Evoking the anti-Semitic mobs of the 19th century around Russia and Eastern Europe, several hundred young men descended on an airplane on the tarmac of an airport in the Russian republic of Dagestan. It is part of a series of anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli attacks in the Muslim-majority region since the war in Gaza began.
What happened at an airport in the Russian republic of Dagestan is being described by some in the Russian press as a modern-day "pogrom," after an anti-Israeli mob stormed an airport in Russia’s North Caucasus republic of Dagestan on Sunday night.
A crowd broke into the airport in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan, eventually getting past security and onto the airfield to prevent the arrival of what had been described as “refugees from Israel.” Information that they were supposedly going to be settled in Dagestan had been disseminated via local Telegram channels. Russian officials reported Monday that at least 60 people have been arrested.
The attacks have been described by several Russian news outlets as a "pogrom" (‘погром’), a Russian word to describe violent, organized attacks against a particular ethnic group. The term first gained international recognition in the late 19th and early 20th centuries — eventually adopted into other languages — when pogroms were used to describe a series of violent anti-Jewish riots and attacks that occurred across the Russian Empire and later in other parts of Eastern Europe.
Thus the brazen mob attack Sunday night in Dagestan, in the Caucus region of southern Russia, has a frightening historical precedent, though with now modern characteristics. One key difference is the source of the anti-Semitism appears to be coming in this Muslim-majority region in reaction to the conflict in the Middle East. Also, the mob formed thanks to social media, with information circulating that “refugees from Israel” would arrive on a regular Red Wings flight from Tel Aviv, protesters began gathering at Makhachkala airport around 7 p.m. local time.
Looking for Jews
Some people came with Palestinian flags, others with anti-Israeli slogans painted on signs.
In search of “Jews,” protesters began checking the documents of people leaving the airport. According to a video published by the Podem channel, a young man who claimed to be an Uzbek was mistaken for a Jew — about 20 people surrounded him and refused to return his passport.
People were trying to climb onto the wing of one of the planes.
The roads leading to the airport were blocked and police arrived at the scene. However, the police failed to calm the crowd that had grown to several hundred men, who eventually broke into the airport’s international terminal building and, shouting anti-Semitic slogans, began looking for Jews there.
Soon, the protesters managed to break through to the airfield; videos appeared online showing people trying to climb onto the wing of one of the planes.
The airport's operations were stopped; planes that were supposed to land were redirected to other airports. Passengers on the flight from Dubai, which managed to land in Makhachkala, said that due to an angry crowd they were not allowed off the plane for another five hours after arrival.
According to the Federal Air Transport Agency, the security forces managed to free the airport from protesters only around 10:30 p.m. The Ministry of Internal Affairs reported on Monday morning that security forces had detained 60 rioters and identified another 150.
According to videos published on social networks, during the unrest at the airport, protesters threw stones at security forces, who responded by firing automatic weapons into the air.
According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, nine police officers were injured during the riots, two of whom are in hospital with serious injuries. According to the Ministry of Health of Dagestan, in total more than 20 people were injured.
The regional head of Dagestan, Sergei Melikov, commenting on the unrest on Monday morning, said that “no one will be forgiven.” He blamed “external enemies of our country” for the riots, claiming that a Telegram channel run from inside Ukraine had spread rumors about “Israeli refugees” arriving in Dagestan.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday that President Vladimir Putin would convene a meeting with top officials later in the day to discuss the events in Dagestan, which he described as having been sparked by “attempts from the outside to divide Russian society.”
Another mob at a hotel
On Saturday evening, residents of another city in Dagestan, Khasavyurt, staged a gathering near the Flamingo Hotel due to rumors that “refugees from Israel” were being accommodated there.
The crowd that came to the hotel demanded that all the guests come to the windows so that they could look at them. When this did not happen, stones were thrown at the hotel.
According to “ChP Dagestan”, after this the police arrived at the hotel and allowed several people from the crowd to enter the hotel so that they could make sure that there were “no Jews” in it.
The Telegram channel “PE Kavkaz” writes that after the gathering, a notice was posted near the Flamingo Hotel stating that “Israeli citizens (Jews) are strictly prohibited from entering” and that they do not live there.
Another anti-Semitic action took place on Saturday in Nalchik (Kabardino-Balkarian Republic). According to numerous Russian media reports, a Jewish center under construction in the city was set on fire. People with covered faces set fire to car tyres and threw them inside the building. There were no casualties.
The publications “That’s So” and “Caucasian Knot” further reported that in another republic of the North Caucasus, Karachay-Cherkessia, about 500 people gathered in front of the government building, demanding visitors from Israel be refused entry into the region. A second demand was later added: that all Jews from the Karachay-Cherkessia Republic be evicted.
These so-called ‘pogroms’ in the Muslim-majority Russian republics has sparked fears that the Israel-Hamas conflict in the Middle East could spill over into other regions around the world, as anti-Semitic sentiments are on the rise. In recent weeks, there has been surge of online threats against Jews, intimidation of Jewish institutions and brazen displays of anti-Semitic symbols.
Anti-Semitic sentiments are on the rise.
The attack in Dagestan recalled the pogroms from the last century, which often involved the destruction of Jewish homes, businesses, and synagogues, as well as physical violence against Jewish individuals, including the Kishinev Pogrom of 1903 and the Odessa Pogrom of 1905.
The new fears that the Middle East conflict will lead to a rise in anti-Semitic violence around the globe led to a statement released Sunday night by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office, calling for Russia to “safeguard the well-being of all Israeli citizens and Jews wherever they are and to take strong action against the rioters and against the wild incitement being directed against Jews and Israelis.”
A spokesperson from the White House National Security Council also condemned the “anti-Semitic protests,” saying that the U.S. “unequivocally stands with the entire Jewish community as we witness a worldwide surge in antisemitism.”