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Avigdor Eskin And The National Question In Israel
Avigdor Eskin, the hard right Israeli activist, is a fascinating figure. Eskin, who makes his living consulting for Israeli companies that do business with Russia, has been an ally of 1980s' American conservatives, Russian nationalists, and Afrikaner rights activists. He has been attacked and harassed by both the Soviet KGB and the Israeli Shin Bet for his activities. He is probably the only Zionist activist who has been declared persona non grata and deported from America. He's a case study of the National Question—whether a nation, an ethnocultural entity, can find political expression in a state—in a particularly intense context.
Eskin was very enthusiastic about explaining his views to me, and about introducing himself to VDARE.com readers, who will certainly find him of interest.
Avigdor Eskin was born in 1960 at the height of Soviet power and raised in a secular Moscow Jewish family. But at the age of eleven, Eskin began covertly to listen to the "Voices"—Western radio stations like the Voice of America, Voice of Israel, and the BBC Russian service (then and even now largely free of the politically-correct toxicity of its English-language programming). Eskin began attending synagogue soon afterwards, becoming interested in religion under the influence of a Ukrainian Catholic friend. The young Avigdor became an Orthodox Jew and a dedicated Zionist activist determined to leave the Soviet Union for Israel.
Despite harassment from the KGB, Eskin persisted in his activism, becoming the youngest underground Hebrew teacher in Moscow and translating Rabbi Meir Kahane's hard-line Zionist manifesto Never Again into Russian via samizdat. After years of trying, he was allowed to leave for Israel in 1978. Right before he left, Eskin took a trip to the Kolyma region of Siberia to show his support for the dissident Iosif Begun, a Russian Jew exiled there for daring to apply for emigration to Israel. Eskin now lives in Jerusalem with his wife and six children.
Right after arriving to Israel, Eskin became active in the late Rabbi Meir Kahane's Kach (Hebrew for "[Only] Thus") political party which called for the annexation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, Israel's permanent refusal of American and any other foreign aid, and the removal or "Transfer" of the Palestinian Arabs from Israel. The latter part of Kahane's platform was arguably the most controversial and still causes discomfort, even for the traditional Right (e.g. the response to Robert Locke's support of the "Transfer "policy at VDARE.COM).
Eskin makes the famously hawkish Deputy Prime Minister Avigdor Lieberman look like a milquetoast peacenik. He has even accused Lieberman of selling out, by coming up with a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that involves Israel giving up land for peace—Arab-majority towns inside pre-1967 Israel for large settlement blocks, as well as handing over parts of Jerusalem. Eskin also accuses Lieberman of being more concerned about the standard of living in Israel than maintaining it as a Jewish state.
Eskin says he does not see anything "racist" or "inhumane" about the Transfer. In an email exchange with me, he had this to say on the issue
"There is no tragedy whatsoever for a person to move from Detroit to Lansing or from Bradenton to Tampa. So why not to move 30-40 miles from Hebron and Shkhem (Nablus) and to keep living among the same people? Maybe it is not a convenient, but a very humane solution, because it spares tens of thousands of killed and wounded."
He also pointed out that the population exchange between Greeks and Turks in Thrace, Anatolia, and Cyprus worked reasonably well.
Unlike so many American Zionists, who fight Israel's wars from the comfort of an Upper New York East Side penthouse, Eskin volunteered for combat duty when he came to Israel. As a member of an artillery support unit for a paratrooper detachment, he participated in the 1982 invasion of Lebanon and was wounded in battle against the PLO and the Syrians on the shores of Lake Qaraoun in the Bekaa Valley.
In the 1980s, Eskin visited America and met the late Jesse Helms, one of the most conservative members of the Senate, best remembered for his vigorous opposition to race-based quotas (the "white hands ad" that so infuriated the liberals), communism, the Martin Luther King holiday, and the welfare state. Originally, Helms was an acerbic critic of Israel. He demanded that Israel return the West Bank to Jordan and wanted America to break off diplomatic relations with Israel after its invasion of Lebanon. But after befriending Eskin, Helms became a supporter of Israel, seeing in the Jewish State, an ally against communism and the anti-Western Arab regimes. He visited Israeli settlements in 1985 and became a dedicated supporter of Israeli control over the West Bank and Gaza.
It must be emphasized that Eskin, like his mentor Rabbi Kahane, has always opposed foreign aid for Israel—from any country—and is forthrightly critical of America's current role in the world. Eskin admires true American conservatives, like Jesse Helms, but criticizes America for its globalist, interventionist, Wilsonian foreign policy, as manifested in the bombings of Yugoslavia—and in pressure on Israel to give up land to the Palestinians.
Further, Eskin blames American liberals, like the loathsome George Soros, for exporting leftist, multiculturalist ideas and destroying traditionalist values all over the world. As Eskin told me in the same email exchange:
"I saw in the past and I see today American conservatives as close allies and dear friends. Unfortunately, the foreign policy of the USA and the world policy of economic and pop-culture expansion are prevailing and not the ideas of American patriots. But I hope for the day when the school of the late Jesse Helms will dominate American politics and we [the Israeli anti-globalist right] will be your real allies."
In an interview with the Russian ultra-nationalist newspaper Zavtra ["Tomorrow"], Eskin asserted that the U.S. State Department is "under the control of the world financial oligarchy" and that liberalism is like the biblical serpent that causes man to be immoral and self-centered.
Eskin characterizes the current multiculturalist consensus as the sign of what is known in Judaism as the erev rav—"the great mixing" or "the mixed multitude"—a time of widespread immorality and deracination, when individuals devoid of all tradition and values are in power.
Avigdor Eskin is also active in the Eurasia movement of Russian traditionalist conservative philosopher Aleksandr Dugin, whose ideas are strongly influenced by Alain De Benoist of the French New Right. The Eurasianists believe in an alliance between traditionalist Christians, Jews, and Muslims (especially Shiites and Sufis) against the "Atlanticist" leftist-liberal-neocon ideology represented by the rulers of America and the EU. Dugin believes in a greater Russia that will be closely allied with Iran, to which peripheral territories like Ukraine, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia will be annexed. Dugin's views led the Hoover Institution's John B. Dunlop to accuse him of "fascism."
Of course, Eskin, as a committed Zionist does not agree with all of Dugin's ideas—for example Dugin's support for anti-Israel regimes like Venezuela and Iran. However, Eskin has always been strongly pro-Russian. He argues that Israel needs to be more closely allied to Russia and end its "passionate attachment" to America. He argues that Israel should deal with America from the position of a strong independent state, not that of a heavily subsidized and groveling military colony.
Needless to say, Eskin's uncompromising views raised the ire of both Israeli and Western liberals. Eskin characterizes the current climate in the West thus: "Unfortunately, there is no full freedom of speech in the West today . . . The liberals feel their intellectual impotence and simply [silence] those who try to tell the truth."
The Israeli authorities had harassed Eskin ever since the mid 1990s, when he dared to criticize the secular saint of Israeli society, Yitzhak Rabin, and campaigned against the Israeli surrender of the West Bank and Gaza to Yasser Arafat's PLO.
In 2000, Eskin was declared persona non grata and deported from the United States, most likely at the suggestion of the Israeli government and its American supporters. In 2001, Eskin was accused of plotting to bombard the Al Aqsa mosque with pig heads, to place a pig's head on the tomb of Palestinian guerilla Izzedine Al Qassam who fought against the Jews and the British in the 1930s, and to set fire to the offices of a far left Israeli organization, Based on the "confessions", allegedly torture-induced, of another rightwing activist – Serbian Jew Damjan Pekovic—Eskin was sent to jail for two and a half years. [Pig's head extremist jailed, BBC, April 16, 1999]
He was placed in the same cell with a convicted rapist and an Ethiopian immigrant serving time for beheading his wife. During the first months of his imprisonment, Eskin was forced to sleep on the floor because the prison administration claimed they could not find a bunk for him. After worldwide protests—especially vocal in Russian nationalist circles e.g. Eskin's friend Aleksandr Dugin—Eskin's prison conditions were somewhat improved.
Even now, Avigdor Eskin is subject to periodic campaigns of harassment from the Israeli authorities.
Eskin is not afraid to acknowledge the large role Jews have had in leftwing and liberal movements worldwide. He had the following to say on the issue, echoing the late Rabbi Kahane:
"Most of the Jews in the West are not observant and far from being ardent Zionists. So, it is natural that a person who has no national and traditional identity cannot understand the people who do have it. The solution is very simple: all the Jews must be encouraged to go home to Israel."
Recently, Eskin became very active in the Afrikaner Rights movement led by his close friend Dr. Dan Roodt. Back in the 1980s, Eskin made a trip to South Africa and met with members of the Afrikaner military establishment as part of his campaign to lobby on behalf of South Africa in Israel. (While Israel and South Africa were close allies ever since the 1960s, during the late 1980s, the Israeli Left succeeded in turning the Israeli public opinion in favor of the ANC.) Eskin made a ten-day trip to South Africa last year. He met with Dan Roodt and other Boer activists.
Unlike other supporters of Afrikaner rights, Eskin makes no secret of his feelings and is distinctly blunt in expressing them. He blames Desmond Tutu for "pav[ing] the way for the destruction of the Afrikaner people" in an interview with Haaretz He quipped in the same interview that
"It's true that during apartheid there was separate public transportation for whites and blacks, but today there is public transportation only for the blacks. No white person would dare to get on a bus there." ["We won", May 11, 2010
In his interview with me, Eskin made this comment about the Afrikaners and today's South Africa:
"I deeply love the Afrikaner nation and I can testify that the state of Israel had no better friend than the White South Africa . . . My hope and prayer is to be a part of the future victory of the Afrikaners."
By "victory", Eskin, like Dan Roodt, means not the restoration of White rule, but a separate, sovereign homeland for the Afrikaners in South Africa.
Unlike many other rightwing activists, Avigdor Eskin is optimistic about the future of Israel and the West as a whole. He concluded his email exchange with me by predicting the inevitable weakening of the Arab world, the end of American dependence on Arab oil, and the victory of Israel.
Eugene Girin [email him] immigrated legally from the Republic of Moldova in 1994 at the age of 10. He has been published by VDARE.COM, Front Page Magazine, Alternative Right and currently Chronicles Magazine.