Staunton, October 29 – A Moscow Jewish writer who attracted international attention three years ago for a column which declared that antisemitism no longer was a problem in the Russian Federation now says that her own experiences show that tragically this ancient “fear and hatred” is returning alongside other national hatreds.
Alina Farkash, whose 2011 column sparked so much controversy, now says that despite all the external signs of progress for the Jewish community in Russia, there is an underlying sense of fear that the situation is going in the opposite direction.
In her new article, she acknowledges that she can’t point to “something concrete” as being the source of her fears. Rather, she feels this way because of things that in other situations, she might have dismissed as “insignificant” like “some kind of caricature,” blog post, or joke in poor taste on television.
But in the current environment in Russia, Farkash says that she feels what her parents and grandparents told her about antisemitism, and “despite all [her] cosmopolitanism and general enervation,” she now understands what they told her and realizes that she faces some of what they had to confront.
Farkash recounts an anecdote her grandfather liked to tell as indicative of her feelings. According to his story, an old Armenian who was dying and with tears in his eyes asked his children to take care of the Jews. His children were shocked by what seemed to them to be “a strange request.”
But the old Armenian explained why he had made that request: “Once they finish with [the Jews], they will immediately come after us!”
Now, the Moscow columnist says, Jews are in the same position as the old Armenian: they have to speak out in defense of all the other minorities that are under attack because they know on the basis of their own experience that after those attacking those people finish with them, they will come after the Jews.
A decade ago, she continues, “it was unthinkable that in a normal company a normal person would say something nationalistic.” But now such remarks have become commonplace. At first, Farkash said, she tried to argue against them, but now, in the face of so much hatred, she has just tried to ignore what is being said.
But now she feels that Jews who do so or who allow national hatreds to be expressed without comment or reaction “sincerely think that they are special,” that the others are “bad, criminal, uneducated, and dangerous” and therefore such comments or actions are all tight. But in fact, these attitudes will ultimately be visited upon Jews as well.
“The nature of hatred is such that it does not know logic or arguments,” she writes, and “it easily shifts from one group to another” because “it always needs some kind of victim.” To allow it to pass in any case is to allow “the seeds of hatred” to sprout in one’s own soul, Farkash says.
“At a global level, we cannot do anything with antisemitism: it is, was, and unfortunately will be.” But one thing everyone has an obligation to do, Farkash concludes, is to struggle against one’s “own hatred toward others” and not to allow those who sow hatreds toward any other groups to get away with it without condemnation.