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Are Ukraine’s Pro-Maidan Jews Courting Another Holocaust?

According to one Russian TV station, they are. by Halya Coynash 28 March 2014

Russia may have the military and economic clout to annex another country’s territory, but its propaganda efforts have been foundering spectacularly of late. Prominent Jewish organizations and public figures have publicly condemned Russian lies; the latest fake demonstrates primitive disinformation; and an attempt on 23 March to present Jewish and Russian organizations supporting Maidan as bringing on “a second Holocaust,” as they allegedly did Shoah, could backfire. None of this will matter for those in Russia and Crimea fed only such lies, but the Western media could well take note – and adequate measures for filtering murky information channels.


The easiest thing to do when Jewish organizations and religious and public figures deny Russian claims that rampant anti-Semitic hordes have seized power in Ukraine is to pull out other Jews willing to wax hysterical about the anti-Semitic “threat.” Last week four Ukrainians told Israel’s Knesset that Ukraine’s Jews are not complaining about anti-Semitism because they’re terrified for their own lives. 


Mikhail Kapustin
Almost immediately afterward, an open letter signed by many people in Ukraine and Israel, including Viacheslav Likhachev, who has been monitoring anti-Semitism in Ukraine for more than 10 years, was issued to the Knesset. It expressed “outrage at the revolting provocation against Ukrainian Jewry on 19 March.”  The event in the Knesset, it said, had been organized by professional political spin doctors and had invited four individuals who are not experts on anti-Semitism, had been given no authority to speak on behalf of the Jewish community, and who are all well-known for their Stalinist views. Monitoring carried out by the Jewish community has not found any increase in anti-Semitism and the authorities in Kyiv have taken a clear position against any manifestations of anti-Semitism and xenophobia. Claims of an “increase in anti-Semitism and neo-Nazism in Ukraine, as well as a possible threat to the safety of the Jewish community” are dismissed as not only overt lies, but also a cynical attempt by Russia to use the Knesset for Russia’s political ends. It warns the honorable members that they are being misled and points out that the event in the Knesset was organized by Avigdor Eskin, who has been prosecuted in the past for provocation. “He recently published an article calling for Russian military aggression and is now trying to draw the Knesset into this campaign,” the letter said.


The Russian propaganda machine has used two approaches against the undoubtedly inconvenient number of authoritative Jewish voices who condemn Russia’s military aggression and its propaganda. The most common are primitive fakes, spread by such propaganda vehicles as the RT TV channel. Last week Rabbi Mikhail [Misha] Kapustin of the Progressive Judaism Communities of Simferopol and Ukraine told Juedische Allgemeine and the Ukrainian media that he had been forced to leave Simferopol for Kyiv with his wife and family because, he said, he did not want to be a foreigner in his own country. Any fears for his and his family’s safety are linked with his active protest and the appeal he initiated against the Russian occupation. 


In the RT version of reality, Kapustin has been forced to leave Kyiv because of the supposed anti-Semitic hordes now in power. A particularly cynical touch is the attempt to produce photos of foul anti-Semitic graffiti in Simferopol as proof of such rampant anti-Semitism in Kyiv. As reported, the graffiti in question appeared after Russian troops seized control in Simferopol and provoked statements from Kapustin and the chief rabbi of Ukraine, Yaakov Dov Bleich. Both warned of likely provocation, with Kapustin saying that this could be used in an attempt to discredit Ukraine’s new government.


Anti-Semitic graffiti on the door of a synagogue in Simferopol. Photo from


Such primitive manipulation discredits only RT and those in the Kremlin pulling their strings.


The latest line of attack, seen in an interview on Rossiya 24 on 23 March is no better. Russian President Vladimir Putin and others have already tried to brush off the large number of public figures in Ukraine who have denied the Russian claims of anti-Semitism by suggesting that these are oligarchs and businessmen with venal motives. That argument breaks down when you’re dealing with rabbis and public figures such as Josef Zisels, chairman of the Association of Jewish Communities and Organizations of Ukraine, and Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Jemiliev, whose principled stands cost them years in Soviet labor camps. The new offensive heard on 23 March from Russian writer Alexander Prokhanov and pushed by the presenter, Evelina Zakamskaya, deserves to be quoted in full.


Prokhanov: “It’s strange that Jewish organizations, Jewish and Russian, are supporting Maidan. What are they doing? Don’t they understand that they are with their own hands bringing on a second Holocaust?


Zakamskaya: “They brought on the first the same way.”


The calculation is, presumably, that people will be silenced by the mere suggestion that they could be collaborating with such evil. There is, of course, another reason explaining such “curious” support for Maidan. It has not just been given as opinion by highly respected religious figures, former political prisoners, historians, and analysts, but backed up by facts. And it’s easy to understand when you just turn off the propaganda channels. 

Halya Coynash is a journalist and member of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, on whose website this commentary originally appeared.

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