NEW YORK - Russian President Vladimir Putin’s suggestion that Jews and other minorities in the Russian Federation could be behind the meddling in the 2016 US presidential election is deeply concerning and should be immediately retracted, the Anti-Defamation League said in a statement on Sunday.
In an interview with NBC News last week, Putin rejected claims made by the highest reaches of the US security establishment that Russia was behind an online disruption campaign designed to sow chaos into election process.
In response to the charges leveled by the US intelligence community, Putin said: “Maybe they’re not even Russians. Maybe they’re Ukrainians, Tatars, Jews, just with Russian citizenship. Even that needs to be checked. Maybe they have dual citizenship. Or maybe a green card. Maybe it was the Americans who paid them for this work. How do you know? I don’t know.”
The comments drew a swift rebuke from many US Jewish leaders, including ADL CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt, who accused the Russian government of using the Jewish community as a scapegoat.
“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,” said Greenblatt.
“It is deeply disturbing to see the Russian president 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.’”
“We live in a moment when antisemitic violence is on the rise and words can have profound consequences, particularly when spoken by public figures or elected officials like President Putin. We hope he swiftly clarifies his words before they cause further damage to those communities he has singled out,” he added.
Meanwhile, lawmakers in the Knesset called on the government to quickly condemn Putin and demand from Moscow an immediate apology.
“Maybe the Jews interfered in the American elections, maybe the Jews control the world, maybe Jews slaughtered the Jews in Poland. For all those allegations, there is one origin: Jew-hatred,” said MK Ksenia Svetlova (Zionist Union).
“I expect the Israeli government to come out strongly against these serious remarks made by the Russian president. If Israel won’t defend the Jews, nobody will do so in its place,” the former Russian citizen added.
Her Zionist Union colleague MK Nachamn Shai described the comment as the “worst form of antisemitism,” saying in a statement that “[Putin’s] comments demonstrate that nothing has changed in the perception of Jews as those responsible for the ‘world’s evil.’ A strong response is required from the Israeli government.”
“I would expect Jewish organizations to join and condemn these serious remarks. They also carry responsibility for the fate of the Jewish people, whoever and wherever they are,” he added.
President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that there was interference by Russia and probably by other countries in the 2016 election, and the United States would counteract any attempt at meddling in the November 2018 midterm elections.
“Well, the Russians had no impact on our votes whatsoever, but certainly there was meddling and probably there was meddling from other countries and maybe other individuals,” Trump said at a joint news conference with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven.
“We’re doing a very, very deep study and we’re coming with some... very strong suggestions on the 2018 election... We’ll counteract whatever they do, we’ll counteract it very strongly,” Trump said.
Eytan Halon and Reuters contributed to this report.