New York Times
Laugh and applaud while Russia plundered
What do Russian Jewish leaders do when they see Israel plundering Russia? They laugh and applaud. What they do not do is point out that more "highly talented scientists, engineers and artists" for Israel means fewer for Russia.
When Netanyahu instructs his Russian-Jewish audience that "Knowledge is the key to economic success and Russian knowledge the key to Israel's economic growth," nobody stops him to ask whether if this "knowledge" had remained in Russia, it might not instead have served as the key to Russia's economic growth. Nobody stops to ask whether Russia's disappointing economic growth might be attributable to its loss of so much of its "knowledge" to Israel.
Author Alessandra Stanley portrays Netanyahu as being sensitive and considerate in his choice of words. Netanyahu, for example, does no more than "urge" his audience to go to Israel, but he refrains from "lecturing" his audience as to why they should do so. Urging good, lecturing bad. Netanyahu sensitive, critics of Netanyahu insensitive.
And, rabbi of Moscow, Pinchas Goldschmidt, adds that it would have been an affront for Netanyahu to have "explicitly pressured" his audience to go to Israel, or to have "formally requested" them to do so. Netanyahu's pressure, we infer, must have been only implicit, and his requests must have been only informal, from which we are invited to conclude that Netanyahu was not guilty of any impropriety. Explicit pressure bad, implicit pressure good. Formal requests bad, informal requests good. Israel stealing brains good, Russia complaining about stolen brains bad.
And so this group — a rather large group, it would seem — of Russian Jewish leaders laughs and applauds at the plundering of the land of their birth, at the land of the birth of their ancestors. When they hear of how many more violinists Israel now has, they are delighted, and they do not ask how many fewer violinists Russia now has. What I expect next is that if a shipment of Russian gold is hijacked to Israel, Russian Jewish leaders will not only laugh and applaud, but if the heist is big enough, they may even dance in the streets — such is their loyalty.
Put the shoe on the other foot for a moment. Imagine Boris Yeltsin going to Israel, renting some vast auditorium, expressing gratitude for the million or so Israelis who had immigrated to Russia (let's assume they had) where they were producing an economic renaissance. Imagine him, furthermore, urging his audience to go to Russia, and imagine the forbearing Israelis giving him credit for not lecturing them as to why they should do so. Imagine him implicitly pressuring his audience to go, and the forbearing Israelis giving him credit for not explicitly pressuring them. Imagine him informally requesting them to go, and the forbearing Israelis giving him credit for not formally requesting them to go. Imagine his Israeli-born audience laughing and clapping as he recounts Russia's advances which have been purchased at the cost of Israeli setbacks.
Below is the beginning of Alessandra Stanley's New York Times article which occasioned the above remarks.
Netanyahu Courts Russian Business And Russian Jews
By Alessandra Stanley
March 12, 1997, The New York Times
MOSCOW — Under intense political fire at home, Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel sought a reprieve
in Moscow on Tuesday, focusing on improving economic
ties to Russia and courting Russia's newly assertive
Netanyahu, on his first official visit to Russia, held
two packed meetings with Jewish leaders, one in a Moscow
synagogue, another in the Kolonny Zal, the vast, august
government building where Stalin and other Communist
leaders once lay in state.
In the latter, Netanyahu credited recent Russian
immigrants to Israel, now more than a million strong,
with flooding his country with highly talented
scientists, engineers and artists. "We now have more
violinists than any other country in the world," he said
to laughter and applause. Knowledge, he said, is the key
to economic success and Russian knowledge the key to
Israel's economic growth. "Today, Jews make money even
in Israel," he said with a grin.
It is a measure of how rapidly the Russian Jews have
rediscovered and rebuilt their institutions after 70
years of Soviet repression that building economic ties
between Russia and Israel was a paramount issue at the
And while the Israeli prime minister urged his audience
to go to Israel, he did not lecture them on why they
"What is interesting is that he put no explicit pressure
on his audience," said Pinchas Goldschmidt, who is the
chief rabbi of Moscow. "It's a sign of the times. His
audience would be affronted if he formally asked them to