No, that’s not a typo in the headline, I deliberately spelled “whither” as “wither,” it’s a clever joke, you’ll see..
Okay, another casualty of the war in Ukraine is the “drying up” or “withering” of Russo-Israeli relations. In earlier times, Russia actually had very good relations with the Jewish State; it was said that Putin and Netanyahu got along quite well. Many Russophiles, and not just those of the anti-Semitic persuasion, found this state of affairs completely confounding, given Israel’s role as the catspaw of American/British imperialism in the Middle East. But recently things have turned a bit, and a more normal state of hostility is setting in, between these two nations with completely divergent geopolitical interests.
There are many root causes for the withering of this Russo-Israeli friendship, just as there were many root causes for its former flowering. (Too many to get into here, but I’ll just mention the fact that a huge portion of Israeli Jews are Russian speakers; plus, Putin’s basically Liberal Pro-Western ideology, up until recently.)
One immediate cause of the fading of relations is the militant pro-Ukrainian stance of the new Israeli Prime Minister, Yair Lapid, who assumed office on July 1. If Putin and Netanyahu were besties, Lapid and Putin do not get along at all. Things got especially heated a couple of days ago when Russia threatened to become the first country in the world to ban Israel’s vaunted “Sokhnut” agency on Russian soil. This organization operates in every country in the world that has Jews, and tries to convince said Jews to emigrate to Israel.
More Than A Travel Agency, It’s Also A Brain Drain
When I first read this article and saw the name Sokhnut, I was, like, You’re kidding, right? Because that is a perfectly fine Russian word, it means, “They will dry up.” (Third person plural, future tense.) The Russian verb сохнуть descends from the Proto-Slavic verb *sъxnǫti (pronounced something like sukh-nanti, “to dry, wither”). Whose root, in turn, descends from the Proto-Indo-European root *h₂sews- with cognates in other Indo-European languages including Lithuanian saũsinti (“to dry – transitive); Old Prussian sausā (“dry”, fem. acc. sg.), Sanskrit शोषयति (śoṣáyati, “to let dry”); Homeric Ancient Greek αὖος (aûos, “dry”), Old English sēar (“dry”), Modern English sere.
Another form of this root, in Russian (applying Ablaut) is the adjective sukh-oi, which means dry. And no, that’s not where those famous jet aircraft get their name, they are named after the founder of the company Pavel Sukhoi. Who was said to have a dry sense of humor, however,
I hasten to add, the name of this Israeli agency has nothing to do with that ancient etymology from a different language group. It’s just a coincidence. Nonetheless, it’s fun to play with this bi-lingual pun.
In Hebrew the word is הסוכנות (pronounced Ha-Sokhenut) which just translates as “The Agency”). The complete expression is: הַסּוֹכְנוּת הַיּהוּדִית לְאֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל, Ha-Sokhenut ha-Yehudit le-Ereẓ Israel, “The Jewish Agency for Israel“. It would have been awesome if I could have found the Proto-Semitic etymology (if any) for this Hebrew word Sokhenut, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to do that, as my expertise in ancient Semitic languages is a tad rusty. I did find this interesting list of Proto-Semitic stems, but nothing there like the one I was looking for. Paging Jean-François Champollion!
But enough of this word play, let’s get back to the politics. So, the Russian Ministry of Justice lodged a compaint against Sokhnut in the Basmanny Court in Moscow. Demanding that the Agency be liquidated. The first hearing will take place next week, on July 28. Israeli leaders are quite alarmed and are dispatching a team to Moscow to challenge the the lawsuit. Putin’s Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov has remarked laconically that the Agency has violated Russian laws.
Insiders say that Russian attorneys will pretend to find some flaws in Sokhnut’s paperwork; but that the real reason is that the Russian government has simply become hostile to the organization and wants to expel it from the country. The Russian government is sick and tired of spending all this money raising and educating Jewish children (with mostly free education) into valued specialists, only to see them fly away to Israel, taking their precious knowledge and skills with them.
Israelis see nothing wrong with stimulating such emigration. I mean, this is the whole basis of the Zionist ideology. The writer of the first piece I linked above, Gevorg Mirzayan, gets into a discussion of Israeli fertility and why they need to keep recruiting people from other countries. Even though the Hassidics keep pumping out a lot of babies. After which we will discuss the Russia-Ukraine war, and why the Israeli government is rooting for the Ukrainians, even though the latter are Nazis.
[to be continued]