Maxim Shevchenko is an immensely well-respected editor, journalist and presenter on television and radio in Russia. He is a staunch advocate of the Palestinian cause, a member of the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation and he is also one of the latest targets of the pro-Israel Lobby.
Shevchenko, one of Russia's leading journalists, has a wealth of experience behind him, and over the years he has been very open in his condemnation of Israel for its repeated violations of international law in its dealings with the Palestinians. This has, inevitably, led to him becoming a prime target of Russia's Zionists.
While he may be used to run-ins with Zionists and their repeated efforts to discredit him and anyone else who criticises Israel, the latest burst of condemnation against Shevchenko has been particularly vicious, to the point that he has received numerous death threats. The spark for this latest attack is reportedly a comment he made in which he allegedly compared Israel's actions towards the Palestinians with those of the Nazis towards the Jews. However, while denying all allegations of anti-Semitism Shevchenko points out that the particular statement he is being condemned for was actually a quote from Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein. Eighty-seven year old Ms Epstein is also a vocal critic of Israel and a supporter of the Palestinian cause.
The Jewish Congress of Russia, which has an Israeli at its helm, has been spearheading the campaign against Maxim Shevchenko and threats against his life have, it is alleged, been made by the former president and sitting board member of that congress Yevgeny Satanovsky. According to The Palestinian Journalist Forum: "Yevgeny Satanovsky repeated the death threat in front of Shevchenko's wife, Nadezhda Kifrckova, who is also a journalist, as Satanovsky told her… after her return from covering Freedom Flotilla II, 'I will kill your husband'." According to Shevchenko, "I have received anonymous death threats threatening to 'break my skull so that shrapnel from it will take out both eyes of my wife'."
On hearing of the reported threats against his life, MEMO contacted Shevchenko directly and spoke to him and his wife both of whom confirmed the threats made against his life. Shevchenko's wife stated that the threats made against her husband's life were made openly and publicly by Satanovsky in the middle of a public conference on the heritage of the USSR in June. She explained that her husband's pro-Palestinian stance has been the key reason for the targeting of her husband. She told us that one other catalyst for the attacks against him was that he had organised the first televised discussion between a member of Hamas (Osama Hamdan – who is the Hamas representative in Lebanon) and a top member of the Likud party in Israel. It was aired on the political talk show "Judge it" which is aired on one of the most popular television channels in Russia, Channel One. In journalistic terms, this should not have been a problem at all. On the contrary this was a unique opportunity to hear both sides. Hamas is not outlawed in Russia, as it is in many other countries, and members of Hamas have been invited to Russia on several occasions before, including by Prime Minister Vladamir Putin. Therefore having a Hamas representative on a political television programme hosted by Shevchenko should not have been a matter worthy of putting him in the firing line for such heavy criticism. However, as Shevchenko's wife pointed out to us, there are around one million Russian speaking Jews living in Israel and so this programme became something of a scandal in Israel to all those who did not want to hear dialogue between the two sides and who did not want the Palestinian voice to be heard.
Threats against people who condemn the aggression of the state of Israel are part of a global Zionist campaign to put fear into the hearts and minds of those who dare to stand against Zionism and its violations of human rights and international law. It is something faced by all critics of Israel at some time or other. Israeli newspaper Haaretz has referred to Israel's "global diplomatic intimidation campaign" and it is clear that such bullying takes place on many levels; it is unacceptable wherever and whenever it takes place.
MEMO condemns the targeting of courageous journalists like Maxim Shevchenko in the strongest possible terms. The ability to criticise the policies of any country freely is the right of all people; neither Israel nor its allies should consider it to be above criticism. Death threats and the slander of those who speak up for the human rights and dignity of the Palestinian people and who in doing so criticise Israel must stop. Such threats should be investigated fully in the most robust manner by the relevant authorities, and suitable action taken against the perpetrators.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.