The JTA reports:
Following a storm of protest from Jewish groups and Israeli politicians, Russian officials have dropped a probe into a Russian Jewish group for publishing a religious Jewish book.
But Russian and U.S. Jewish officials warn that those interested in human rights should remain vigilant to prevent similar incidents in the future.
“The fact that the prosecutors have been seriously considering that case for a long time, isn’t that a reason for us to be concerned?” said Rabbi Zinovy Kogan, chairman of the [non-Chabad] Congress of Jewish Religious Organizations and Communities of Russia, the group that was the subject of the probe.…
The probe was opened after an anti-Semitic letter was circulated earlier this year attacking the text of the Shulchan Aruch legal code as extremist and anti-Christian. The congress has published a short version of the medieval Jewish text.
The probe astonished Israeli officials and heads of international Jewish groups, who said it reminded them of religious persecution under the czar and of religious disputations foisted on Jews by the Catholic church in medieval times.
Mark Levin, executive director of NCSJ: Advocates on Behalf of Jews in Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic States & Eurasia, said it’s still unknown what prompted the incident.
“We’re all pleased that the investigation was dropped, but it doesn’t answer the question of why the investigation was started in the first place,” he said. “This is the type of issue that shouldn’t occur in a society that is trying to promote tolerance and pluralism.”
Levin said his group will emphasize in its meetings with Russian government officials that these types of probes are unacceptable.
Direct pressure on Russia from Israel, local and foreign Jewish groups led to the decision to drop the case, observers in Moscow suggested.
Israeli and Russian media also noted that the news on dropping the probe was released during a visit to Moscow by Israel’s trade minister, Ehud Olmert. Olmert was in Moscow for talks on economic relations between the two countries.…
Again, do the math:
- No probe could have been launched if Putin objected.
- Putin's government reacted weakly to the probe as it has to other antisemitic incidents.
- The announcement of the probe and of its "dropping" were timed to coincide with Olmert's visit.
- Olmert's visit was about trade between the two countries.
- Most graft and skimming done by senior Russian government officials is done from trade revenue.
Something's rotten in Moscow and Chabad's "chief rabbi" is covering for it.
UPDATE: The Forward's coverage does not mention Olmert's role or the timing of the probe. It does, however, appear to give Lazar undue credit for ending it:
The controversy over the investigation comes amid reports of growing Russian antisemitism and claims that government authorities have failed to mount a serious enough response to the trend. Some critics blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin, with a few observers even suggesting that the Kremlin had hoped to demand something from Israel in return for halting the investigation. But the leading Chabad official in the former Soviet Union and one of Russia's two chief rabbis — Berel Lazar — has forged close relations with Putin. At least in this case, the rabbi's influence appears to have paid off.
"We spoke to the prosecutor general of Russia and we explained it to him clearly, that in today's age, to come out with such claims on Jewish texts... it's really senseless," Lazar told the Forward. "In no way does [the code] affect today the relationship between Jews and non-Jews."
Lazar, who heads the Chabad-dominated Federation of Jewish Communities of the former Soviet Union, intervened even though the organization under investigation is aligned with the rival Russian Jewish Congress and includes Reform, Modern Orthodox and secular components.…
Lazar also used his interview with the Forward to cover for Putin:
Lazar, however, claims that Putin is committed to the Jewish community.
"I think it's not a secret of the relationship the president has with the Jewish community in general," Lazar said in a telephone interview with the Forward. "I must say that lately, after his trip to Israel and me standing by him throughout the visits, it's not a secret here in Russia."
So, Berl Lazar becomes the "hero" of this sorry episode, Israel's role is reduced to a minor footnote, and Lazar uses his "stature" as a "hero" to promote (i.e., kasher) Putin. Does this sound familiar?