Bots, Telegram channels and Kremlin talking heads: how Russia fuels a new antisemitism surge

Russian state TV brands Israel as 'cancer,' France links Russia to antisemitic graffiti and online anti-Israel sentiment spikes; Israel's Nativ sets up hotline for Jews in ex-Soviet territories

Government officials in Israel, tasked with keeping a vigilant eye on global antisemitic trends, have raised the alarm about an unsettling surge of antisemitism proliferating across social networks in countries that were once part of the Soviet Union. This wave of bigotry is being stoked by state-sponsored bots, Telegram channels and certain journalists who are often seen as echo chambers for Kremlin viewpoints.
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A startling revelation in the French newspaper, Libération, adds another disconcerting layer to this narrative. The paper unveiled Russia's alleged role in the tagging of Jewish homes in Paris with dozens of Star of David graffiti. The evidence suggesting Russian involvement is compelling: a pro-Russian botnet named RR disseminated images of the vandalized homes even before the French public was made aware of the incidents.
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מגו דוד צויר על קיר בניין בפריז
מגו דוד צויר על קיר בניין בפריז
A Parisian synagogue marked with the Star of David
(Photo: Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt / AFP)
Analysts believe that these actions stem from Russia's agenda to destabilize and weaken Western nations, particularly those supporting Ukraine. The ultimate objective appears to be to sow discord and unrest, thereby fracturing societies and stirring up internal turmoil.
French authorities have reported a breakthrough in their investigation into the defacing of Jewish homes in Paris. They have identified two Moldovan couples as the culprits behind the graffiti incidents. One couple has been apprehended and interrogated. Interestingly, they pointed the finger at a Moldovan businessman named Anatoli Prizenko, a figure known for his close ties to the Kremlin. Prizenko, who previously vied for the Moldovan presidency as a candidate of the Kremlin-backed socialist party, allegedly commissioned the graffiti campaign.
Meanwhile, the state of affairs in Russia adds another layer of concern. Russia's state-run television channel, Russia 1, briefly used a provocative title in a recent article: "Israel is a cancer in the heart of the Middle East." Although the title was swiftly altered within an hour, the initial sentiment was not easily forgotten.
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הכאוס בשדה התעופה בדגסטן
הכאוס בשדה התעופה בדגסטן
Chaos at Dagestan airport as pro-Palestinian rioters try to reach Israelis on recently landed plane
Compounding the issue, Russian Telegram groups have been broadcasting a series of alarming claims. One reported that Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, donned a yellow Star of David patch on his lapel, suggesting parallels between the current situation in Palestinian territories and the historical persecution of Jews. Another group propagated the accusation that Israel is deliberately targeting mosques, contrasting this with Israel's outcry when synagogues are damaged, thereby implying a hypocrisy in respecting religious symbols.
Russian Telegram groups have been circulating a video featuring Vladimir Poghosyan, a former senior advisor to the Armenian chief of staff. In the video, Poghosyan makes a series of alarming statements. He openly advocates for harm against Jews, denies the Holocaust, and expresses a desire to fight alongside the Palestinians if given the opportunity.
Poghosyan's rhetoric escalates further. "Israel is very fortunate that I did not lend my support to Hamas or Hezbollah. If I had, the death toll would not be a mere 1,000, but 100,000. I would view the annihilation of your entire people as the highest act of justice," he said.
Poghosyan caused a stir with his inflammatory statements, shockingly claiming he doesn't believe the Holocaust ever occurred. He disparaged Jews as a "destructive people" who "have no right to be on this earth." He accused Israel of being a fascist state that aids Azerbaijan in killing his people by supplying weapons.
In response to the rising tide of antisemitism in regions that were once part of the Soviet Union, special measures have been taken. The Nativ organization, operating under the Prime Minister's Office and tasked with liaising with Jewish communities in these regions, has initiated a hotline.
This hotline is designed to provide a safe space for communities to report threats, instances of antisemitism, and provocative statements that jeopardize their peace. A dedicated line has been set up for WhatsApp and Telegram (+972-504005545), enabling individuals to send text messages about their concerns and experiences.
Government surveillance experts have noted that the escalation of antisemitic sentiment and hostility toward Israel in the countries of the former Soviet Union seems to be primarily confined to social networks. These platforms are powerful tools for shaping societal views, and propagandists with Kremlin affiliations are believed to be instrumental in disseminating the antisemitic content.
However, the situation breeds concern in Israel. The fear is that the increase in antisemitic and anti-Israel rhetoric online could lead to more incidents, similar to the one that occurred in Dagestan, where a rabid Islamic mob stormed the airport, looking to kill Jews and Israelis. Hence, the Israeli government has decided to take proactive measures, keeping a vigilant eye on the situation. They have established a hotline for Jewish communities, aiming to be on top of any emerging threats and to ensure the safety and peace of these communities.
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