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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Nationalists Call for Jewish Ban

A group of nationalist deputies is calling for an investigation aimed at outlawing all Jewish organizations in Russia, accusing Jews of fomenting ethnic hatred and provoking anti-Semitism.

In a letter dated Jan. 13, about 20 State Duma deputies asked Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov to investigate their claims and, if they are confirmed, to start proceedings "on the prohibition in our country of all religious and ethnic Jewish organizations as extremist."

Arguing that Jews were to blame for anti-Semitism, the authors of the letter want Jewish groups outlawed based on legislation against extremism and fomenting ethnic discord.

"The negative assessments by Russian patriots of the qualities and actions against non-Jews that are typical of Jews correspond to the truth, indeed these actions are not random but prescribed in Judaism and have been practiced for two centuries," says the letter, faxed in part to The Associated Press by the office of Rodina Deputy Alexander Krutov.

Thus, it says, "the statements and publications against Jews that have incriminated patriots are self-defense, which is not always stylistically correct but is justified in essence."

The Prosecutor General's Office could not immediately be reached for comment on the letter, which Interfax said was signed by deputies from the nationalist Rodina and Liberal Democratic parties, as well as the Communist Party.

Russia's chief rabbi, Berl Lazar, said the deputies were either insane or "quite sane but limitlessly cynical" and were hoping to win support "by playing the anti-Semitic card."

With President Vladimir Putin planning to join events this week commemorating the liberation of Auschwitz by Soviet troops, Russia's Holocaust Foundation head Alla Gerber said it was "horrible that as we're marking the 60th anniversary of this tragic and great day ... we can speak of the danger of fascism in the countries that defeated fascism."

She said that while the Russian state itself is no longer anti-Semitic, there are "anti-Semitic campaigns that are led by all sorts of organizations."

"The economic situation is ripe for this, an enemy is needed, and the enemy is well-known, traditional," Gerber said.