October 31, 2023

An Unwelcome Arrival


An Unwelcome Arrival
Protesters in Dagestan about to surround an airplane from Israel. Youtube, Meduza.

On September 29, a group of protesters in the Makhachkala, Dagestan airport surrounded and attempted to storm a plane that landed from Tel Aviv, Israel.

Before the flight arrived, Telegram channels began circulating information about a flight with evacuees from Israel arriving in Dagestan. They called for people to gather at the airport and stop cars to check passengers' passports. Protesters even stopped an OMON (riot police) van. One passenger who was encircled by picketers was let go after saying he was Russian and showing his Russian passport. He was allegedly told, "We are not touching non-Jews today."

A few hours later, protesters broke into the airport itself, chanting antisemitic slurs. Staffers locked themselves inside their offices. The police called through a megaphone to refrain from unlawful activity, such as blocking roads, but said they understood the protesters and were ready to chant with them. Police did not intervene until the crowd broke through to the tarmac and headed toward the plane.

At that point, the airport was temporarily shut down. Authorities opened an investigation and said they would use CCTV footage to identify rioters. 

Israel's siege and bombardments of Gaza, in response to Hamas' October 7 terrorist attacks, have sparked international outrage and protests. Chechnya and Dagestan, predominantly Muslim regions, have expressed a strong connection to Palestinians. Dagestani wrestler Islam Makhachev has voiced solidarity with Gazans. Flights between Tel Aviv and Makhachala, Dagestan, are common as a connection flight to Moscow, as direct flights to the Russian capital are more expensive.

Only a few hours prior, the Head of Dagestan asked the population to refrain from acts of violence in response to Israel's actions in Gaza. Over the past few days, though, a series of anti-Semitic incidents have occurred across the North Caucasus. A Jewish cultural center was set on fire, and there was an attack on a hotel where, allegedly, people who left Israel were staying.

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