Eye on the Middle East Oct/Nov 2000

Jewish emigration from the former Soviet Union is again on the rise. The reason is distressingly familiar. The evil of anti-Semitism is increasing once again. Groups such as the swastika-sporting Russian National Unity Party have been busy distributing hate literature on street corners. To make matters worse for Russian Jews, reports have linked these dangerous extremists to influential clergy in the Russian Orthodox Church. Alexander Verkhovsky, a Moscow-based political science researcher, says, “This is a big problem, as anti-semitism [sic] was historically characteristic of any Christian church, but now is disseminated in the publicly active part of the [Orthodox] church.”

A grim reminder of just how serious the problem can become has surfaced with the possible discovery of the Struma in the depths of the Black Sea. Struma was a Danube cattle barge that was converted into a rescue ship for Romanian Jews attempting to escape the Holocaust during World War II. Designed to hold no more than 150 people, the ship was carrying 770 passengers when its engines failed off the Turkish coast. When the Struma was towed into the harbor at Istanbul, Turkish authorities were less than hospitable. For fear of offending the Germans, British, and Arabs, the boat, with its impoverished passengers, was left to float helplessly in the harbor for seventy-one days. Finally, Turkish authorities ordered the Struma towed to the middle of the Black Sea and abandoned. The next day, without warning, a Russian submarine torpedoed the ship. The rickety craft quickly sank with all 770 Jewish refugees on board. They had been cruelly refused their one chance to survive.

Now, fifty-eight years later, search teams believe they have located the wreckage of the ill-fated craft. Perhaps the timing is providential. Although remembering the unbridled hatred that officially and coldly executed these people may be odious, it is essential. For this reason, if no other, all parties negotiating for secure and recognized borders for the Jewish homeland should be wary of being duped into “taking a chance on peace.” Taking chances is not an option when negotiating with “peace partners” whose oft-stated final objective is to tow the Jewish ship of state out to sea. Every Jewish body entombed in the Struma is a memorial to this macabre fact of life.

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