Old Saint Basil's Cathedral in MoscowJohnson's Russia List title and scenes of Saint Petersburg
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#8 - JRL 7034
Date: Sun, 26 Jan 2003
From: Gideon Lichfield <gideonlichfield@economist.com>
Subject: Gideon-Moscow 23 - The Russian Jewish Conspiracy
To: gideonlichfield@yahoogroups.com

First, my apologies for not replying to everyone who sent comments on
the quantum theory of Putin. Thanks for them all, especially from the
scientific types who detected all the mistakes. I'd forgotten how
damn picky scientists are. One pointed out that it's the
superposition principle, not the uncertainty principle, that says you
can't look at a quantum state without collapsing it. Another reminded
me that there have been experiments showing that, in fact, you can
glean certain information about a quantum state without collapsing
it, by doing a sort of indirect observation. What the uncertainty
principle says, meanwhile, is that you can't know a particle's exact
position and velocity simultaneously - so, as one wag noted, "given
that Putin's velocity is fairly clear, we can accept the uncertainty
regarding his positions as inevitable." Yet another asked why I
hadn't acknowledged the many-worlds view of quantum theory, according
to which a qubit in a superposition of states is actually two
separate qubits in two parallel universes. (Answer: because talking
about parallel Putins would only have confused everyone even more.)
Or why I hadn't taken the analogy further and argued that, just as
lots of qubits together would make a super-powerful computer, so lots
of Putins would solve Russia's problems - or else reduce it to a
smoking pile of ash - in no time at all. To all of you: thank you,
and leave me alone.

This week's Economist piece is about how Russia, though it seems to
be cosying up to Arab countries, is actually getting about as close
to Israel as you can get without being America.

This is no great surprise, but I also worry a bit that it might be
used as ammunition by those who like promoting Jewish conspiracy
theories. As a Jew I hate to admit it, but if you want to go around
spreading the word that the Jews run the world, Russia is the perfect
place to start. You can still get little books from wizened old ladies
in the street detailing the Jewish stranglehold over Russia. Never
mind all the Jewish scientists and artists - you get them everywhere -
or the Jews in government and the media, who keep a fairly low
profile. Back in the mid-90s when Russian business was ruled by a
coven of seven oligarchs, six of them were of Jewish origin and the
seventh served them as a kind of political shabbes goy: whenever they
felt that a Jew couldn't ask the authorities for something, they'd get
him to mediate. One of them, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, is now the richest
man in Russia and one of the 30 richest men in the world.

On top of it all, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the emblem of Russian
ultra-nationalism, the mad-dog racist who accused the Jews of
provoking the Holocaust and selling Russian children and transplant
organs, admitted in 2001 that he had a Jewish father. (though his
grasp of biology is a little shaky: he wanted to know why he should be
stigmatised just because of the "one drop of Jewish blood" his father
left in his mother. Still, Israel seems to have forgiven him: he was
there just last week, visiting the Holocaust memorial. People have no
sense of irony these days.)

So it's not enough for us to run the country, we have to run the
anti-Semites as well?

Likewise, the Jewish community itself is also a more extreme version
of what it would be elsewhere. When I went to the synagogue on Jewish
New Year, everything was mixed together - the Hasidim were doing
their round-the-hall dances and yodelling like Swiss farmers while
the secular Jewish businessmen tied up loose ends on their mobile
phones in the middle of the service. Not so long ago there was a
power struggle for the post of Chief Rabbi of Russia, which by all
accounts was as vicious as a typical Russian business takeover and
was won by an Italian-born New York Hasid. One of my friends here was
told a story by an American diplomat who had to organise George W.
Bush's visit to the Choral Synagogue in St Petersburg. It was a great
event, and all the rabbis of Northwestern Russia were invited.
Unfortunately half of them were at loggerheads with the other half
and each threatened not to come if so-and-so did; the diplomat was
driven nearly insane trying to arrange the seating to keep deadly
rivals apart.

I asked the president of the Russian-Jewish Congress, Evgeny
Satanovsky, why the Jews have done so well. His answer was basically
evolution: the constant struggle to succeed against Soviet
discrimination made them the winners once it began to lift. That gives
you an idea of how intense Soviet discrimination must have been.
(Although, according to the latest book by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the
Cheka - the feared secret police of the early Soviet days - had a
remarkably high proportion of... yes, you guessed it. Jews!!
Zhirinovsky isn't even being original.)

But what makes it even more remarkable is that today's crowd of super-
evolved power figures had to be formed out of the relatively small
number of Jews who didn't leave Russia as soon as they had the chance.
The Russian diaspora is about five million strong, and a good part of
it is Jewish. There is a common belief here that Jews have a kind of
innate radar for disaster. (A pity we didn't develop it about 80 years
earlier.) I met a Chechen who told me that the first sign that
Chechnya was heading for ruin, well before the war started, was when
the Jews started leaving. Satanovsky said that the RJC set up an
online forum for Russian-speaking Jews abroad. They got contacted by
people from 82 countries.

And let's not even talk about the Russian Jews in Israel. When I went
there over the holidays, my flight was five hours late. I spent the
day in the airport talking to an old gent, and after a while he asked
to use my mobile phone to call his relatives in Tel Aviv. His
conversation, all in Russian, went something like this:

[Voice answers the phone]: Hello?
Gent: Hello, can I speak to Misha?
Voice: He's gone out. Who is it?
Gent: It's his brother. Can you tell him the flight is late? We'll be
landing about...
Voice: What? What flight?
Gent: The flight from Moscow.
Voice: You've got the wrong number.

That, then, is the Russian Jewish Conspiracy. Not only do the Russian
Jews run Russia; they run Israel too. After all, what's the sense in
having a Jewish conspiracy if you're not prepared to do it properly?

Shabbat Shalom!

Copyright 2003 by Gideon Lichfield
- Disclaimer: these opinions are mine entirely. The Economist does not
endorse them.
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