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Murder in the Gulag

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny attends a court hearing in Moscow, on February 20, 2021. Photo: Reuters/Maxim Shemetov.

JNS.orgWhile Tucker Carlson was marveling over the opulence of Moscow’s subways, Alexei Navalny died in the “Polar Wolf” prison camp in northern Siberia.

Navalny was Russia’s most prominent dissident, the only serious opponent to Vladimir Putin who, for more than 20 years, has held this vast and troubled land in a tightening stranglehold.

Navalny’s supporters called him the “hero of the new era.” That era is now, at best, very far off.

Earlier this month, Carlson conducted a two-hour interview with Putin. What did the Russian strongman have to say about the charismatic rival he incarcerated 40 miles above the Arctic Circle in the sunless winter?

Not a word, because Carlson—formerly a Fox News talk show host, now an idiosyncratic commentator on X, formerly Twitter—didn’t bother to ask.

To paraphrase a quote attributed to Stalin: A single death is a tragedy. A million deaths are a statistic.

The number of deaths for which Putin is responsible, already in the hundreds of thousands, could soon reach that mark. His forces re-invaded Ukraine two years ago this week, having first invaded in 2014.

His generals deliberately target civilians. Many of his troops are conscripted from the ethnic groups of Russia’s Central Asian possessions. He uses them as cannon fodder.

The grim statistics of the war against Ukraine do not appear to trouble Carlson.

Following his amicable interview with Putin, he filmed himself touring a Moscow subway station (where, like Bernie Sanders on his 1988 honeymoon, he was wowed by the chandeliers) and shopping at a Moscow grocery store where, he said in wide-eyed wonderment, a family of four can buy enough food for a week for only $104!

Apologies for the digression ahead but I think Navalny would have wanted you to know the facts about Putin’s Russia.

The average monthly wage for a Russian is less than $800. The average monthly wage for an American is more than six times that. Average Russians spend more than 50% of what they earn on food. Average Americans spend less than 12%.

Are grocery stores in the boondocks—say in Grozny or Irkutsk—as well-stocked as those in the capital? Carlson did not investigate. (But I bet you can guess the answer.)

Inquiring minds also might want to know that one in five households in Russia lacks indoor plumbing. In rural areas the ratio is two out of three.

And a smidgen of history: Stalin built Moscow’s subways in the 1930s to glorify Russia’s socialist dictatorship. He used slave labor from the Gulag, his archipelago of prison camps, and British engineers, some of whom he later imprisoned for “espionage.”

In this same period, Stalin manufactured a famine in Ukraine to punish “kulaks,” farmers resisting collectivization. In the Holodomor, as it became known, more than four million men, women and children perished.

Does this atrocity help explain why Ukrainians are adamant that never again will they be ruled by Moscow? That’s another question Carlson did not raise.

Littering in a Moscow subway may be strictly verboten, but with impunity have Putin and his cronies appropriated Russia’s natural resources, thereby making themselves spectacularly rich.

This corruption was one of Navalny’s major themes. The “party of swindlers and thieves,” he called the Kremlin cabal.

He opposed Putin’s war against Ukraine, and his strengthening alliance with the anti-American dictators in Beijing, Tehran and Pyongyang.

The son of a Red Army officer, Navalny entered politics around the time Putin was rising to power.

In 2013 he unsuccessfully ran for mayor of Moscow. In 2018, he attempted to run for president. Putin had him thrown in jail and then disqualified his candidacy based on his criminal record.

In August 2020, shortly after boarding a domestic flight, Navalny became ill. Poisoning by Putin’s agents was suspected.

In a comatose state, Navalny was flown to Berlin, where German doctors determined that he had been exposed to Novichok, a Soviet-era, military-grade nerve agent not available in Russian pharmacies.

He was treated, he recovered, and, in January 2021, he returned to Russia where, upon arrival, he was promptly arrested.

Why did he come back? Because he was a man of unfathomable courage and conviction. The fight for a new Russia was his life’s work.

“I don’t have another country,” he once said. “I have nowhere to retreat to.”

He also was confident that, working through his lawyers and allies, he could continue his struggle against the dictatorship in ways not possible from exile abroad.

Last Thursday, a video of Navalny in a courtroom was posted on X. He appeared to be in good health and even good spirits. He was 47 years old.

On Friday, Russian prison authorities announced: “The inmate A.A. Navalny started to feel unwell after a walk and almost immediately lost consciousness at correctional facility No. 3 on Feb. 16. Medical staff arrived immediately, an ambulance was called. None of the resuscitation efforts yielded positive results.”

“He was murdered,” Bill Browder, once the most important foreign investor in Russia, told a reporter. “He was murdered at the hands of Vladimir Putin” who wanted to demonstrate that he “can cross every red line and get away with it.”

There are other red lines—in Ukraine, in Europe and beyond. So long as Putin continues to get away with murders at home and abroad, he will cross them.

Tucker Carlson is among those who doesn’t see that as an American problem. That demonstrates an astonishing lack of awareness.

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Air Canada cancelled two flights to Tel Aviv due to the Iranian missile attack—leaving some travellers to seek alternatives, or consider postponing their trips

After a weekend overnight shutdown of Israeli airspace, during which time Iranian missiles and drones attacked the country, Canadians ware cautiously optimistic that travel to and from Ben Gurion Airport will resume regular schedules later this week. Air Canada cancelled departures from Toronto on Saturday and from Tel Aviv on Monday—the latter despite the airport […]

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Harvard University Wants Antisemitism Lawsuit Dismissed, Denies Injury to Students

Students accusing Israel of genocide at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, US, Nov. 16, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Lawyers representing Harvard University in Massachusetts have requested the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by six Jewish students who accused the school of ignoring antisemitic discrimination.

According to The Harvard Crimson, the university said in a court filing that a lawsuit, as well as a period of discovery during which its conduct would be thoroughly examined, was not necessary due to the “tangible steps” it has taken to combat antisemitism in just the past few months. Additionally, the school argued that the civil suit, led by graduate student Shabbos Kestenbaum and Students Against Antisemitism, lacked standing.

“Without minimizing at all the importance of the need to address energetically antisemitism at the university, plaintiff’s dissatisfaction with the strategy and speed of Harvard’s essential work does not state a legally cognizable claim,” said the motion to dismiss, as quoted by The Crimson. “Consequently, the amended complaint should be dismissed.”

Harvard University recently received an “F” grade for its handling of antisemitism in a first-ever Campus Antisemitism Report Card issued by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

Since Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel, students have stormed the campus calling for the destruction of the Jewish state, terrorizing students and preventing some from attending class.

In November, a mob of anti-Zionists — including Ibrahim Bharmal, editor of the prestigious Harvard Law Review — followed, surrounded, and intimidated a Jewish student. “Shame! Shame! Shame! Shame!” the crush of people screamed in a call-and-response chant into the ears of the student who —as seen in the footage — was forced to duck and dash the crowd to free himself from the cluster of bodies that encircled him.

In February, a faculty group posted on social an antisemitic cartoon which showed a left-hand tattooed with a Star of David dangling two men of color from a noose.

These incidents, and more, are currently being investigated by the US House Committee on Education and the Workforce, which is probing Harvard’s handling of skyrocketing instances of antisemitic intimidation and harassment on campus.

Proclaiming that Harvard “failed Jews repeatedly,” Kestenbaum told The Crimson that he would not stand down.

“Harvard’s meritless motion to dismiss our lawsuit only proves our point: It has never taken the concerns of us Jewish students seriously, and has no plans to start now,” he said in a statement. “We will continue to apply maximum pressure in both the court of law and the court of public opinion … We hope that donors and prospective students follow closely.”

No Ivy League school earned better than a “C” in the ADL’s landmark report, a grade awarded to Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. Four others — Columbia University, Brown University, Cornell University, and the University of Pennsylvania — received “D’s” while Harvard and Princeton University both received “F’s.”

“Every campus should get an A — that’s not grade inflation, that’s the minimum that every group on every campus expects,” ADL chief executive officer Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement announcing the report. “They deserve a learning environment free from antisemitism and hate. But that hasn’t been the experience with antisemitism running rampant on campus since even before Oct. 7.”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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Israel Sets New Standards for Saving Wounded Troops in War

Israeli soldiers scan an area while sirens sound as rockets from Gaza are launched towards Israel, near Sderot, southern Israel, Oct. 9, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Amir Cohen

The Israeli army’s chief medical officer told a recent gathering of NATO and allied officials about the striking success of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in saving injured soldiers during the war against Hamas in Gaza.

According to IDF Medical Corps chief Elon Glassberg, the army has brought the time between the moment of injury and seeing a senior medical practitioner to under four minutes, and in many cases under one minute. One reason for the speed is that the IDF has changed its strategy for treating wounded soldiers from the typical field hospitals to which soldiers are evacuated and treated — and in serious cases transferred via helicopter to a hospital — to a system that brings doctors to the battlefield with soldiers.

The new system has, according to Glassberg, more than 670 doctors and paramedics embedded within combat groups in Gaza. As a result, wounded soldiers are given immediate care.

Additionally, the new policy calls for airlifting every wounded soldier to a hospital via helicopter, which are on standby at all times and outfitted to be like flying emergency rooms, staffed with surgeons and intensive care doctors.

The IDF has conducted over 950 such operations in the helicopters, according to Glassberg, bringing approximately 4,200 soldiers to hospitals. In the field, 80 soldiers were saved due to quick doses of plasma and 550 had bleeding stopped before the flights.

Of course, helicopter times to hospitals vary and are not predictable on the minute. The current time from moment of injury to arriving at the hospital stands at one hour and six minutes. This is in comparison to an average time of two hours and ten minutes during the 2014 Gaza War, also known as Operation Protective Edge.

The new processes by the IDF are saving lives. According to Glassberg, the current rate of death among wounded soldiers is 15 percent. In Gaza today, however, 6.3 percent of soldiers who are injured end up succumbing to their wounds, showing how quick action is key in ensuring the injured soldiers can return home after the war — or, in many cases, back to the battlefield.

Glassberg also pointed out how the IDF is continuing to learn how to best protect soldiers in the future. For example, he noted, a majority of deaths occurred due to injuries to parts of the body that are not protected by bulletproof vests. Therefore, Israel is already discussing new vests to give to soldiers to lower the casualty count.

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