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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.
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.
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.
Now available! A new TOL e-book: "Crimea: The Anatomy of a Crisis" is a compilation of articles from TOL’s past coverage about Russia's annexation of Crimea, placed in the context of long-running disputes over the region. Find out also what's happened to Crimea and its people nearly a year after Russia's move shocked the international community.