U.S. Jewish Groups Outraged at Putin’s Conspiracy that Jews Meddled in 2016 Election

In this Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015 photo, Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, meets with Chief Rabbi of Russia Berl Lazar, foreground, and head of the Federation of Jewish Communities Alexander Boroda, right, in Moscow's Kremlin, Russia. (Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

TEL AVIV – American Jewish groups over the weekend slammed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s conspiratorial insinuation that Jews may have meddled with the 2016 presidential election, comparing his remarks to The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

In an interview with NBC News, Putin argued that that those responsible for allegedly tampering with the election might not even be Russian, but rather minorities like Jews and Tatars with dual citizenship.  He seemed to also imply that Jews could not be Russian.

“Maybe they’re not even Russians,” he told NBC’s Megyn Kelly. “Maybe they’re Ukrainians, Tatars, Jews, just with Russian citizenship. Even that needs to be checked. Maybe they have dual citizenship. Or maybe a green card. Maybe it was the Americans who paid them for this work. How do you know? I don’t know.”

Russia has a sordid history of anti-Semitism, often involving brutal violence against the Jewish people. The Anti-Defamation League on Sunday compared Putin’s comment to the anti-Semitic fraud The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, originally written as Russian propaganda.

“It is deeply disturbing to see the Russian president giving new life to classic anti-Semitic stereotypes that have plagued his country for hundreds of years with a comment that sounds as if it was ripped from the pages of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement. “We live in a moment when anti-Semitic violence is on the rise and words can have profound consequences, particularly when spoken by public figures or elected officials like President Putin. We hope he swiftly clarifies his words before they cause further damage to those communities he has singled out.”

The American Jewish Committee (AJC) made the same comparison, tweeting that Putin’s words were “eerily reminiscent of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”

“He should clarify his comments at the earliest opportunity,” the AJC said.

Meanwhile, Israel has so far issued no formal response to Putin’s comments. According to the Jerusalem Post, Jerusalem’s silence on the topic is apparently due to the extreme sensitivity of its relations with Moscow, which currently has military forces stationed in neighboring Syria.

Former Israeli ambassador to Russia Zvi Magen said given the circumstances, this policy was wise. According to Magen, any rebuke by Israel or accusations of anti-Semitism would be met with a denial and Putin would just “roll his eyes.”

It would place Israel in an “uncomfortable position” with the Russian leader, Magen added.

“There are two options,” he said. “One was that it was just an empty comment, and the other is that there was a message in it. But I do not know what the intent was because we know that at a basic level Putin is neither an anti-Semite nor anti-Israel.”

.