Organized Jewry allied with Uzbek despot

A May 27 article in The Forward, Uzbek Unrest Shines Light on Leader’s Ties to Jewry, highlights the cozy relationship between the repressive Uzbek regime led by President Islam Karimov, organized American Jewry and that great moral authority on democracy, Natan Sharansky:

Earlier this month, Karimov unleashed his security forces to quell an opposition demonstration in the east of the Central Asian republic, causing hundreds of civilian deaths. Even before the latest violence, in recent years the State Department, the United Nations and major human rights organizations all have criticized the Uzbek regime for alleged abuses, including the systematic use of rape and torture against opponents.

Observers said that Karimov, the local communist party’s former head who clung to power following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, has used the American Jewish community as a beachhead to cement relations with both Washington and Jerusalem. Israeli and American Jewish communal leaders said that their efforts to cultivate ties with Uzbekistan have been motivated primarily by the regime’s positive attitude toward the local Jewish community and Israel as well as its hawkish stand against radical Islam.

Some Israelis and Jewish community leaders have gone even further, defending Uzbekistan’s democratic record. Leon Levy, then chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, an umbrella organization comprising 52 national Jewish groups, once hailed Karimov’s regime as a “democracy for all the Islamic countries.” Last summer, former Israeli minister Natan Sharansky, a prominent advocate of spreading democracy around the world, defended the regime against critics who would defame “the courageous struggle that Uzbekistan is waging against terrorism.”

See our last blog post on the Uzbek crisis

  1. Bukharans Standing By Their Man

    President in violence-marred Uzbekistan has been good to the Jews, community leaders here say.
    Walter Ruby – Special to The Jewish Week (NYC)

    Most of the estimated 40,000-strong Bukharan Jews living in the New York area appear to be maintaining their community’s longstanding support for Islam Karimov, the beleaguered president of their native Uzbekistan, despite international media reports that Karimov’s army responded to an uprising and prison break by firing on protesters and killing 500 or more people, including innocent civilians.

    That support comes with a caution, though.

    The United States, several prominent Bukharan leaders said, should stand by Karimov in this crisis for fear that Islamists might take over the country and persecute the estimated 30,000 to 50,000 Jews remaining there. But these leaders contend that Karimov must change course and allow more democracy and economic liberalization.

    Bukharans, who have roots in the Uzbek cities of Bukhara and Samarkand stretching back more than 1,000 years, immigrated en masse to New York and Israel in the early 1990s. Today there are about 10,000 of those Jews remaining in Uzbekistan; the rest are Russian-speaking Ashkenazim, many from families evacuated to Central Asia during World War II who never left.

    The Bukharan community here, which is centered in the Queens neighborhoods of Forest Hills, Rego Park and Kew Gardens, has maintained close personal and commercial ties with their homeland. Leading Bukharans here have met frequently with Karimov and other top Uzbek officials over the years, and have consistently advocated closer relations between the U.S. and Uzbekistan.

    The Bush administration, which in the aftermath of 9-11 opened a military base in Uzbekistan, once hailed that country as an ally in the war on terror, but has strongly criticized the Karimov regime for its recent violent crackdown.

    Rafael Nektalov, editor-in-chief of the Bukharian Times, the largest newspaper of the New York Bukharan community, was in Uzbekistan last week for Jewish communal events in Bukhara, Samarkand and the capital city of Tashkent, all far from the violence in the city of Andijan.

    Nektalov said the Jews he met were calm and maintaining staunch support for Karimov — a position he shares.

    “I think the U.S. must support Karimov at this moment,

    1. Those dastardly Jews again
      Given that Jewish Week is the voice of “organized Jewry” here in NYC, I wonder how representative this view is of us plain ol’ disorganized Jews. The next time I get my beard trimmed at Astor Place Hair-Stylists, I’ll have to ask the razor-jockey what he thinks about Karimov. (They’re almost all Bukharans.) It was my impression they all hated him as a holdover of the despised Soviets. If they loved him so much, you’d think they’d still be living in Bukhara, not Forest Hills. They probably view him as a lesser evil now that the jihadis have targeted Uzbekistan. But even this article notes some dissent in the final paragraphs. Of course, if the Bukharans were to oppose Karimov, then they’d be accused of being pawns in the US destabilization campaign. (Or, better yet, being the architects of it, with Bush as their pawn!) For those with a monomaniacal fixation on The Chosen People, we can never win…

      1. Anthropological report from the East Village
        OK, you win this one. I just got my beard trimmed at Astor Place Hair-Stylists, and sure enough the razor-jockey was Bukharan. I asked where he was from and he said “Russia.” I asked where in Russia and he said “Bukhara, you probably haven’t heard of it.” I said “That’s in Uzbekistan, not Russia.” He was impressed that I’d ever heard of Uzbekistan (are most New Yorkers really that ignorant?—makes me shudder to think how dumb they must be in Iowa), and said “I say Russia because nobody knows Uzbekistan.” I asked what he thought of Islam Karimov. After again expressing amazement that I knew who he was, he said (to my disappointment) “He’s good.” When I asked why, he said “He wants to go the democracy way, civilization way, not the Islam way.”

        So you win.