.