Russian President Vladimir Putin has drawn criticism from Jewish groups for the second time in as many weeks after he suggested that Jews had meddled with the 2016 American Presidential election.
Critics of Donald Trump have suggested that Russian involvement could have played a part in his rise to power. In an interview with NBC, Putin said that anyone involved in tampering in US elections does not represent the Russian state, suggesting that “maybe they’re Ukrainians, Tatars, Jews, just with Russian citizenship, even that needs to be checked”.
Whilst the accusation is defamatory and dangerous with respect to every group named, the suggestion that Jews were to blame in particular evokes classic antisemitic conspiracy theories, particularly the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a Russian hoax which claimed that Jews were conspiring to achieve world domination.
Beyond this, Putin’s comments draw dangerously close to labelling Jews and other minorities Russians in name only, who are subjected to the double indignity of being accused of infiltrating the government of a foreign power, whilst having their own loyalties and citizenship to Russian questioned.
Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, commented that “as the Russian government faces expanding evidence and new questions about possible meddling in US elections, President Putin bizarrely has resorted to the blame game by pointing the finger at Jews and other minorities in his country”, criticising Putin for “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'”.