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Soviet Union

  • Israel's forgotten heroes of the Red Army

    This Holocaust Memorial Day, a group of young Russian-speaking Israelis is calling attention to the stories of their grandparents —  Soviet heroes who defeated the Nazis, living on the margins of Israeli society. By Edi Zhensker and Berry Rosenberg A lot of us stare at them and wonder: who are these elderly people who speak Russian? What are they wearing on their chest? Who gets so many medals? Many wonder whether it is some weird 90s fashion trend that these immigrants brought with them, and which they refuse to let go of. Others have a hard time pronouncing the word…

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  • Why the Israeli debate on the occupation misses the point

    In the eyes of most Israelis, democracy consists of two Jews arguing over the fate of the Palestinian. Natan Sharansky, the Chairman of the Jewish Agency, used his experiences as a prisoner of conscience in the Soviet Union in a recent op-ed in order to attack the activists of Israeli anti-occupation organization, Breaking the Silence, who do not shy from criticizing Israel's policies in the occupied territories outside the country. Let me be clear: there are no similarities between what Jewish political activists in Israel go through and the persecution of dissidents in the USSR, and Sharansky's contributions to human rights must…

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  • A Soviet spy and an Israeli patriot

    The death of Soviet secret agent Marcus Klingberg is a reminder that even the most fiercely ideological spies can have a deep compassion for the societies they live in. Marcus Klingberg, "the most damaging spy in Israel's history," according to Israel's security services, passed away earlier this week at the age of 97. Klingberg was a dedicated communist, the kind that blindly believed in the Soviet Union's promises of the 20th century. He spied for the USSR for over 30 years and passed on secrets and classified materials to which he had access as the deputy scientific director of the…

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  • 'I was force-fed six times — in a Soviet prison'

    As Israel contemplates force-feeding Palestinian hunger striker Muhammad Allan, a rabbi and human rights activist recalls how he was force-fed six times while imprisoned by the Soviet regime. The pain and humiliation remain with him until today. By Rabbi Michael Rivkin I was force-fed twice in two different periods of my life. The first time was by the KGB in Moscow, January 1983. A court hearing at the supreme court was set for the end of January. On the day of the hearing I was not brought before a judge, nor was I presented with any new information on my…

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  • The Iranian nuclear threat and other phantoms

    The 'framework agreement' announced Thursday night in Lausanne is a lot better than no agreement. But an approach to Iran involving no sanctions and no hysteria would have been best of all. NOTE: This post has been changed to reflect the author's happy surprise that the framework agreement was not the dud he thought it would be - even after it was first announced - but is, according to all accounts, a very meaningful step.   Remember the threat of North Korea going nuclear? The sanctions, the scare rhetoric from the United States, the specter of the craziest, cultiest nation…

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  • A land without a people?: A visit to Russia's Jewish autonomous region

    A visit to Birobidzhan, where Jewish autonomy hasn't exactly worked out — and yet, the sign for Lenin Street is still written in Yiddish and public monuments commemorate Sholem Aleichem. By Yakov Rabkin Last summer, after three months of teaching in Japan, I decided to return home to Montreal via Birobidzhan, in Russia’s Far East. The Jewish Autonomous Region was getting ready to celebrate its 80th anniversary, and I easily found people to host me. Built by Jewish enthusiasts from a dozen countries including Argentina, Canada, France, the United States and British Palestine, Birobidzhan is conceptually akin to Israel, which also considers Jews as…

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  • The Russians came, the Russians stayed: A response to Uri Avnery

    In a recent article, seasoned veteran of the Zionist Left Uri Avnery claimed that the influx of Russian-speaking immigrants to Israel, living in self-imposed ghettos, is what pushed the country to the right politically. Lia Tarachansky counters that the Russian-speaking community never 'mingled' with other Israelis because it was never invited to do so, and that Avnery is ignoring the many contributions the immigrants made to the country. By Lia Tarachansky I was born in Kiev into a shifting, uncertain reality. While I was only learning to read, my parents split, the Chernobyl nuclear reactor blew up and the Soviet Union collapsed. I…

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  • The price of turning Israel into another Scandinavia

    The reality of the Nordic economic model has little to do with the derisive way it is described by the 'The Marker' or 'The Economist.' One writer takes apart the right-wing business media's analysis, revealing the truth behind the successful social democracies. By: Ami Vatury (Translated from Hebrew by Rachel Beitarie) “The Scandinavian model” found in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland is exactly what the social left [1] says it is. It is an economic model based on large, strong, democratic trade unions; considerable involvement of the unions in management; a large public sector (relative to other countries); high taxes and…

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  • Palestinians and the Syrian Revolution: Lessons from the fight against fascism

    One writer asserts that even if it were in the Palestinian's interest for Assad to remain in control, they should not ask that of Syrians in the midst of a civil war. By Talal Alyan The lapse of support for the Syrian revolution amongst some segments of the Arab left will in retrospect be regarded as another failure to stray from party vanguards. Palestinians have once again found themselves being used as props for political causes they neither endorse nor hold any sympathy for. The latest instance being the Pro-Assad camp that has worked tirelessly to link the Palestinian issue…

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