In an important essay, Israel Shamir details why trolling Russia with unrealistic expectations to honor Charlie Hebdo or pressure to buckle over Ukraine under acts of economic warfare simply won’t work. Russians have too much history and religious conviction to engage in senseless adulation of sacrilegious speech and are too savvy and cynical of the West to blame their own government for current economic hardships, clearly resulting from manipulations by the West. In short, Shamir argues, Russians aren’t impressed.
A Russian-born Israeli Jew, Shamir points to Putin’s failure to join this year’s annual gathering at Auschwitz, after snubbing the West at demonstrations in Paris, as a clear sign that things have changed in Moscow, after years of trying to impress the West. In Paris, Russia was represented only by its foreign minister, who promptly left to pray at a Russian church, as if to demonstrate unambiguously that Russia is ‘not Charlie.’
For the Charlie Hebdo magazine was (and probably is) explicitly anti-Christian as well as anti-Muslim. One finds on its pages some very obnoxious cartoons offending the Virgin and Christ, as well as the pope and the Church. (They never offend Jews, somehow).
A Russian blogger who’s been exposed to this magazine for the first time, wrote on his page: I am ashamed that the bastards were dealt with by Muslims, not by Christians. This was quite a common feeling in Moscow these days. The Russians could not believe that such smut could be published and defended as a right of free speech.
Shamir goes on to explain in depth the stark contrast between Russia and the West when it comes to anti-Muslim, and anti-Christian rhetoric and the slight difference in their posture towards Jews:
While the present western regime is anti-Christian and anti-Muslim, it is pro-Jewish to an extent that defies a rational explanation . . .
The Russians don’t comprehend the Western infatuation with Jews, for Russian Jews have been well assimilated and integrated in general society. The narrative of Holocaust is not popular in Russia for one simple reason: so many Russians from every ethnic background lost their lives in the war, that there is no reason to single out Jews as supreme victims. Millions died at the siege of Leningrad; Belarus lost a quarter of its population. More importantly, Russians feel no guilt regarding Jews: they treated them fairly and saved them from the Nazis. For them, the Holocaust is a Western narrative, as foreign as JeSuisCharlie. With drifting of Russia out of Western consensus, there is no reason to maintain it.
This does not mean the Jews are discriminated against. The Jews of Russia are doing very well, thank you, without Holocaust worship: they occupy the highest positions in the Forbes list of Russia’s rich, with a combined capital of $122 billion, while all rich ethnic Russians own only $165 billion, according to the Jewish-owned source. Jews run the most celebrated media shows in prime time on the state TV; they publish newspapers; they have full and unlimited access to Putin and his ministers; they usually have their way when they want to get a plot of land for their communal purposes. And anti-Semitic propaganda is punishable by law – like anti-Christian or anti-Muslim abuse, but even more severely.
Still, it is impossible to imagine a Russian journalist getting sack like CNN anchor Jim Clancy or BBC’s Tim Willcox for upsetting a Jew or speaking against Israel.
Despite these apparent ideological differences, Shamir notes that, for many years, Russia tried to play nice:
Neither willingly nor easily did Russia break ranks. Putin tried to take Western baiting in his stride: be it Olympic games, Syria confrontation, gender politics, Georgian border, even Crimea-related sanctions. The open economic warfare was a game-changer. Russia felt attacked by falling oil prices, by rouble trouble, by credit downgrading. These developments are considered an act of hostility, rather than the result of “the hidden hand of the market”.
Now, Shamir warns, the West might get much more than they bargained for by messing with Russia…
Perhaps, the invisible financiers went too far. Instead of being cowed, the Russians are preparing for a real long war, as they and their ancestors have historically fought – and won . . .
If the Russians do not know how to shuffle futures and derivatives, they are expert in armour movements and tank battles. Kiev regime is also spoiling for a fight, apparently pushed by the American neocons. It is possible that the US will get more than [it] bargained for in the Ukraine.
One can be certain that Russians will not support the Middle Eastern crusade of NATO, as this military action was prepared at the Charlie demo in Paris. It is far from clear who killed the cartoonists, but Paris and Washington intend to use it for reigniting war in the Middle East. This time, Russia will be in opposition, and probably will use it as an opportunity to change the uncomfortable standoff in the Ukraine.
Thus, Shamir makes a compelling case for why trolling Russia won’t work as intended this time and why those interested in peace would do well to oppose this folly, while they still can.