Joseph Davis, Greg McCarron, Jeremy Roth Kushel explain who is behind the split in the Neocon movement and the Soviet-Israel alliance.
Israel’s former Soviet immigrants transform adopted country
Russian-speaking Jews who arrived over the past 20 years have integrated little, but influenced everything from culture to politics
August 17, 2011
by Harriet Sherwood
At Bar Putin, in the heart of Jerusalem, you can down vodka shots in homage to the former Russian president. In Ashdod – also known as Little Moscow – you might pop into the Tiv Ta’am supermarket for pork and black bread. On Israeli TV there’s Channel 9 if you want to watch broadcasts in the mother tongue round the clock.
The million-plus citizens of the former Soviet Union who migrated to Israel in the past 20 years have not only made new lives of their own but they have transformed their adopted country. They have influenced the culture, hi-tech industry, language, education and, perhaps most significantly, Israeli politics.
Jews in the former Soviet Union were largely banned from making aliya – migrating to Israel – before the collapse of the empire. But from 1990 onwards they came in their thousands, and they now constitute around 15% of Israel’s 7.7 million population.
Strictly speaking not all of them are Jewish. In traditional Judaism only someone whose mother is Jewish or who has undergone a formal conversion to Judaism is a Jew. But from 1990 anyone from the former Soviet Union who had a Jewish father or grandparent, or who was married to someone meeting those criteria, was granted Israeli citizenship under the country’s law of return.
According to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics around 30% of immigrants from the former Soviet Union in the 1990s were not Jews or not considered Jewish under Orthodox law. In 2005 that figure leapt to 59%. Only around 5% of the non-Jews have converted.
Some came to pursue the Zionist dream; some came to escape antisemitism; and a large number came for better economic prospects. They brought culture – art, theatre, music – and a new entrepreneurialism.
But they almost overwhelmed Israel, causing a severe housing crisis. Many eventually settled in Russian enclaves in cities such as Ashdod, Petah Tikva and Haifa – and in expanding West Bank settlements, such as Ariel.
“It was a very different type of immigration,” said Lily Galili, an Israeli journalist writing a book about the impact of the tidal wave from the former Soviet Union. “They didn’t want to integrate. They wanted to lead. They changed the nature of the country.”
Nowhere is this more apparent than in Israeli politics, particularly in the rise of Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s Moldova-born foreign minister, and his far-right party, Yisrael Beiteinu. Now the third largest force in Israeli politics and a key member of the ruling coalition, Yisrael Beiteinu has enjoyed success mainly as a result of its support among Russian-speaking immigrants. Lieberman and his party have pursued a relentlessly rightwing agenda, opposing concessions in peace negotiations with the Palestinians, supporting settlement expansion, seeking to curb the rights of Israel’s 20% Arab population and attacking leftist NGOs and campaigners.
“Unfortunately they [immigrants from former Soviet states] have changed the nature of democracy in Israel,” said Galili. “There’s a certain amount of exaggeration – many things may have changed without them. But they have a different concept of democracy. And they have strengthened and given confidence to the [homegrown] secular rightwing.”
A year ago the former US president Bill Clinton caused a furore when he said Russian-speaking Israelis were “an obstacle to peace with the Palestinians”.
Russian immigrants were among “the hardest-core people against a division of the land … They’ve just got there, it’s their country, they’ve made a commitment to the future there. They can’t imagine any historical or other claims that would justify dividing it,” Clinton was quoted in Foreign Policy magazine as saying.
Galili pointed to “some sense of alienation between Russian immigrants and native-born Israelis. There is not much social interaction. There are still places for ‘Russians’ that ‘Israelis’ don’t go and aren’t wanted – and vice versa.”
But, she added, there would be no going back. “For many years the joke was that Israel had become the 51st state of the US. Instead we have become just another Soviet republic. It’s quite a twist in the story.”
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The agency which planted, protected, and paid Jonathan Pollard is the Israeli-U.S. Binational Industrial Research and Development (BIRD) Foundation, an intergovernment organization which acts as a channel between the U.S. Treasury and State Department and the Israeli Defense Ministry and Mossad. The organization is a product of Henry Kissinger’s tenure at the State Department, and one of dozens which have been used to run joint U.S.-Israeli covert operations, of the sort typified by the Iran-Contra sales. Key BIRD activists include: Meir Amit, the former director of both the Mossad and Israeli military intelligence.
Yuval Ne’eman, minister of science and development, the former deputy director of military intelligence, and father of the Israeli nuclear bomb. Dan Tolkowsky, former chief of the Israeli Air Force, and founder of one of Israel’s top arms smuggling firms, Elron-Elbit. Itzhak Ya’akov, former chief scientist of the Israeli Defense Ministry, founder of BIRD, and currently U.S. station chief for the Defense Ministry’s intelligence agency, LEKEM. Rafi Eytan, LEKEM chief and Pollard task-master. Harold Katz, counsel of the Israeli Defense Ministry and BIRD. Dr. Jordan Baruch, former assistant secretary at the U.S. Commerce Department.
Pollard was paid for his espionage by BIRD’s counsel, Harold Katz. He was tasked by the Israeli Defense Ministry’s intelligence agency, LEKEM, whose U.S. station chief is Itzhak Ya’akov. Pollard was protected by a network within the U.S. Justice Department, including former Criminal Division director William F. Weld, and former Deputy Attorney General Arnold I. Bums, who are both linked to BIRD. The BIRD Foundation was established by treaty arrangement between the United States and Israel in 1977, based on discussions held in 1975 when Kissinger was Secretary of State. Its sister organization, the Binational Agricultural Research and Development (BARD) foundation, was formed the same year. Both organizations were modeled on the Binational Science Foundation (BSF), another U.S.-Israeli organization, that had been formed under Kissinger in 1973. As their names imply, the three organizations, which have overlapping governing boards, officially sponsor joint U.S.-Israeli industrial, agricultural, and basic scientific research.
Antony Sutton has been persecuted but never prosecuted for his research and subsequent publishing of his findings. His mainstream career was shattered by his devotion towards uncovering the truth. In 1968, his Western Technology and Soviet Economic Development was published by The Hoover Institute at Stanford University. Sutton showed how the Soviet state’s technological and manufacturing base, which was then engaged in supplying the North Vietnamese the armaments and supplies to kill and wound American soldiers, was built by US firms and mostly paid for by the US taxpayers. From their largest steel and iron plant, to automobile manufacturing equipment, to precision ball-bearings and computers, basically the majority of the Soviet’s large industrial enterprises had been built with the United States help or technical assistance.