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November 3, 2016 11:56 pm

In Moscow, Top US Jewish Officials Call on Russia to Backtrack From Support of UNESCO Resolutions That Ignored Jewish and Christian History in Jerusalem

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A panel discussion at this week's first-ever Moscow International Conference on Combating Antisemitism. Photo: Bakaev Pavel.

A panel discussion at this week’s first-ever Moscow International Conference on Combating Antisemitism. Photo: Bakaev Pavel.

Two high-level US Jewish officials visiting Moscow this week called on Russia — which supported the recent UNESCO resolutions that ignored Jewish and Christian history in Jerusalem – to backtrack on its position.

At the first-ever Moscow International Conference on Combating Antisemitism on Wednesday, Dr. Shimon Samuels — the director of international relations for the Simon Wiesenthal Center — said his organization was urging Russia “to rethink its vote and, at the April 2017 UNESCO Executive Board, to advise its friends and allies to join it in revoking these quintessentially antisemitic resolutions.”

Speaking at the same gathering, World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder said he was “surprised and frankly disappointed” that Russia backed the resolutions.

Denying Jerusalem’s Jewish history, Lauder said, was like refuting “any Russian connection to St. Basil’s [the famous cathedral in Moscow’s Red Square]. That’s ridiculous.”

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“When people blame Israel for all the wrongs in the world, it is important to remember one of history’s most crucial lessons: When governments go after Jews first, it never stops with the Jews,” Lauder continued. “As our world becomes more complex and more dangerous, we hope that we will always be able to count on Russia.”

Earlier in his remarks, Lauder praised Russia for its efforts to fight antisemitism.

“Right now we are witnessing one of the most stunning changes in Russia’s long history,” he said. “At a time when global terrorism singles out Jews around the world, at a time when we see the impact of intolerance and hate on every continent, here in Russia, the Jewish community is thriving. Jewish kindergartens and Jewish schools are filled to capacity, synagogues are crowded on Shabbat…President [Vladimir] Putin has made Russia a country where Jews are welcome. And that’s not just a good thing for Jews. It is good for Russia as well.”

In January, as reported by The Algemeiner, Putin called on European Jews facing rising antisemitism to move to Russia. “They can come to us,” Putin told a delegation from the European Jewish Congress (EJC) during a meeting in Moscow. “They left from the Soviet Union. Let them return.”

Since Russia’s military intervention began in Syria last year, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has met with Putin four times and the two have also spoken by phone on numerous other occasions.

When Netanyahu visited Moscow in June, former Israeli Ambassador to Russia Zvi Magen told The Algemeiner that the Kremlin was seeking greater influence in the Middle East and Jerusalem needed an alternative to the United States as a guarantor of its interests.

“What we are seeing is realpolitik in action,” Magen said.

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