What does the closure of «Sohnuta» mean for Muslims in Russia?

Switching from international news to domestic Russian news, one cannot overlook the recent news in the field of state-national relations regarding the Russian Ministry of Justice’s lawsuit to close the Jewish organization «Sochnut».

The Sochnut Agency is one of the main organizations of world Jewry, responsible for Israel’s connection with the Jewish Diaspora. It keeps track of Jews and those with Jewish roots, enables them to obtain Israeli citizenship (at least one Jewish ancestor among the grandparents), organizes children’s and youth camps for them, Hebrew and Jewish culture courses, and helps them obtain Israeli citizenship and move to Israel.

The possible closure of Sochnut in Russia is a clear signal from the Kremlin, which is losing its last allies on the international stage and expressing dissatisfaction with Israel’s vacillation between Moscow and Washington over the war in Ukraine. But should Russian Muslims rejoice, and how should they respond in general?

First, it should be understood that the very existence of an organization like Sochnut on the territory of Russia speaks to the different status of its Jews and Muslims. All serious structures of interaction with Russian Turks from Turkey, or influence on Muslims in Russia from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, etc., were already closed in the first decade of Putin’s rule, while all conditions were created for the preservation and development of international relations for Jewry.

Secondly, it should be understood that the closure of Sochnut in no way implies that similar international Islamic organizations will open in its place. Rather, it speaks of a tendency when Putin’s Russia is cutting off all its most important international ties, one of which was the connection between Russian and world Jewry, and is itself increasingly turning into a big North Korea. And, of course, there is nothing good for Russian Muslims who find themselves in this closing trap.

Third, especially in recent times, Sochnut has been helping Jews to leave Russia. So what is the benefit for Russian Muslims if it ceases its activities? That there will be more Jews in Russia who will not have the opportunity to leave? This has happened to them twice in their history — once at the beginning of the 20th century and the second time at the end, and both times it ended badly for Russia.

Fourth, any closure of borders and emigration channels from today’s Russia is a possible precedent that can spread to everyone tomorrow. Therefore, it may be worthwhile for Muslims who plan to emigrate only from Russia to hurry, because if they begin to restrict the departure of Jews, then it is even more likely that Muslims will be affected.

However, it is not impossible that the Kremlin will leave itself the possibility to reconsider the decision on Sochnut at the last moment and use it as a bargaining chip in its relations with the Israeli authorities. After all, in its situation, it would be madness to pick a fight with the entire world Jewry. But what are we talking about?

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