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tv   HAR Dtalk  BBC News  August 30, 2022 12:30am-1:01am BST

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this is bbc news. we'll have the headlines and all the main news stories for you at the top of the hour as newsday continues, straight after hardtalk. welcome to hardtalk, i'm stephen sackur. not only has ukraine been irrevocably changed by vladimir putin's military aggression, so has russia. putin has used the conflict to crack down harder on dissent and instil an ever more strident brand of nationalism that made life in moscow unbearable for my guest today. pinchas goldschmidt was chief rabbi of moscow till he fled from russia and left his post. his fate has exposed the scale of widerjewish flight from russia and divisions
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within thejewish community. why is this war deepening jewish anxiety? rabbi pinchas goldschmidt in jerusalem, welcome to hardtalk. hi, stephen. thank you for inviting me to hardtalk. it's the second time with you. it's the second time and it's a pleasure to have you back on the show. things have changed since you were last talking to me there. you sit in jerusalem. you served as chief rabbi of moscow for, what, pretty much three decades. you made your life in russia and just a couple of
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months ago, you chose to leave. why? i went to sleep the 23rd of february in the evening in moscow, and i woke up in the morning in a different country. it was still moscow, but with different rules, with different laws. and ifelt... ..that the world is changing and... ..isaw... ..the bombs, bombing of kyiv. the new laws in russia cracking down on dissent. we saw that the remnant of any free media was closed down. ekho moskvy, the novaya gazeta and others. and... but this is only the beginning. interesting, rabbi, that you choose to say the world changed on february 24th with the invasion of ukraine. but isn't the truth that
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for a few days or even weeks after that invasion, you chose to stay quiet? you indicated that you'd received messages, i'd like to know who from, saying that you should not criticise the war in order not to get the jewish community into trouble. so, who gave you that message, and why did you ultimately decide you couldn't adhere to that message? as the situation was, was, and when the war was going on, we expected, you know, based on the history, we know we are in russia. russia has, each country has its history. the community leaders expected that eventually there is going to be demand, demand from the authorities to support the war and the community leaders among us, we decided all together not to say one word, not in support and not against it.
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of course, that is support because you cannot support this war and not against it, because then we would, to some extent, endanger the community. but as time passed and i saw the thousands, maybe the hundreds of thousands of refugees leaving ukraine, among them thousands ofjews, rabbis who organised the buses to get the community out of bombardments. communities which were... ..which were built during the last 30 years, as i arrived in moscow, my colleagues arrived in kyiv in droves, in kharkiv and other cities, and odesa. i saw that those communities are being destroyed. i felt that i had to do something. i couldn't keep quiet. keeping quiet was not good enough. and my wife and i, we decided to leave russia and go and start a foundation and help
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the refugees who left ukraine to go to eastern europe. your position became, within a few weeks of that invasion, your position became that it was morally wrong, morally unacceptable to stay silent, not to condemn that invasion. is that what i should understand from what you're saying? yes. i believe that staying silent was wrong, was morally wrong. if you are silent in the face of evil, it's morally wrong. and that's the reason we decided, first of all, to do something about it. and afterwards, when i left the country, i spoke up. why then do you think that other seniorfigures in the russianjewish community took a very different view? i'm thinking in particular, for example, of rabbi alexander boroda, president of the federation of jewish communities in russia, who reflected on what he saw
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as the worrying neo—nazi tendencies in ukraine. what did you make of his position? i still believe that, who am i tojudge others? living in... ..such a country under such a regime today where any word uttered can... . . have great ramifications. it takes a lot of courage to speak out and who am ito judge others? but the point is that there's something significant about what boroda said and his view of you, because you indicated that you'd been told that there would be trouble for thejewish community in moscow and russia if you spoke out. there was pressure put upon you, that's your position. boroda claims, as far as he's concerned and aware, there was no pressure put
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on the jewish community in russia. so who is telling the truth and who is not? you have to decide in interview, maybe in hardtalk about that next time. however, at this time, i would take any kind of statement coming out of russia with great care, making sure that the statement is a bona fide statement and the people who said certain things, that actually it was their opinion. i guess what he, that is, rabbi boroda, appears to believe is that you are, in essence, disrespecting all of the jewish community. and let's face it, there's well over 100,000 of them in russia. all of those jewish people in russia who have chosen to stay in russia and who are not speaking out against the war, the implication of what you're saying is that theirs is a morally indefensible position.
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i can tell you that the response i received after we came out with my position has been from all over, from inside russia, from outside russia. and if we look at the latest polls of the immigrants from the former soviet union in israel, between 70—80% are tilting against the war and helping ukraine. the word nazi or neo—nazi has been used a great deal by both sides in this war. let me ask you, as a very experienced rabbi, do you believe the description, nazi, is applicable to either side in this war? and if so, which side do you think right now appears
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to embody some of the values, attitudes and even actions resonant and reminiscent of the nazis? the use of the terminology of national socialists or nazis, i would be extremely careful of using this kind of terminology to any other conflict, any other war, because of the singular experience of the holocaust, which, where a nation, which was a cultured nation, which produced goethe and schiller and others, stooped low enough to kill 1.5 million children, all because they were jews. so, i'm against the use of the terminology of nazis against anybody or for any political purposes. now, i believe that this war is a catastrophe.
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it is a catastrophe, not only for ukraine, not only for the ukrainian jewish communities. it is also a catastrophe for russia, for all russian citizens, and especially for the russianjewish community. there is an interesting question about religious leaders in russia today. you're, of course, a former religious leader in russia because you're not there any more. but there are, as we've discussed, prominent jewish leaders still inside the country. do you think that they can be compared, for example, with the leader of the orthodox russian church, kirill, who is clearly deeply sympathetic to vladimir putin, has a close relationship with vladimir putin and uses his pulpit to support vladimir putin. do you think that there's any sense in which thejewish leadership are being used right now by vladimir putin? i think that the fact
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that the government is feeling compelled to mobilise the religious leadership in russia shows to what extent there is a lack of support within society for this war. you have already talked about jewish people leaving russia. give me a sense of the numbers. i've read numbers suggesting the exodus has been in the tens of thousands, many, of course, going to israel, but going to other countries as well. how big an exodus do you believe it to be and what kind of russianjews are choosing to leave? the official numbers of russian citizens ofjewish descent who applied and received israeli citizenship during the months of the war are above 20,000. however, besides that,
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you have a great number ofjews who, already prior to that, in the years past, knowing and thinking and fearing of the developments which are actually happening now, have already acquired israeli citizenship. continue to live in moscow and because of this war, decided to finally leave moscow, leave russia and move to israel. this number can be quite high, also in the tens of thousands. and then we have many who left to other countries, to dubai, to the capitals of other former soviet union countries like tbilisi and baku. is it fear that's driving them? maybe a fear that, from based on history, when there is political trouble, a rise of nationalism, turbulence, the jews have an historical feeling
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that they may well, in the longer run, become victims? yes, it is definitely this fear which compels a lot of people to leave russia, and not onlyjews. and if you would like to describe the different fears which were expressed also to me for people, i'm speaking to a lot of people who are still in russia and speaking to hundreds of people who left russia to other countries, especially to israel. so, a, there's this fear that we're going back, we're going to back to a... a situation which is, it has been called the soviet union—lite, back to the soviet union. now we know that one of the most important elements of the cold war, of the warsaw pact, soviet union, was the berlin wall, was the inability of citizens
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of the eastern bloc to leave the country. you need an exit visa. so, with this return to, in many ways, we're returning to the soviet union. look at the rhetoric. look at that... ..there are almost no relationship between east and west. no communications, almost no communications by air. visas have become extremely difficult to get. not only do you say visas have become more difficult to get, but we now know the russian government is pushing to shut down the activities of the jewish agency inside russia. the agency, of course, being the main vehicle for helping jews make the journey to a new life in israel. you have said that that represents the jewish community being held hostage in what is becoming
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a diplomatic war between russia and israel. the rhetoric you're using surely risks inflaming the situation? thejewish agency for israel is a hybrid organisation. it is not 100% governmental and not 100% non—governmental. it is a hybrid organisation dealing not only with emigration to israel but also with thejewish education — emigration to israel, but also with thejewish education — formal education, informal education — and having the russian government tell israel and the jewish agency that you are not welcome is a very strong statement. emigration, or immigration to israel, that is said, has been the result that of the jewish state, of being a haven after that — in world war ii, jews had nowhere to go and 95% of the countries didn't
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want to have jews. jews today, in time of need, have a way to go. that's a result of that. so, when a government comes and says, "we don't want this "agency to continue to be in our midst in our country", it is a message that this country has a problem with emigration ofjews and it takes just a few seconds to parallel this with soviet times whenjewish emigration was forbidden. your concerns are clear and you made your decision, and you call it a moral decision to leave russia, and there you sit injerusalem. does it trouble you, as it appears to trouble president zelensky of ukraine, that israel has, in the last six months, chosen to tread a very delicate path, where it appears to want to maintain cordial, warm relations with russia and with vladimir putin, as well as with the ukrainian
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government, led by zelensky. and thus far, israel has refused to impose its own sanctions on russia and refuses to send lethal arms, weapons, to ukraine. do you believe the israeli government has got it wrong? i don't think that president zelensky has the right to criticise israel. i think that israel right now has — is dealing with two countries in its north, and lebanon and syria, two failed countries in which organisations affiliated, sponsored and financed by iran are — are being a security threat to israel throughout the last dozens of years. and syria — in syria and in lebanon.
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so, israel, besides dealing with the european issues, we're dealing with this war in europe between russia and ukraine, israel has to deal with its own security first. but with respect, zelensky isn't criticising israel for its geopolitical realities, he's simply asking israel to apply a form of morality that you have referred to from the very beginning of this interview. he spoke direct to the israeli knesset, and he said, "it is not possible to" — sorry — he said, "it is "possible to mediate between countries, "but it is not possible to mediate between good "and evil" and in his view, this aggression by russia, putin's war represents a moral choice which all countries, including israel, must make. i think that the president of ukraine is entitled to his own views but so, as we have seen, this
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to his own views, but so, as we have seen, this conflict between east and west is basically between the european union, the united states and and the united states and ukraine on one side and russia on the other side. what we have seen in the middle east — and we're not talking only about israel, we're talking about saudi arabia, we're talking about the gulf countries and we've been talking about turkey, which is part of nato — israel is not part of nato — turkey has not imposed sanctions on russia. so, israel has been clearly critical of the russian invasion, prime minister lapid expressed it quite forcefully, and i think this might be the reason why thejewish agency of israel today has trouble in russia — this is what some of the commentators are thinking. so, i think that — i'm notjudging this. there's a very well—known saying of the rabbis in the mikra that don'tjudge the other till you be in his place.
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i, as a rabbi, have a moral decision to make. i made the moral decision. the prime minister of israel has a different set of priorities — not only more priorities, he also has to make sure that ballistic missiles are not going to fall on the heads of children going to kindergarten in the north of israel. so, i think that he is entitled to his own decision. you, of course, are president of the conference of european rabbis. you look across the continent and you see, i guess, you know, a very significant nationalist, populist trend in many countries, not evenjust in europe, but one could talk about the united states, as well. are you concerned right now that that nationalist, now that nationalist, populist trend is feeding into a significant rise in anti—semitism? i think during the last years, not speaking before february
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24th, because i think on february 24th, the world changed. before february 24th, especially the young generation of europeans who did not experience world war ii — by the way, have not experienced war at all — forgot what it means to have europe at war, what a war is, what refugees are, and what it means — what's the costs of this kind of nationalism which destroys the very fabric of the european continent? so, the silver lining of this terrible war, of the russian—ukrainian war, is that europeans, especially of the younger generation, started to understand what the price is for this nationalism, for aggression, and for the lack of democratic values. but if i may interrupt,
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ijust wonder, i'm mindful you're sitting there injerusalem, do you think the israeli government sometimes forgets too? an israeli government that has sought friendly relations not just with vladimir putin but also with, for example, the government of viktor 0rban — a self—professed nationalist in hungary? do you think israel itself needs to perhaps have a shift of mind—set when it comes to dealing with this nationalist, populist phenomenon? when some israeli — i think it was less government officials but also knesset members — were looking to build bridges to the european extreme right, we in the cr were very critical of that. and i think that especially today's government has been much more careful in endorsing those forces in europe, which are against democracy.
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what, in your view, is the best way — you talk about educating young people — what is going to work in terms of ensuring anti—semitism — and otherforms of discrimination, too — do not rise along with this far—right politics? i think the main component of fighting right—wing extremism — or extremism of all kinds, and anti—semitism does not come only from the right, you have a lot of anti—semitism coming also from the extreme left, and also, unfortunately, you have islamic radicalism. i think that education, number one, is most important and also, the social media. the social media in our times basically empowered itself by giving uncensored and unedited news to everyone who comes on social media.
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and i think that the regulations of the european union regarding social media has been extremely necessary in order to make sure that people — especially young people who are being influenced by information, by information coming from those who try to propagate this kind of anti—semitism and racism and ultra—nationalism to stop that. we, sadly, are out of time but rabbi pinchas goldschmidt, i thank you very much forjoining me on hardtalk. thank you very much.
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hello there. well, it was a fine bank holiday monday in wales. we had plenty of sunshine and, in porthmadog in the northwest, we had temperatures up to 25 degrees. looking at the weather picture for the rest of the uk this week, there will be a lot of drier weather. it turns quite breezy, though, at times in the south, perhaps a bit warmer over the next couple of days, but there's a big change in our weather patterns on the way as we head into the next weekend. high pressure stays to the north of the uk at the moment, and it's that that's driving in these north—to—northeasterly winds, bringing in quite a bit of cloud across scotland and down these eastern coastal areas of england. the cloud thick enough for an occasional light shower, a few mist patches as well over the next few hours, and temperatures similar to what they've been over recent nights. so, this is how we start off tuesday morning. a bright start across much of england, wales, northern ireland with some sunshine. as we go through the morning, cloud will bubble up and develop and spread across the skies, so certainly towards the early part of the afternoon for quite a few of you, it will turn rather cloudy.
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and that cloud thick enough to squeeze out an odd light shower — east anglia, south—east england, maybe one or two across wales and northern ireland as well — but the emphasis is on a lot of dry weather. quite breezy around our coasts, and it's those onshore winds that will keep the temperatures a little bit fresher and lower across eastern scotland, eastern areas of england. again, the warmest spots are likely to be across wales and southwest england, where we'll see temperatures, again, pushing on towards the mid—20s. now, for wednesday, again, there could be an odd isolated shower around. for the both of you, though, it's another dry day with some sunshine and temperatures just starting to lift up a little bit across parts of the south. 2a, maybe 25, but still into the high teens across scotland and the far northeast of england. the weather stays quite quiet, really, through thursday and friday. no great changes in the weather forecast. temperatures in the warmest spots climbing into the mid—20s. however, it's as we head into the weekend that we see a big change in our weather as this area of low pressure moves in. now, it is forecast to become quite slow—moving, and so will probably be around about to the west or southwest
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of the uk for the first week of september or so, throwing up bands of rain. the heaviest rain is likely to be across probably southern and western areas, but they are some of the places that we've got those water and hosepipe restrictions and problems at the moment. so, of course, we do need this rain to fall, and it's on the way for the weekend.
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welcome to newsday, reporting liv from singapore. i'm monica miller. the headlines: a third of the country under water, farmland and homes destroyed — pakistan braces itself for more flooding. ukraine pushes forward — a southern offensive to try to drive russian forces from kherson. awaiting judgement — the man on trial in australia —— and on military manoeuvres — china will begin a series ofjoint military exercises with russia later — as relations between the two countries continue to build. live from our studio in singapore, this is bbc news. it's newsday.


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