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Internal EU paper contains antisemitic tropes, Jewish group claims

A working paper sent out in August by the E.U.'s diplomatic service identifies Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich as a Jew in a derogatory way, according to the European Jewish Association.

Russian-Israeli tycoon Roman Abramovich arrives at the Western Wall for his son Aaron's bar mitzvah, Dec. 20, 2022. Photo by Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90.
Russian-Israeli tycoon Roman Abramovich arrives at the Western Wall for his son Aaron's bar mitzvah, Dec. 20, 2022. Photo by Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90.

A recent internal European Union paper denigrates Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, referring to his Jewish background and employing derogatory antisemitic themes, according to the European Jewish Association.

The European External Action Service (EEAS), the E.U.’s diplomatic service, sent out an Aug. 16 working paper titled “Ukraine territorial integrity—additional information.” According to the EJA, the paper identifies Abramovich’s faith, though it’s unrelated to the issues discussed, then belittles his attachment to that faith and finally claims he took orders from Russian President Vladimir Putin to undermine the Russian Jewish Congress.

The EJA sent a letter of protest to the European Commission Coordinator on combating antisemitism Katharina von Schnurbein, pointing out the offending passages.

Perhaps the most controversial section states:

“Abramovich, as the main shareholder of Omsk Bacon, found nothing wrong to benefit from the annual slaughter of 300,000 pigs. Yet he also followed Yeltsin’s and later Putin’s instructions to finance a Chadissic [sic] counter-organization against the Russian Jewish Congress, which … had in their view become too powerful as an internationally well-connected lobby.”

In the letter of complaint, EJA Vice Chairman Alexander Benjamin wrote: “A Jewish background, already mentioned needlessly, is slurred even further by calling into question his very faith because of his business interests in pig slaughtering.

“Then we have the antisemitic ‘cherry on top’ in the document’s antisemitic character assassination: that his hand was in the creation of a Chasidic counterweight to the Russian Jewish Congress,” he added.

“When I first looked at the document, I immediately said that this seems to meet the IHRA definition of antisemitism,” Benjamin told JNS. “My feeling was, why are they even talking about his Judaism in the first place?”

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism is a tool to help countries, governments and individuals identify Jew hatred. Over 1,000 entities have adopted it worldwide.

In the letter, Benjamin quoted the relevant portion of the definition:

“Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective—such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.”

Every element mentioned in that definition is found in that EEAS paper, Benjamin told JNS.

He noted that the EJA has no specific interest in defending Abramovich or his business interests and would have reacted the same way regardless of whom the EEAS targeted.

Rather, he said, what worries the EJA is the idea that antisemitic tropes are appearing in official E.U. documents. This is not some “populist or xenophobic rag,” he said.

Describing the working paper as a kind of “government white paper, but for internal use,” he noted that it was sent to “every permanent representation, or embassy” that deals with sanctions.

“It [antisemitism] has no place in an E.U. document,” he said. “And if this is what they say about us in official documents, I hate to think what they’re saying about us in private.”

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