Igor Zhemajlov, one of the leading figures of the anti-Zionist Slavic Union, was last week forced into political exile. The political movement was formed last year with its base in the million strong Israeli Russian community. In February an historical alliance was forged between the Slavic Union and Palestinian grass-roots under the leadership of Mustafa Barghouti, in a combined effort for a democratization of Israel/Palestine. The alliance shifted from the more accepted two-state separatist approach to the conflict, and focused on developing a civil rights movement to create one, democratic state for all citizens.
In the beginning of the 90Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s Israel commenced a massive campaign for the Ã¢â‚¬Å“repatriationÃ¢â‚¬Â of Jews from the former Soviet Union. The multibillion dollar, US subsidized, campaign was intended to strengthen Jewish demography, while simultaneously providing the country with a well needed workforce and military personnel. Out of the new Russian community, approximately half are appreciated to be non-Jewish in a judicial or practical sense. According to the leader of the Slavic Union, Alexei Korobov, they have become Ã¢â‚¬Å“third grade citizensÃ¢â‚¬Â.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“As long as we keep quiet and work everything is fine, but as soon as we try to make our voices heard we are brutally silenced. We have no political representation in the Knesset nor in Israeli mass media.Ã¢â‚¬Â Korobov asserts that the official Russian functionaries represent Zionist interests rather than that of the Russian community.
When the alliance between the Slavic Union and the NGOÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s of Barghouti was formed in February, Korobov proclaimed their common interest. Ã¢â‚¬Å“We want a democratic state for all its citizens. A state where Jews and non-Jews have the same rights. We will not die and kill for a state that is not made for us, we want to unite our efforts and struggle for a democratic Israel/Palestine.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The Slavic Union carried an immense demographic significance as the Russians, initially imported for Israeli interests, started turning against the state. The nascent alliance was even more threatening. Integrating the Israeli and Palestinian populations would disrupt the foundations of Israel as a Jewish State.
It was clear that an occurrence as such would not pass un-remarked. Nor would it be an easy task. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I have already been offered $2000 to leave the country, and who knows, maybe tomorrow I will have been sacked,Ã¢â‚¬Â Korobov said after the formation of the alliance. Little did he know the magnitude of his words.
Preceding the subsequent media storm, the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot published an article on the theme. The following day Igor Zhemajlov and Alexei Korobov, the two leaders of the organization, were discharged from work, due to Ã¢â‚¬Å“restructuringÃ¢â‚¬Â. The article, with mutilated pictures, was pasted all over their workplaces. Ã¢â‚¬Å“This will only make us stronger in our beliefÃ¢â‚¬Â Zhemajlov said after facing sudden unemployment.
In the wake of the Israeli reactions to the Slavic Union, the alliance also collapsed. Barghouti explained that fighting for a one-state solution, although desirable, would be political suicide. A one-state solution, or a democratization of Israel/Palestine is essentially a movement against political Zionism. Such a solution is regarded apprehensively by large portions of the Palestinian movement, as anti-Zionism is commonly equated with anti-Semitism in Israel and the West.
Since the development of the Oslo accords the two-state solution remained the main strategy of the Palestinian resistance movement. Hence the Palestinian cooperation with Western and Israeli peace movements effectively eradicated the possibility for the development of a powerful democratic alliance with disgruntled Israelis.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Barghouti hasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t delivered, we need to find new partners on the Palestinian sideÃ¢â‚¬Â proceeded Zhemajlov. New partners were however never found. For seven months they struggled without support, at which time the Israeli political apparatus singled out and alienated the potentially dangerous movement. The Israeli community has over the years developed a means of turning proponents of democracy into political dissidents, where anti-Zionist political parties are outlawed, journalists are silenced and workers are discharged.
After loosing his work, having his son assaulted in school, and been forced to divorce, Zhemajlov finally decided last week to go into political exile. Zhemajlov is as of now in Norway with uncertain hopes of being granted refugee status.