November 22nd, 2016

Russian, Jewish, Israeli

I do not know and do not want to comment on the rest of the issues raised here, but one thing I wanted to say: it is not true that "Asians who were born in the U.S. are just as American as Bannon himself, just have a different skin color".

I, for one, was born in Voronezh and grew up in a town near Moscow. My parents were born in Western Ukraine. My mother tongue is Russian. My parents' mother tongue was Russian. My skin color, or whatever, is not even that much different from that of most other people born in Voronezh. Still, I am not "as Russian as all the other people born in Voronezh".

I am a Jew. This makes me different from most other people born in Voronezh, and from most other people who grew up near Moscow, etc. This is important. I always felt this way since I learned of the fact. I may be not following the teachings of the Jewish faith, and may be not even particularly familiar with the Jewish culture, etc. I may be a bad Jew.

I am entitled to equal civil and citizenship rights to those of the people of Slavic or Russian extraction in Russia. I am not entitled to call myself "as Russian as everybody else in Russia". It simply would not be true. As a matter of simple fact. I am not. Me demanding that Russian politicians accept me as someone who is "as Russian as everybody else in Russia" would be absurd.

Presently I've emigrated from Russia to Israel over a political disagreement; now I am a citizen of both countries. This is irrelevant. While in Russia, I am a representative of a traditional ethnic minority which lived in Russia for centuries. Still, I am not Russian.

While outside of Russia, I am a citizen of Russia who has to accept a measure of responsibility for the policies of the Russian government (the desire to reduce this responsibility was one of the motives behind my decision to emigrate). As well as, of course, an even greater degree of responsibility for the policies of the Israeli government (which I am much more comfortable with).

While outside of Russia, I may call myself Russian or Israeli, depending on the context, to point out to the fact that I accept these responsibilities of a citizen (also, of a person who grew up in a certain culture, etc). When asked for details, I would always explain that I am a Russian Jew who emigrated to Israel. I cannot pretend to be simply "as Russian as everybody else in Russia", even while talking to the foreigners. That would be misrepresentation of simple facts, which are potentially quite relevant in many contexts.