Russia’s Jewish community has lashed out at British actor Stephen Fry after he compared the country’s “gay propaganda” ban to Hitler’s persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany.
Fry, an openly gay Jewish-British writer, actor, and television host, urged UK Prime Minister David Cameron and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to boycott the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. The move was in response to a recently adopted Russian law which prohibits the propaganda of homosexuality among minors.
In an open letter to Cameron and the IOC, he accused Russia of “making scapegoats of gay people, just as Hitler did Jews.”
The actor also stated that President Putin “is eerily repeating the insane crime” of Hitler, “only this time against LGBT Russians.”
Russia’s Jewish community said it is outraged by Fry’s rhetoric, calling it a provocation.
“Unfortunately, yet again we see people attempting to use sacred memory about the genocide against the Jews and the Holocaust for their own purposes,” Russia’s Chief Rabbi, Berl Lazar, told ITAR-TASS on Monday. He believes that such cynicism insults the memory of millions of people who were murdered during World War II “because of their nationality and faith.”
The Chief Rabbi emphasized that the gay propaganda ban is in no way aimed at violating the rights of LGBT individuals, but rather serves to protect children “who are open to any kind of influence” from issues surrounding homosexuality.
Famous singer and Russian MP Iosif (Joseph) Kobzon agrees that it is “appalling” when the genocide of a nation is compared to a ban on the propaganda of homosexual relations.
“There is absolutely no normal logic in what Fry calls for,” he told journalists on Monday. Kobzon believes that “we should all together” fight drug addiction, pedophilia, alcoholism, “and the spread of pornography, including the propaganda of homosexuality among minors.” He added that such principles are what Russian laws are all about, stating that they “are not harsh at all.”
Kobzon also believes that the State Duma will respond to calls to boycott the Sochi Olympics when it convenes for the autumn session next month.
Aleksandr Boroda, the head of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, is confident that speculations about the Sochi Olympics are a result of lobbying in Europe and the US.
“But common sense should prevail in the end. There is no need to mix sport with intimate lives of different people,” he said.
Boroda added that he supports the gay propaganda ban, stating that while no one should interfere with the private lives of individuals, certain relationship preferences should not be promoted either.
“Olympic Games are about sports, not about gays. Let them take part in competitions; no one is evaluating their sexual orientation. It’s their level of achievement that counts,” he underlined.
An attempt to draw a parallel between the persecution of Jews during the 1936 Berlin Olympics and the situation with Russia’s LGBT community “is either a gross ignorance or gross bias,” Russian Human Rights Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin told RT.
The human rights commissioner stated that he was not particularly happy about the adoption of the gay propaganda ban. However, calls to boycott the Olympic and Paralympic Games because of the law are inappropriate, he said.
Democratic and human rights principles should not be fulfilled by providing support to one minority group while violating the rights of another, he stated, speaking of the paralympic athletes. Lukin, who is also the president the Russian Paralympic Committee, said he is well aware of how much effort and enthusiasm Russian paralympians have put into preparation for the Olympic Games.
“This minority [with disabilities] deserves the same respect as any other minority,” he stated. “Should we just cross out their hopes and life aspirations? It would be absolutely wrong and counter-productive.”
Russia’s Interior Ministry said on Monday that it will make sure children are protected from harmful information during the Sochi Olympics, but assured that there will be no discrimination against homosexual Olympic athletes.
All speculations regarding the possibility of such discrimination
are “absolutely groundless” and are “solely an attempt
aimed at undermining trust in the upcoming Olympics in
Sochi,” the ministry said in a statement.
In a debate broadcasted by RT on the issue of calls among the international LBGT community to boycott the Olympic Games in Sochi next year, Julie Bindel, a gay rights campaigner and co-founder of Justice for Women, defended Stephen Fry’s comments.
Watch the full video of the debate: