07.03.2014 Author: Henry Kamens

The fate of Jews in Ukraine: Where’s the Cavalry?

3434A recent article in a Jewish online publication had a rather revealing subheading: Jews in Kiev say the protests were about democracy; others in Odessa believe the Maidan was full of Nazis. Now what?”

The Russian Foreign Ministry, which supports legal President Viktor Yanukovych in this putative civil war, is claiming that the West has effectively allied itself with neo-Nazis in Ukraine, who are smashing up Orthodox churches and synagogues while “declaring war on the Russian language.” Its statement reads:

“Not bothering to make any effort to understand the complex processes occurring within Ukrainian society or make an objective assessment of the environment, which is furthering the degradation following the forceful seizure of power in Kiev by radical extremists, [Secretary of State John Kerry] operates with a ‘Cold War’ stamp, offering not to punish those who carried out the government overthrow, but the Russian Federation. And while glossing over this, the USA and its allies have closed their eyes to the excesses of the radical fighters on Maidan, their bullying of political opponents and ordinary citizens, as well as their anti-Semitism and militant Russophobia.”

We have all seen the images of supporters of the new government shouting “death to the Jews” and daubing swastikas on public buildings, and there are enough diverse eyewitness corroborations of this to demonstrate that these particular images are not fabricated. It is therefore strange that the State of Israel is saying that there is no problem in Ukraine, given its mission to protect Jews anywhere in the world and the teachings of Judaism itself, which form the moral basis for the existence of Israel.

Never Again?

The Talmud teaches that no Jew should therefore do anything to provoke hatred and must refrain from doing things which will bring shame on the Jewish people, and cause their collective destruction. It adds however that when someone comes to destroy the Jewish people you yourself must destroy that person. In this case the person is the US-sponsored opposition, which has gained control in Kiev with the blessing and support of the West.

All Jews anywhere in the world have a common motto: “Never Again.” My grandmother was born in a Polish Lithuanian village, which was then part of the Russian Empire. Thanks to Hitler, this village 99 percent of its population of 5,000 no longer exists. During that time his collaborators in the west of Ukraine were even more bloodthirsty than those in the Mobile SS killing units which took such an active part in implementing the Final Solution in occupied Eastern Europe.

Therefore Jews have every reason to fear a resurgence of anti-semitism in Ukraine, particularly when it is being sponsored by a foreign power which has tried and failed once, via the Orange Revolution, to get its own way. Democracy hasn’t given the US what it wanted, so what alternatives are there? Who will be sacrificed, as collateral damage, to achieve the Wests’s objectives? And what is the State of Israel, the Jewish homeland, doing about it?

 New Regime, Old Problem

I have a close friend with extended family in Ukraine. Throughout their lives they have had to hide their Jewish roots.

During the war her father and grandmother, aunts and uncles were turned over to the Germans by their Ukrainian neighbours simply for being Jewish. The Ukrainians were probably trying to gain favour with the foreign power by doing this, as the grandfather had been deemed an enemy of the Soviet state years before, despite being a leading figure in the Ukrainian Communist Party.

The new regime in Ukraine cannot survive without the continuing support of another foreign power, the US. It will therefore do everything it can to gain its favour and keep it. Any Western condemnation of anti-semitic behaviour would have to be taken very seriously as a matter of practical politics. Yet Ukraine’s new leaders are being allowed to get away with behaviour which is considered racist, and illegal, in most countries.

This behaviour is not hidden from the West. Inna Olar, a 55-year-old Jewish information technology manager who lives in Odessa, has drawn attention to the nationalists’ symbols, which are derived from those of the SS. They also revere nationalist hero Stepan Bandera, who proclaimed an independent Ukraine in 1941.

Many heroes have aspects to their histories which their supporters would rather gloss over. Henry V’s slaughter of prisoners at the Battle of Agincourt is often dismissed as being “in accordance with the standards of the time” when it was actually a flagrant violation of those standards. Thomas Jefferson, who wrote that “all men are created equal,” owned substantial numbers of slaves.

But few heroes are as compromised as Bandera, who treated Ukraine’s Jews as agents of Soviet domination and allied himself with Nazi Germany in order to ensure their destruction, even while 80% of his own nationalist movement leadership was being sent to the death camps by those same Nazis. His openly racist policies towards Jews, Poles and Russians led to thousands of them being slaughtered as cattle by OUN-B troops under his control.

This man and his works are apparently acceptable to the civilized West. At the end of his term in office Orange Revolution-installed President Viktor Yushchenko, who by then had practically no electoral support, declared the long-dead Bandera a Hero of Ukraine. Yanukovych annulled this award. Now the forces which put Yushchenko in power are back, because their sponsors want them to be.

Why is Israel Silent?

Néo-nazis-Ukraine-400x299The members and supporters of the new government do not disguise their hostility to Jews. One of the partners in the new regime is a party called Svoboda, Ukraine’s fourth biggest. This is part of the Alliance of European National Movements, along with better known extremist forces such as the British National Party and Hungary’s Jobbik,

A 1999 report from Tel-Aviv University, no less, called this party: “an extremist, right-wing, nationalist organization which emphasizes its identification with the ideology of German National Socialism”. This is the same language which was used to describe the Freedom Party in Austria when it entered that country’s governing coalition in 1999. Austria was subjected to EU sanctions for allowing that party into government. Now the EU is desperate to assist a new regime with an even more overt anti-semitic orientation, while Israel says nothing.

The survivors of the Holocaust, including the founders of Israel, the Jewish state, based their whole political lives on the moral need to protect the Jews. But there has always been a double edge to the Israeli condemnation of persecution. In a perverse way it serves Israel’s purposes, as it forces Jews in other countries to emigrate there and populate the country with a new generation of soldiers, always an issue as it was put in constant conflict with its neighbours due to the manner of its foundation. It also creates excuses for asking for further economic favours to develop the country

US Secretary of State John Kerry, who has some Jewish roots himself, is well aware that the US and various EU members pressured Yanukovych to agree a peace deal, but the then-opposition, who also signed it, have now ripped it up. Both Jews and Russians, amongst others, have been openly targeted by the new regime. Therefore violence towards Jews can be expected, but is being considered a reasonable price to pay, by both the US and Israel, for the fulfillment of broader strategic interests.

The emigration of more Jews from Ukraine will complete the work of Bandera, serve US interests in the Middle East, serve Israeli defence needs and create an ethnically and politically homogenous rump state in Western Ukraine on the post-Yugoslavia model. There will be fewer interests, fewer opinions and less democratic pluralism in this state and greater dependence on the US. If mere Jews, including those with relatives in the US, have to be sacrificed to achieve this, so be it.

So Who is Talking About This?

While Israel and the West are silent over the obvious threat to the Jews of Ukraine one Jewish voice is being heard. The ‘Open Letter of Ukrainian Jews to Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin’, published on the Official English-language Public Relations Secretariat for the Headquarters of the National Resistance in Kiev, has been reprinted word for word by almost every Western outlet.

Who these ‘Ukrainian Jews’ actually are, and how representative they are, is not explained. If a group of Native American, i.e. Red Indian, tribesmen wrote an ‘Open Letter from the Real Americans’ this would be seen as a political act which undermined any opinions or facts presented therein. Nevertheless, this document is being presented as the last word of the Jewish community on the situation in Ukraine.

Among the sites reprinting this letter word-for-word are that of the US Embassy,  and the Jewish site JTA, which adds commentary of its own: It reads, in part:

“The Russian-speaking citizens of Ukraine are not being humiliated or discriminated against; their civil rights have not been infringed upon. Meanderings about “forced Ukrainization” and “bans on the Russian language” that have been so common in Russian media are on the heads of those who invented them. Your certainty about the growth of anti-Semitism in Ukraine, which you expressed at your press-conference, also does not correspond to the actual facts. Perhaps you got Ukraine confused with Russia, where Jewish organizations have noticed growth in anti-Semitic tendencies last year.”

Vladimir Vladimirovich, we are quite capable of protecting our rights in a constructive dialogue and in cooperation with the government and civil society of a sovereign, democratic, and united Ukraine. We strongly urge you not to destabilize the situation in our country and to stop your attempts of delegitimizing the new Ukrainian government.”

Those who have seen Visconti’s film “The Damned” will be aware of the similarity of this language to that used by Jewish industrial leaders after the Nazis came to power there and external forces tried to destabilise the new order by condemning them. Jews more than anyone know where it got them on that occasion.

No one is protecting the Jews of Ukraine any more than the German Jews were actually protected by any country prior to World War Two. The US wouldn’t let them in and the leaders of its allies received Hitler at their country houses. The State of Israel owes its existence and legitimacy to the alleged international desire to stop this ever happening again. But now precisely the same players are doing precisely the same things, Israel is tacitly supporting them, feeling the persecution of its own people serves its interests.

Old Adolf, Jewish grandmother and all, may have been an inhuman mass murderer but at least he always said which side he was on. Now we know why John Kerry and Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu don’t wear moustaches.

 Henry Kamens, columnist, expert on Central Asia and Caucasus, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.