'Neo-Nazis don't typify all FSU olim'

Jewish Agency anti-Semitism expert: Difficulty integrating may have sparked immigrants' actions.

By RORY KRESS
September 9, 2007 21:38
2 minute read.
'Neo-Nazis don't typify all FSU olim'

neo-Nazi ring 224.88. (photo credit: Israel Police)

A day after the Israel Police announced the arrest of a ring of neo-Nazis, all immigrants from the former Soviet Union, community organizations took pains on Sunday to assure the public that such activity among FSU-born youth was unusual. In the flurry of responses to the morning's headlines, representatives from both public and private sectors chalked up the neo-Nazi phenomenon to failed absorption into Israeli society. "We will not accept anybody making generalizations about the entire aliya from the former Soviet Union. This is very minor; we're talking about 10 to 20 kids who are doing a terrible thing to the Jewish community," Amos Hermon, head of the Jewish Agency's task force to combat anti-Semitism told The Jerusalem Post. Hermon also noted that more immigrants from the former Soviet Union had lost their lives serving in the IDF than was proportionate to their number, and expressed sympathy for some immigrants' difficulty in being absorbed into Israeli society. "We know from our research that these kids suffer from frustration, a lack of integration into Israeli society ... some of their aggressions come out through these kinds of terrible things. [But] we're talking about a small minority whose families suffered from anti-Semitism in their own original countries," Hermon continued, explaining that there were over 50,000 active neo-Nazis in Russia and the Ukraine. "They're trying to translate their aggression into the same [mode of] expression and the same tools which their families suffered from in the past," said Hermon. The Anti-Defamation League praised the Israel Police on Sunday for their efficient work in nabbing the Petah Tikva-based gang, and issued a statement saying that "the suspicion that immigrants to Israel could have been acting in praise of Nazis and Hitler is an anathema to the Jewish state and is to be repelled." However, the group also cautioned against using the case "to stereotype a whole community because of a small group of angry immigrant youth." The theme of social alienation was heard frequently throughout the day - from the lead suspect's mother, who said that her "son does not understand any language other than Russian," as well as from Immigration and Absorption Minister Ya'acov Edri, who issued a statement stressing that unlike the suspects, "the majority of immigrant youth are normal and are absorbed and integrated into the daily life of Israeli society." Efriam Zuroff, the director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Israel office, told the Post that "the handwriting was on the wall - it was obvious that something like this would happen." Zuroff viewed the immigration from the former Soviet Union as made up of those with "no personal connection to the Jewish people, the Jewish history or the Jewish narrative." "We're talking about people who wanted to come here for economic reasons. These are children that were not integrated into Israeli life - but that's not surprising, given their background," he said. "Their sense of alienation drives them to a horrendous and shocking result," he continued, adding that "they live in a Russian ghetto, and they are exposed to crazy ideas on the Internet." Rebecca Anna Stoil contributed to this report.


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