JCRC Update | December 23, 2016

Russian Involvement in our Elections

U.S. Intelligence Services have issued a report strongly suggesting that there was a Russian attempt to influence our elections, apparently with orders coming from the highest echelons of their government.

It is self-evident that our elections need to be free from foreign influence, and the idea that a foreign government attempted to influence the outcome of the election is unprecedented and very dangerous. The idea that it was this particular country should scare us all very much. Russian President Vladimir Putin is interested in gaining world power and his actions have a huge impact on the United States, Israel and Jewish communities worldwide.

Russia is currently the main military force in Syria and is responsible for horrible acts of war that have left hundreds of thousands dead and millions homeless. In support of the Syrian Assad regime, Russia (along with Iran and Hezbollah), have leveled and decimated civilian areas all over the country. Just in the last three months, Russian bombardment of rebel held neighborhoods of Aleppo have turned the city into a wasteland, and thousands of civilians have been killed.

While Russia has a good relationship with Israel, their support of the Syrian regime emboldens Iran and Hezbollah who have both sworn to Israel’s destruction. In fact, Iran has transferred very sophisticated weapons to Hezbollah, all under the security umbrella that Russia provides.

In Ukraine, Russian soldiers and militias have occupied large sectors of Eastern Ukraine, turning that part of the country into one big battlefield. President Putin’s refusal to recognize the legitimacy of Ukraine’s government and the territorial integrity of the country has again led to massacres of innocent people.

Ukraine has a very large Jewish population and they are caught in the crossfire. Some Jews support Ukraine, others support Russia, but many of them live in a battlefield. There are many instances of elderly Jews being unable to get food and medicine because of a Russian supported insurgency. The Annual Campaign supported Joint Distribution Committee has sent in volunteers wearing protective helmets and bullet-proof vests just to deliver these necessary items to people.

Europe and the U.S. have very strong sanctions against Russia for their actions in Ukraine but it has not deterred them from their counterproductive actions that are negatively affecting a very large number of Jews in Eastern Europe.

It should be pointed out again that Russia has a very good relationship with Israel. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu visited Russia recently and they are in constant communication over airspace allowances over Syria. Additionally, President Putin has a very good relationship with the Jews of his country and can count many Jews as some of his closest confidants and staunchest supporters.

But his actions in the Middle East and Ukraine have left a large section of the Jewish community feeling vulnerable, and we should feel particular disgust over the idea that this country’s leadership tried to influence our presidential elections in the hope that a different President would more favorably disposed towards him.

While no tangible evidence of election tampering has been presented, we strongly urge President Obama and Congress to conduct a thorough and comprehensive investigation as soon as possible.

Pluralism in Israel Attacked Again

This past week, the Shas party in Israel (a party composed primarily of ultra-Orthodox Jews of Sephardi origin) introduced a bill that would criminalize mixed gender prayer at or near the Western Wall, essentially overturning an agreement made between all interested parties and approved by the government back in January.

While this bill has only a small chance of actually passing, it is another example of ultra-Orthodox hegemony at Jewish religious sites. Again, we call on the leadership of Israel to respect the non-Orthodox streams of Judaism in Israel and treat them as legitimate representations of Jewish practice.

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