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'Ukrainian Jews fear that the anger will be directed at the Jews, as has happened in the past'

Written by Yossi Lempkowicz
Friday, 21 February 2014 14:40
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Svoboda leader Oleh Tyahnybok, who has appeared at the Kiev protests, has a long history of making inflammatory anti-Semitic statements, including the accusation before parliament that Ukraine is controlled by a “Muscovite-Jewish mafia.”

KIEV (EJP)---Jewish leaders have expressed concen over ‘the continued violence in Ukraine and fear that Jews might be targeted.

Since the conflict between anti-government protesters and the authorities started in November, Ukrainian Jewish leaders have urged their constituents to avoid getting involved in the conflict. But an unknown number of Jews have taken part in fighting, according to some sources.

Jewish institutions have reportedly heightened security measures, schools have closed and Jews have undertaken to minimize their presence on the street, to avoid “falling into the hands” of frustrated and anti-Semitic demonstrators, Hillel Cohen, a representative of Hatzalah Ukraine, a local aid organization, told The Jerusalem Post.

Alex Selsky, CEO of the World Forum of Russian- Speaking Jewry (WFRJ) said that “the community has a fear that the anger will be directed at the Jews, as has happened in the past.”

The European Jewish Union (EJU) and the Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) have said they are keeping an eye on developments and are in contact with the community.

“JDC, together with its global partners, is constantly monitoring the situation on the ground and maintains round-the-clock contact with our staff and community leaders,” a spokesman said.

The organization is continuing to provide social and medical services to its Ukrainian clients and has “prepared contingency plans for a variety of scenarios.”

Oleksandr Feldman, a Jewish member of the Ukrainian parliament and the founder of the UJC, issued a statement “to all parties of the conflict with the appeal to stop the violence and to [come to a] peaceful resolution.”

Peter Dickinson, editor-in-chief of Jewish News One (JN1), the Kiev-based 24/24 television channel, told European Jewish Press that the Jewish community are supportive of the protests, ‘’at least those whom I know and speak to’’.

While Jews are also concerned by the nationalist element – especizally the anti-Semitic Svoboda party they overall see the pro-democracy and pro-European movement as the right direction for the country, said Dickinson.

‘’Plus they are well aware of the dangers posed by Russian chauvinism, which under Putin is becoming increasingly anti-Semitic,’’ he added.

Svoboda is the fourth largest in parliament with 36 MPs.

One of the three figures who form the anti-government Maidan movement’s unlikely leadership coalition, along with boxer Vitali Klitschko and former Foreign Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, is Oleh Tyahnybok, the leader of the nationalist Svoboda party who has a habit of doing things like referring to the country’s government as a “Jewish-Russian mafia.”

The party traces its roots to a Nazi-allied partisan army during World War II and was known as the Social-National Party—in reference to National Socialism—until 2004. Last month the party held a torch-lit march in honor of Stepan Bandera—a controversial figure viewed by some as a Nazi collaborator.

If the conflict is primarily viewed in the West as a struggle between pro-European supporters of democracy and an increasingly authoritarian government under the influence of Moscow, the official Russian line on the events presents an alternate reality: Western governments are naïve dupes supporting violent extremists with far-right fascist tendencies.

The Russian foreign ministry has dubbed the protests the “Brown Revolution,” comparing it to the Nazis’ rise to power in the 1930s.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has asked, “Why do we not hear statements of condemnation toward those who seize government buildings, attack and burn police officers, and voice racist and anti-Semitic slogans?”


Last Updated on Friday, 21 February 2014 15:37


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