The recent publication here of a blatantly anti-Semitic book--charging, for example, that Zionists collaborated with the Nazis in the mass executions of the Holocaust--coincides with a fierce anti-Zionist and anti-Israeli propaganda drive designed to discourage Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union.
The book, which has been warmly reviewed in the official Communist press, comes after a Kremlin decision last fall to practically close off the Jewish exodus to Israel. According to figures compiled by western organizations, Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union dropped from a high of more than 51,000 in 1979 to 2,688 last year. In the first four months of this year only 421 Jews are known to have been allowed to emigrate.
In his preface to "The Class Essence of Zionism," Lev Korneev, who has a doctorate in history and is regarded as an expert on Zionism, recalls themes reminiscent of some of the most bitter periods of anti-Semitic sentiment of the Stalinist era, asserting that Jews in ancient times were involved in commerce and that "profit was their ideology."
This phrase provides the key to the understanding of the book, in which Korneev uses Marxist terminology of class struggle for a savage attack on the "Jewish bourgeoisie" in the Soviet Union and elsewhere.
Korneev claims that Jewish bankers and industrialists financed the mad monk Rasputin in an effort to influence the last czar, Nicholas II. He gives examples of Jews in other countries achieving prominence and occupying influential positions.
Jews everywhere, Korneev writes, are citizens of a Jewish nation, and that "automatically puts Jews in the role of a fifth column in any country"--a "double loyalty" that is exploited by imperialists, Jewish elites and Israeli secret service agencies.
Korneev's book and the accompanying anti-Zionist drive have pressed home this common theme of singling out the Jewish community as a people with "dual loyalties." Such a climate is widely viewed as being designed to make it more difficult for Jews to assert their Jewishness and demand the right to emigrate to Israel.
How many of the 2 million Soviet citizens of Jewish background would like to emigrate is not known. For the past eight months, Soviet officials have insisted that most Jews who wanted to leave already have and that Jewish emigration has come to an end.
That argument was advanced recently by officials of an anti-Zionist committee set up in April to wage a propaganda war against Zionists and discourage Jews from applying to emigrate. There is currently a drive, reflected in letters to newspapers, to establish a committee to combat Zionism in Moscow.
The reason for the curtailment of Jewish emigration is believed to be the Kremlin's assessment that it was losing too many trained specialists while gaining nothing in return.
One aspect of the campaign is reflected in numerous articles claiming that Jewish emigres lead a desolate life in Israel and in the West and in accounts about would-be emigrants who changed their minds and decided to stay in the Soviet Union.
Historically, Russian Jewry has been subjected to various forms of repression, including forcible conversion, occupational and geographic restrictions and persistent attempts to "denationalize" Jewish culture.
While some czars such as Alexander I were relatively tolerant, others were fanatically anti-Semitic, notably Alexander III, under whose regime major pogroms were carried out.
Lenin, the founder of the Soviet state, opposed any form of anti-Semitism. His successor, Josef Stalin, disliked the Jews, and he established an "autonomous region" for them in Birobidzhan in the Soviet Far East. Toward the end of his life, Stalin was on the verge of launching an anti-Semitic campaign with the so-called "doctors' plot," an allegation that Jewish physicians were planning to poison him.
In recent years, anti-Semitism has been more subdued, despite Moscow's major anti-Zionist drive after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. The distinctions between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, although blurred, were nevertheless observed.
"The Class Essence of Zionism," published here this spring, attempts to eliminate distinctions between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.
Its publication raises the question of how such a work that violates the Kremlin's stated policy toward nationalities and ethnic groups could have been published. But the fact that the book has received favorable reviews in the official press, including the government newspapers Izvestia and Sovetskaya Kultura, is indicative of the current climate created at least in part by the authorities.
Izvestia said the book would be received with "great interest" by the general reading public. Sovetskaya Kultura, an organ of the Central Committee, said the author's research was "interesting and convincing," and it praised him for writing a "necessary and courageous" volume.
In newspaper articles in recent months, including one in Pionerskaya Pravda, a national newspaper for school children, Korneev has charged that Zionists are trying to turn all Jewish citizens into "traitors."
His articles also assert that all profits from the sales of Levi jeans are channeled directly to "Zionist militarists." He has charged that every fourth child in Israel is undernourished because the state uses its money for military purposes.
His book is a more ambitious attempt to substantiate this line of thinking. He goes systematically through Jewish history and religion purportedly examining Zionism in its social, economic and political context.
The Jews themselves, Korneev writes, are to be blamed for anti-Semitism. The reason for this allegedly rests on the exploitation of gentile population by wealthy Jews all over the world rather than on racial or religious grounds.
However, the latter play a secondary role in the emergence of anti-Semitism, Korneev writes. He advances the argument that Russian anti-Semitism dates back to the Mongol period, when Genghis Khan and his successors ruled what is now the Soviet Union and allegedly used Jews as tax collectors, a task that the Jews carried out "ruthlessly," he adds.
He charges that pogroms of Jews in czarist Russia and the Ukraine frequently were started by the Jews themselves because "the Zionists wanted to have people emigrate to Palestine."
Korneev argues that "from the very beginning" of the Soviet state, international Zionism sought to undermine socialism, collaborating with anti-Soviet counterrevolutionary leaders.
He then claims that Jewish and Zionist organizations took part in the mass execution of Jews during World War II. The Zionist leadership, he charges, participated in the extermination of hundreds of thousands of non-Zionists and helped Hitler seize power in Germany.
"If it had not been for the Zionist-Nazi alliance, the number of victims, including Jewish victims in World War II, would have been smaller," he writes.
The book, published in an edition of 10,000 copies by a Kiev publishing house, has created a controversy among Soviet intellectuals.
At a recent press conference with the newly formed Soviet Anti-Zionist Committee, the question of Korneev's book was raised by western journalists, who asked how the committee regarded the book. The committee's deputy chairman, Samuel Zivs, a law professor, refused to discuss the book and asserted that the Soviet government is against any form of nationalism and anti-Semitism.
Another committee member, Yuri Koleshnikov, said, however: "This committee in the future will fight against wild and wrong accusations in books which have been written by a few authors and unfortunately have been permitted to be published."