Report: Russian Jewish leader endorses aid to Assad

"Taking into account Russia's relations with the Syrian government and the historical position of Russia in the region, our assistance can be more than useful and decisive."

October 6, 2015 18:26
2 minute read.
Russia Syria

Russia releases footage of airstrikes in Syria. (photo credit: screenshot)

A senior Russian Jewish leader has endorsed Moscow’s recent air campaign against the Islamic State in Syria despite previous statements by the country’s chief rabbi decrying Jewish involvement in issues unrelated to their communities, Russian media reported.

According to the RIA Novosti news agency, Rabbi Boruch Gorin, a frequent spokesman for the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, said last week that the Islamic State terrorist group was a “problem for all mankind” that necessitates military action.

“We can only welcome military assistance to the Syrian authorities. The decision of the Federation Council is a responsible position; we have no alternative,” Gorin was quoted as saying. “Taking into account Russia’s relations with the Syrian government and the historical position of Russia in the region, our assistance can be useful and decisive. This is an important and correct decision.”

Citing the recent meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Syria, Gorin also asserted that Jerusalem was supportive of his country’s military efforts there.

According to media reports, the armed forces of the two nations are coordinating their activities in order to prevent any misunderstandings.

“There is every reason to believe that the Russian initiative not only does not pose a threat to Israel, but actually may be a factor of stability in the region,” Gorin asserted.

Russia has announced that it is targeting only Islamic State militants, but other countries, including Britain, have said the focus of its attacks has been other rebel groups fighting to oust President Bashar Assad, Moscow’s ally.

“I went to Moscow to make it clear that we should avoid a clash between Russian forces and Israeli forces,” Netanyahu recently said, refraining from condemning Russian activity on his northern border as did the leaders of other countries.

“We don’t want to go back to the days when Russia and Israel were in an adversarial position,” said Netanyahu, who met with Putin in Moscow late last month. “I think we’ve changed the relationship, and it is, on the whole, good.”

Russian Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar, who heads the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, is extremely close to Putin and has served as his defender in the court of international opinion. After Ukrainian Jewish leaders criticized the Russian president for his intervention in their country early last year, Lazar criticized them for involving themselves in issues that don’t directly concern the Jewish community.

Gorin did not reply to a request for comment.

Reuters and JTA contributed to this report.

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