Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Harriet Sherwood and the Russians

Remember Harriet Sherwood? The one with the felafel issues? She's back, and over at CIF, they're commenting on a piece she wrote for the Guardian about how the Russians are ruining Israel.

CIF points out, correctly, that Sherwood and her readers would probably be infuriated (and rightly so, in my eyes) at a journalist who broadly slurred a group of immigrants to Britain as damaging the country. Indeed, I've spent some time online myself, since the London riots, dealing with people who blame the whole thing on the West Indians, or the Muslims, or...well, mostly one of those two.

Yet, Harriet Sherwood – the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent, who, no doubt, fancies herself a multiculturalist who is free of such narrow-minded anti-immigrant bias – saw fit in her most recent post, “Israel’s former Soviet immigrants transform adopted country“, Aug. 17, to blame Israeli immigrants from the former Soviet Union (FSU) for moving the country in a dangerous direction.

Sherwood’s piece blames “The million-plus citizens of the former Soviet Union who immigrated to Israel in the past 20 years” for causing a housing crisis, being resistant to integrating into Israeli society, and bringing with them Russian political values inconsistent with democracy, tolerance and compromise.

Now, just imagine if something similar was written about the injurious effects of immigration to the UK on traditional British culture, and substitute the word “Muslims” for “Russians” to get a sense of the supreme moral hypocrisy at play here.

Luckily, we get a rejoinder, from Anastasia Couzminski, one of those unintegrated Russians, who has this to say:

Hello CiF watch,

As a regular reader of your blog and one of those annoying Russians that “integrated little” in Israel, I couldn’t let this article pass. This is personal.

I am beyond furious at [Harriet Sherwood's] article!

[What she says about Russians] couldn’t be any farther from the truth.

As an immigrant who’s been living here most of my life, I consider myself to be 110% ISRAELI and not Russian or Kazakh (I was born in the republic of Kazakhstan).

My mother is Jewish but I have many friends whose mother are in fact non-Jewish but are similarly supremely dedicated to this country.

It is absolute rubbish that immigrants integrated little and live mostly in “Russian enclaves”.

Many such “unintegrated Russians” are married to “Sabras” (Israelis who were born in Israel), give their kids Israeli names and many even refuse to speak Russian anymore.

This LIE [regarding the] lack of integration is evident everywhere.

I, as with most of the “unintegrated Russians”, have served in the army and, in fact, many of these “unintegrated Russian” young men go to become fighters and officers in the army and fight and DIE side by side with Israel-born soldiers!

We study all together in schools and universities and despite there being “Russian” hang-out places, it is SIMPLY NOT TRUE that [non-Russian] Israelis are NOT wanted there. The FIB that Russians created a housing problem is [also simply not true]. Russians did not come to parasite on this country. They finished “Ulpan” (Hebrew classes for immigrants) and right away began searching for jobs. They can now be found in every single workplace including hospitals, courts, and the media (NOT ONLY Russian media).

The fact that Harriet Sherwood makes a point of singling out Russians is a total double standard. And the following quote by the Russian-hating Israeli journalist, whom [Sherwood] must have had to dig out from some very dark place, which claims “…alienation between Russian immigrants and native-born Israelis [exist because] there is not much social interaction” is also simply not true.

Most of my friends are Israelis, many of my friends are married to Israelis, we party, travel and do everything together! And the older generation is the same.

In short, [Sherwood] evidently didn’t have anything to report about and found, in the much maligned Russian community, a convenient target and scapegoat.



Watching anti-Israel writers deal with the phenomenon of immigration to Israel from the FSU has been rather interesting. They see them as a single group, of course, and the information that not all of the Russians are Ashkenazi, or from Russia, often appears to baffle them. (Jews from Kazhakstan? Huh?) Mostly, though, they appreciate the Russians, even as they bash them, because the Russian olim reinforce what the anti-Israel crowd wants to see, in their own minds, that is. They see the Russians as 'white', and 'intolerant' because of their Soviet background. (Odd, from people who insisted, while it was still standing, that the USSR was a bastion of tolerance.) This saves them, once again, from having to examine the multicultural nature of Israeli society, or from examining other groups in the country too closely. The Mizrahim and Sephardim from Arab countries are a particular problem for the anti-Israel pundit, one they generally solve by publicly 'supporting' them as victims of Israeli racism, but not actually caring to know anything about their history, their existence as Israelis, or their political opinions.

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