The complexity of Israeli-Polish relations, Ukrainian fascists on the march (& Cesare Sacerdoti RIP)

March 04, 2019

Above: Fascistic marches by Ukrainian ultranationalists are becoming increasing common. Ukrainian Member of Parliament Andriy Biletsky said that Ukraine’s mission is to “lead the White Races of the world in a final crusade… against the Semite-led Untermenschen.”

 

POPE JOHN PAUL II, AND JAN KARSKI, AS WELL AS POLISH ANTI-SEMITES

[Note by Tom Gross]

I attach three pieces about anti-Semitism.

The first is a discussion of the recent flare-up in diplomatic relations between the governments of Poland and Israel, after Poland tried to engage in Holocaust revisionism to deny the role of Polish anti-Semites in the deaths of 200,000 Jews during the Holocaust.

But, as Israeli writer (and subscriber to this list) Isi Leibler points out in the piece below, there were also heroic Poles who risked a mandatory death sentence for their help in hiding and saving Jews. These include Karol Wojtyla (who later became Pope John Paul II), who protected many individual Jews, and Jan Karski, who tried, without success, to convince Western leaders to act and prevent the deportations to the death camps.

Leibler writes: “As long as leaders of the new generation publicly repudiate the crimes of their antecedents and practice what they preach, Israel would be making a major long-term blunder to spurn their support and continue accusing them collectively of being anti-Semitic. But that is what our [Israeli] foolish foreign minister did regarding Poland, with whom a strategic alliance would be of considerable benefit. If we continue to attack those seeking friendship and offering support, we shoot ourselves in the foot by deterring them from trying to make amends for the crimes and prejudices of their predecessors.”

Tom Gross adds: perhaps to be fair to Israeli foreign minister Yisrael Katz, who made the disparaging remark about Polish anti-Semitism that set off the crisis last month, in criticizing Katz so harshly media such as Haaretz and the New York Times might have also noted that Katz’s mother Malka survived seven Nazi concentration and death camps. Malka Katz died on Saturday and was buried yesterday at Kfar Ahim in southern Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu, who knew her, led a moment’s silence in her memory at yesterday’s Israeli cabinet meeting.

 

A STATE-SANCTIONED NEO-NAZI BATTALION IN UKRAINE

After the piece about Poland, I attach a piece in The Nation by Kiev-born Ukrainian-American writer Lev Golinkin, about the state sanctioned Holocaust denial and worship of Nazi allied war criminals in Ukraine today. “Five years after the Maidan uprising, anti-Semitism and fascist-inflected ultranationalism are rampant,” he says.

He writes: “Five years ago, Ukraine’s Maidan uprising ousted President Viktor Yanukovych, to the cheers and support of the West. Politicians and analysts in the United States and Europe not only celebrated the uprising as a triumph of democracy, but denied reports of Maidan’s ultranationalism, smearing those who warned about the dark side of the uprising as Moscow puppets and useful idiots. Freedom was on the march in Ukraine.

“Today, increasing reports of far-right violence, ultranationalism, and erosion of basic freedoms are giving the lie to the West’s initial euphoria. There are neo-Nazi pogroms against the Roma, rampant attacks on feminists and LGBT groups, book bans, and state-sponsored glorification of Nazi collaborators.

“These stories of Ukraine’s dark nationalism aren’t coming out of Moscow; they’re being filed by Western media, including US-funded Radio Free Europe (RFE); Jewish organizations such as the World Jewish Congress and the Simon Wiesenthal Center; and watchdogs like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Freedom House, which issued a joint report warning that Kiev is losing the monopoly on the use of force in the country as far-right gangs operate with impunity…”

“Unsurprisingly, government-led glorification of Holocaust perpetrators has been a green light for other forms of anti-Semitism. The past three years have seen an explosion of swastikas and SS runes on city streets, death threats, and vandalism of Holocaust memorials, Jewish centers, cemeteries, tombs, and places of worship, all of which led Israel to take the unusual step of publicly urging Kiev to address the epidemic.”

(There are links to the above mentioned western media pieces within his article.)

***

See also this dispatch from January:

Israeli PM criticized for wooing Holocaust-distorting allies

 

(ADDITIONAL NOTE)

CESARE SACERDOTI

I would like to note the passing yesterday in London of Cesare Sacerdoti, a long-standing subscriber to this Mideast email list.

Son of a rabbi in Florence (who was later chief rabbi of Ferrara), at the age of five Cesare was hidden by nuns in a convent to escape the Nazi round-ups of Florence’s Jews to Auschwitz. Then, after the Nazis and their Italian allies started raiding convents looking for Jewish children to deport and kill, Cesare was hidden in a Catholic orphanage in the small Tuscan town of Montecatini and at this very young age he bravely had to care for his three-year-old brother Vittorio who was in hiding with him.

Cesare went on to establish a successful specialist publishing company in London, as well as engaging in various charitable activities and archaeological digs at Ein Gedi in Israel’s Negev Desert. Despite the bitter experiences of his early childhood, he maintained his dignity, modesty and faith in human nature throughout his life.

His son, Jonathan, is a journalist who has also campaigned against anti-Semitism in Britain. In addition, Cesare leaves behind three other children, nine grandchildren and a widow, Judith.

-- Tom Gross


ARTICLES

EMOTIONS AND REALPOLITIK DO NOT ALWAYS MIX

Broad lessons to be learned from the Polish imbroglio
By Isi Leibler
Jerusalem Post (also published in Israel Hayom)
February 25, 2019

Emotions and realpolitik do not mix.

Jews with any connection to the Holocaust tend to harbor prejudice against Poles. Despite their 1,000-year sojourn in Poland, Jews were often discriminated against. In the Middle Ages, they were prohibited from engaging in agriculture or industry and were restricted to basing their livelihoods on moneylending or working as merchants, tax collectors or innkeepers. They were often perceived as alien extortionists and subjected to pogroms instigated by the ruling classes to divert attention from the prevailing poverty and abysmal social conditions.

In the 19th century, the majority of Jews lived in abject poverty in their shtetls but with Emancipation, some Jews emerged as leaders of trade and industry. Nevertheless, prejudice against Jews remained intenseand by the 20th century, anti-Semitism was rampant throughout Europe.

The Polish people were considered racially inferior by the Nazis whose occupation was brutal and who murdered millions of Poles. Unlike the French Vichy government, which collaborated with the Nazis, the London-based Polish government in exile encouraged resistance. And unlike local non-Jews in the Baltic countries, Poles did not serve as guards in the concentration camps.

The extermination of the 3 million Jews concentrated in Poland was the prime Nazi objective. Jews were herded into ghettoes and then dispatched to death camps to be gassed. Auschwitz, the largest industrial complex for mass murder, was deliberately located in Poland so that Germans would not be directly exposed to the horrors perpetrated.

Even while suffering from the brutal Nazi oppression, many Poles continued to harbor prejudice against Jews. Some collaborated by acting as informants and others were rewarded by being permitted to take possession of homes and goods left by deported Jews.

But there were also heroic Poles who risked a mandatory death sentence for their help in hiding and saving Jews. We must also pay tribute to Poles such as Karol Wojtyła (who would become Pope John Paul ll), who protected many individual Jews, and Jan Karski, who tried, without success, to convince Western leaders to act and prevent the mass murders.

Unfortunately, those righteous gentiles who sought to save Jews and were executed rarely made headlines but the media excelled in highlighting the collaborators. A particular case was the exposure of murderous behavior of a number of Poles in Jedwabme who instigated a pogrom against Jews in 1941, burning over 300 alive in a barn. Unfortunately, most of the Polish authorities remained in denial over this mass atrocity until Polish President Aleksander Kwaśniewski bravely called this action not a pogrom but a genocide.

Anti-Semitism prevailed as evidenced by the 1946 Kielce pogrom in which 42 Holocaust survivors returning to their homes were massacred. But when the communists took over Poland in 1945, they suppressed exposure of the genocide. In 1968, the Polish government conducted an anti-Semitic purge and 30,000 Jews, the bulk of whom were Holocaust survivors, were expelled from the country.

After the collapse of communism in the early 1990s, the newly independent Polish government sought to create a fresh Polish image based upon nationalism and democracy. It sought to cleanse the record and set aside the ugly past episodes in its history. In this context, the Polish government passed a law last year that effectively criminalized anyone “besmirching” the Polish people by associating them with the Nazi genocidal industry applied against Jews.

This led to confrontational exchanges with Israel and in June 2018 a compromise law was finally passed by the Polish government, which many Jews and Poles still resented. It effectively emphasized the fact that the Holocaust was a Nazi objective in which some Poles collaborated and others endangered their lives by trying to save Jews. The highlight was that Polish people as such were not collaborators.

This law was regrettable but had to be viewed in the perspective of a right-wing nationalist government that condemned anti-Semitism and sought to create a new image by expunging or at least downplaying the role of Poles who collaborated. The government even invested in an impressive museum in the heart of Warsaw focusing on the Jewish contribution to Poland. In addition, together with Hungary and Slovakia, Poland has emerged as one of the most influential European supporters of Israel and acted as a restraint against anti-Israel forces within the EU.

But sensitivities and emotions remained fragile and when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in response to a question in Poland, was misquoted as saying “the Poles” engaged in anti-Jewish activity during the Nazi era even though in the same response he stated that many Poles saved Jews, there was an uproar. This was laid to rest when he clarified that he had referred to Poles but not “the Poles” or “the Polish people” or Poland. Nevertheless, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki was distressed.

The following day, Israel’s newly appointed acting foreign minister, Yisrael Katz, on his first day in office, blundered into the debate, stating that “one cannot sugarcoat this history,” reiterating that “Poles collaborated with the Nazis, definitely” and quoting former Prime Minister Yitzchak Shamir, who allegedly said that Poles “suckled anti- Semitism with their mother’s milk.”

The diplomatic upheaval caused by Katz led to the Polish prime minister accusing him of engaging in racist defamation of the Polish people and promptly canceling Poland’s participation in the Visegrád group summit of Central European countries in Jerusalem. The summit would have presented a united front against Iran.

There surely is a lesson to be learned from this self-inflicted fiasco. Other states and countries can act as important allies to Israel though their antecedents also included Nazi collaborators. The Polish case stands out because of the extent of the genocide; 3 million Jews were murdered in one country. But every single country under Nazi occupation included citizens who collaborated with the Nazis or benefited materially from the deportation of their Jewish neighbors. The clear majority simply stood by. A smaller number heroically saved Jews, often at the expense of their own lives.

Unfortunately, we can assume that most European societies would not behave differently were they facing similar circumstances today.

We must neither forget nor forgive those who betrayed us. But politicians should never generalize. The details should be left for our historians to compile and for our children to learn and understand.

We are living in a dynamic environment and remain the only state that faces an existential threat from its neighbors. We benefit from building new alliances.

Populist and nationalist parties are emerging as powerful political forces. They are likely to profoundly influence domestic and foreign policies in virtually every European country.

The main source of support for these populists derives from those who consider the flood of Muslim migrants to be detrimental to the quality of their lives, due to a massive increase in crime and social chaos that threatens their entire social order. In addition, there is the increased threat of both imported and homebred terrorists, from which no European city is immune.

Many of the voters for these nationalist parties support Israel as a bastion of the free world.

Until recently, some of these parties and states included fascists and Holocaust revisionists. Any Jewish cooperation with such groups would have been an unthinkable desecration of the memory of Holocaust victims. However, over the past decade, most of them began purging their ranks of anti-Semites and publicly undertook to eradicate all anti-Jewish elements and thus today the situation is dramatically changed.

There are those who say that by accepting the support of and allying with countries like Poland and Hungary, Israel is providing a fig leaf to fascists. This is nonsense. The reason for this relationship is that these governments support Israel and have pledged to combat anti-Semitism and purge Jew-baiters from their midst. There is less anti-Jewish violence in Poland and Hungary than there is in France. Besides, other than these Central and Eastern European states, Israel has no allies in the EU, which is now notorious for its shameless bias and double standards against the Jewish state.

Needless to say, their support of Israel does not preclude some fascists voting for them. Likewise, the fact that racists and fascists may support U.S. President Donald Trump does not mean that his administration is fascist. Nor have far-left anti-Semites or communists taken control of the U.S. Democratic Party by voting for it.

We do not boycott left-wing governments that appease Muslim extremists, most of whom lead the anti-Semitic packs. Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other countries have not disavowed and purged their ranks of anti-Semites, but nobody suggests that we cannot cooperate with them on mutual objectives and confront common enemies. Limited cooperation on specific common interests does not mean that Israel necessarily endorses the other policies of its allies.

Many cynically describe this as realpolitik. In truth, it is acting in our self-interest.

As long as leaders of the new generation publicly repudiate the crimes of their antecedents and practice what they preach, Israel would be making a major long-term blunder to spurn their support and continue accusing them collectively of being anti-Semitic. But that is what our foolish foreign minister did regarding Poland, with whom a strategic alliance would be of considerable benefit. Besides, if we continue to attack those seeking friendship and offering support, we shoot ourselves in the foot by deterring them from trying to make amends for the crimes and prejudices of their predecessors.

 

POLISH HOLOCAUST RESEARCHERS FIGHTING AGAINST COUNTRY’S REVISIONISM, CALLED “DIRTY JEWS”, GIVEN DEATH THREATS

Polish Holocaust researchers verbally attacked at Paris Shoah research conference
By Katarzyna Markusz
February 24, 2019

WARSAW, Poland (JTA) – Polish researchers of the Holocaust were verbally attacked after a conference in Paris.

Professor Jacek Leociak from the Polish Academy of Sciences was insulted after leaving the School for Advanced Research in Social Sciences, or EHESS, where the conference was held, and he received death threats in online commentaries. A similar situation happened to Professor Jan Grabowski, who works at the University of Ottawa, when after leaving EHESS, a group of Poles called him a “a dirty Jew.”

Polish groups protested against organizing in Paris the conference, titled “The New Polish School of Historical Research on the Shoah,” because – according to the protesters – the activity of the speakers at the conference “bears a clear xenophobic and anti-Polish character.” Polish organizations do not accept the results of research carried out by historians, which indicate participation of some Poles in murdering Jews during the Holocaust.

Leociak at the conference spoke about the beginnings of Polish research on the Holocaust. During his speech some of the audience reacted with shouts and patter. “During the whole two days of the meeting we were accompanied by a large group of Poles under the spiritual protection of a Catholic priest,” said Leociak.

“Two or three years ago, these people would not have dared to enter and to disrupt university lectures. Today, however, emboldened by the support of the Polish state, they are ready to show their faces and to confront scholars on their own ground,” wrote Grabowski on his Facebook page. When he left the EHESS building, a group of Poles shouted: “Shame on you, Grabowski”, “shame on you, you dirty Jew!”

Grabowski has sued the Polish League Against Defamation after it accused him publicly of ruining Poland’s good name and charging that his research falsifies the nation’s history.

 

A STATE-SANCTIONED NEO-NAZI BATTALION IN UKRAINE

Neo-Nazis and the Far Right Are On the March in Ukraine
Five years after the Maidan uprising, anti-Semitism and fascist-inflected ultranationalism are rampant.
By Lev Golinkin
The Nation
February 22, 2019

(There are many links in this article to other articles Golinkin cites about growing anti-Semitism in Ukraine here: https://www.thenation.com/article/neo-nazis-far-right-ukraine/ )

Five years ago, Ukraine’s Maidan uprising ousted President Viktor Yanukovych, to the cheers and support of the West. Politicians and analysts in the United States and Europe not only celebrated the uprising as a triumph of democracy, but denied reports of Maidan’s ultranationalism, smearing those who warned about the dark side of the uprising as Moscow puppets and useful idiots. Freedom was on the march in Ukraine.

Today, increasing reports of far-right violence, ultranationalism, and erosion of basic freedoms are giving the lie to the West’s initial euphoria. There are neo-Nazi pogroms against the Roma, rampant attacks on feminists and LGBT groups, book bans, and state-sponsored glorification of Nazi collaborators.

These stories of Ukraine’s dark nationalism aren’t coming out of Moscow; they’re being filed by Western media, including US-funded Radio Free Europe (RFE); Jewish organizations such as the World Jewish Congress and the Simon Wiesenthal Center; and watchdogs like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Freedom House, which issued a joint report warning that Kiev is losing the monopoly on the use of force in the country as far-right gangs operate with impunity.

Five years after Maidan, the beacon of democracy is looking more like a torchlight march.

A NEO-NAZI BATTALION IN THE HEART OF EUROPE

“Volunteer Ukrainian Unit Includes Nazis.” – USA Today, March 10, 2015

The DC establishment’s standard defense of Kiev is to point out that Ukraine’s far right has a smaller percentage of seats in the parliament than their counterparts in places like France. That’s a spurious argument: What Ukraine’s far right lacks in polls numbers, it makes up for with things Marine Le Pen could only dream of – paramilitary units and free rein on the streets.

Post-Maidan Ukraine is the world’s only nation to have a neo-Nazi formation in its armed forces. The Azov Battalion was initially formed out of the neo-Nazi gang Patriot of Ukraine. Andriy Biletsky, the gang’s leader who became Azov’s commander, once wrote that Ukraine’s mission is to “lead the White Races of the world in a final crusade…against the Semite-led Untermenschen.” Biletsky is now a deputy in Ukraine’s parliament.

In the fall of 2014, Azov – which is accused of human-rights abuses, including torture, by Human Rights Watch and the United Nations – was incorporated into Ukraine’s National Guard.

While the group officially denies any neo-Nazi connections, Azov’s nature has been confirmed by multiple Western outlets: The New York Times called the battalion “openly neo-Nazi,” while USA Today, The Daily Beast, The Telegraph, and Haaretz documented group members’ proclivity for swastikas, salutes, and other Nazi symbols, and individual fighters have also acknowledged being neo-Nazis.

In January 2018, Azov rolled out its National Druzhina street patrol unit whose members swore personal fealty to Biletsky and pledged to “restore Ukrainian order” to the streets. The Druzhina quickly distinguished itself by carrying out pogroms against the Roma and LGBT organizations and storming a municipal council. Earlier this year, Kiev announced the neo-Nazi unit will be monitoring polls in next month’s presidential election.

In 2017, Congressman Ro Khanna led the effort to ban Azov from receiving U.S. arms and training. But the damage has already been done: The research group Bellingcat proved that Azov had already received access to American grenade launchers, while a Daily Beast investigation showed that US trainers are unable to prevent aid from reaching white supremacists. And Azov itself had proudly posted a video of the unit welcoming NATO representatives.

(Azov isn’t the only far-right formation to get Western affirmation. In December 2014, Amnesty International accused the Dnipro-1 battalion of potential war crimes, including “using starvation of civilians as a method of warfare.” Six months later, Senator John McCain visited and praised the battalion.)

Particularly concerning is Azov’s campaign to transform Ukraine into a hub for transnational white supremacy. The unit has recruited neo-Nazis from Germany, the UK, Brazil, Sweden, and America; last October, the FBI arrested four California white supremacists who had allegedly received training from Azov. This is a classic example of blowback: US support of radicals abroad ricocheting to hit America.

FAR RIGHT TIES TO GOVERNMENT

“Ukrainian police declare admiration for Nazi collaborators” – RFE, February 13, 2019

Speaker of Parliament Andriy Parubiy cofounded and led two neo-Nazi organizations: the Social-National Party of Ukraine (later renamed Svoboda), and Patriot of Ukraine, whose members would eventually form the core of Azov.

Although Parubiy left the far right in the early 2000’s, he hasn’t rejected his past. When asked about it in a 2016 interview, Parubiy replied that his “values” haven’t changed. Parubiy, whose autobiography shows him marching with the neo-Nazi wolfsangel symbol used by Aryan Nations, regularly meets with Washington think tanks and politicians; his neo-Nazi background is ignored or outright denied.

Even more disturbing is the far right’s penetration of law enforcement. Shortly after Maidan, the US equipped and trained the newly founded National Police, in what was intended to be a hallmark program buttressing Ukrainian democracy.

The deputy minister of the Interior – which controls the National Police – is Vadim Troyan, a veteran of Azov and Patriot of Ukraine. In 2014, when Troyan was being considered for police chief of Kiev, Ukrainian Jewish leaders were appalled by his neo-Nazi background. Today, he’s deputy of the department running US-trained law enforcement in the entire nation.

Earlier this month, RFE reported on National Police leadership admiring Stepan Bandera – a Nazi collaborator and Fascist whose troops participated in the Holocaust – on social media.

The fact that Ukraine’s police is peppered with far-right supporters explains why neo-Nazis operate with impunity on the streets.

STATE-SPONSORED GLORIFICATION OF NAZI COLLABORATORS

“Ukrainian extremists celebrate Ukrainian Nazi SS divisions…in the middle of a major Ukrainian city” – Anti-Defamation League Director of European Affairs, April 28, 2018

It’s not just the military and street gangs: Ukraine’s far right has successfully hijacked the post-Maidan government to impose an intolerant and ultranationalist culture over the land.

In 2015, the Ukrainian parliament passed legislation making two WWII paramilitaries – the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) – heroes of Ukraine, and made it a criminal offense to deny their heroism. The OUN had collaborated with the Nazis and participated in the Holocaust, while the UPA slaughtered thousands of Jews and 70,000-100,000 Poles on their own volition.

The government-funded Ukrainian Institute of National Memory is institutionalizing the whitewashing of Nazi collaborators. Last summer, the Ukrainian parliament featured an exhibit commemorating the OUN’s 1941 proclamation of cooperation with the Third Reich (imagine the French government installing an exhibit celebrating the Vichy state!).

Torchlight marches in honor of OUN/UPA leaders like Roman Shukhevych (a commander in a Third Reich auxiliary battalion) are a regular feature of the new Ukraine. The recuperation even extends to SS Galichina, a Ukrainian division of the Waffen-SS; the director of the Institute of National Memory proclaimed that the SS fighters were “war victims.” The government’s embrace of Bandera is not only deplorable, but also extremely divisive, considering the OUN/UPA are reviled in eastern Ukraine.

Predictably, the celebration of Nazi collaborators has accompanied a rise in outright anti-Semitism.

“Jews Out!” chanted thousands during a January 2017 march honoring OUN leader Bandera. (The next day the police denied hearing anything anti-Semitic.) That summer, a three-day festival celebrating the Nazi collaborator Shukhevych capped off with the firebombing of a synagogue. In November 2017, RFE reported Nazi salutes as 20,000 marched in honor of the UPA. And last April, hundreds marched in L’viv with coordinated Nazi salutes honoring SS Galichina; the march was promoted by the L’viv regional government.

The Holocaust revisionism is a multi-pronged effort, ranging from government-funded seminars, brochures, and board games, to the proliferation of plaques, statues, and streets renamed after butchers of Jews, to far-right children camps, where youth are inculcated with ultranationalist ideology.

Within several years, an entire generation will be indoctrinated to worship Holocaust perpetrators as national heroes.

BOOK BANS

“No state should be allowed to interfere in the writing of history.” – British historian Antony Beevor, after his award-winning book was banned in Ukraine, The Telegraph, January 23, 2018

Ukraine’s State Committee for Television and Radio Broadcasting is enforcing the glorification of Ukraine’s new heroes by banning “anti-Ukrainian” literature that goes against the government narrative. This ideological censorship includes acclaimed books by Western authors.

In January 2018, Ukraine made international headlines by banning Stalingrad by award-winning British historian Antony Beevor because of a single paragraph about a Ukrainian unit massacring 90 Jewish children during World War II. In December, Kiev banned The Book Thieves by Swedish author Anders Rydell (which, ironically, is about the Nazis’ suppression of literature) because he mentioned troops loyal to Symon Petliura (an early 20th-century nationalist leader) had slaughtered Jews.

This month, the Ukrainian embassy in Washington exported this intolerance to America by brazenly demanding the United States ban a Russian movie from American theaters. Apparently, the billions Washington invested in promoting democracy in Ukraine have failed to teach Kiev basic concepts of free speech.

ANTI-SEMITISM

“I’m telling you one more time – go to hell, kikes [Jews]. The Ukrainian people have had it to here with you.” – Security services reserve general Vasily Vovk, May 11, 2017

Unsurprisingly, government-led glorification of Holocaust perpetrators was a green light for other forms of anti-Semitism. The past three years saw an explosion of swastikas and SS runes on city streets, death threats, and vandalism of Holocaust memorials, Jewish centers, cemeteries, tombs, and places of worship, all of which led Israel to take the unusual step of publicly urging Kiev to address the epidemic.

Public officials make anti-Semitic threats with no repercussions. These include: a security services general promising to eliminate the zhidi (a slur equivalent to ‘kikes’); a parliament deputy going off on an anti-Semitic rant on television; a far-right politician lamenting Hitler didn’t finish off the Jews; and an ultranationalist leader vowing to cleanse Odessa of zhidi.

For the first few years after Maidan, Jewish organizations largely refrained from criticizing Ukraine, perhaps in the hope Kiev would address the issue on its own. But by 2018, the increasing frequency of anti-Semitic incidents led Jewish groups to break their silence.

Last year, the Israeli government’s annual report on anti-Semitism heavily featured Ukraine, which had more incidents than all post-Soviet states combined. The World Jewish Congress, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, and 57 members of the US Congress all vociferously condemned Kiev’s Nazi glorification and the concomitant anti-Semitism.

Ukrainian Jewish leaders are also speaking out. In 2017, the director of one of Ukraine’s largest Jewish organizations published a New York Times op-ed urging the West to address Kiev’s whitewashing. Last year, 41 Ukrainian Jewish leaders denounced the growth of anti-Semitism. That’s especially telling, given that many Ukrainian Jewish leaders supported the Maidan uprising.

None of these concerns have been addressed in any meaningful way.

ROMA POGROMS

“‘They wanted to kill us’: masked neo-fascists strike fear into Ukraine’s Roma.” – The Guardian, August 27, 2018

Ukraine’s far right has resisted carrying out outright attacks on Jews; other vulnerable groups haven’t been so lucky.

Last spring, a lethal wave of anti-Roma pogroms swept through Ukraine, with at least six attacks in two months. Footage from the pogroms evokes the 1930s: Armed thugs attack women and children while razing their camps. At least one man was killed, while others, including a child, were stabbed.

Two gangs behind the attacks – C14 and the National Druzhina – felt comfortable enough to proudly post pogrom videos on social media. That’s not surprising, considering that the National Druzhina is part of Azov, while the neo-Nazi C14 receives government funding for “educational” programs. Last October, C14 leader Serhiy Bondar was welcomed at America House Kyiv, a center run by the US government.

Appeals from international organizations and the US embassy fell on deaf ears: Months after the United Nations demanded Kiev end “systematic persecution” of the Roma, a human-rights group reported C14 were allegedly intimidating Roma in a joint patrol with the Kiev police.

LGBT AND WOMEN’S-RIGHTS GROUPS

“‘It’s even worse than before’: How the ‘Revolution of Dignity’ Failed LGBT Ukrainians.” – RFE, November 21, 2018

In 2016, after pressure from the US Congress, the Kiev government began providing security for the annual Kiev Pride parade. However, this increasingly looks like a Potemkin affair: two hours of protection, with widespread attacks on LGBT individuals and gatherings during the rest of the year. Nationalist groups have targeted LGBT meetings with impunity, going so far as to shut down an event hosted by Amnesty International as well as assault a Western journalist at a transgender rights rally. Women’s-rights marches have also been targeted, including brazen attacks in March.

ATTACKS ON PRESS

“The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns a Ukrainian law enforcement raid at the Kiev offices of Media Holding Vesti…more than a dozen masked officers ripped open doors with crowbars, seized property, and fired tear gas in the offices.” – The Committee to Protect Journalists, February 9, 2018

In May 2016, Myrotvorets, an ultranationalist website with links to the government, published the personal data of thousands of journalists who had obtained accreditation from Russia-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine. Myrotvorets labeled the journalists “terrorist collaborators.”

A government-tied website declaring open season on journalists would be dangerous anywhere, but it is especially so in Ukraine, which has a disturbing track record of journalist assassinations. This includes Oles Buzina, gunned down in 2015, and Pavel Sheremet, assassinated by car bomb a year later.

The Myrotvorets doxing was denounced by Western reporters, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and ambassadors from the G7 nations. In response, Kiev officials, including Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, praised the site: “This is your choice to cooperate with occupying forces,” Avakov told journalists, while posting “I Support Myrotvorets” on Facebook. Myrotvorets remains operational today.

Last fall brought another attack on the media, this time using the courts. The Prosecutor General’s office was granted a warrant to seize records of RFE anti-corruption reporter Natalie Sedletska. An RFE spokeswoman warned that Kiev’s actions created “a chilling atmosphere for journalists,” while parliament deputy Mustafa Nayyem called it “an example of creeping dictatorship.”

LANGUAGE LAWS

“[Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk] also made a personal appeal to Russian-speaking Ukrainians, pledging to support…a special status to the Russian language.” – US Secretary of State John Kerry, April 24, 2014

Ukraine is extraordinarily multilingual: In addition to the millions of Russian-speaking eastern Ukrainians, there are areas where Hungarian, Romanian, and other tongues are prevalent. These languages were protected by a 2012 regional-language law.

The post-Maidan government alarmed Russian-speaking Ukrainians by attempting to annul that law. The US State Department and Secretary of State John Kerry sought to assuage fears in 2014 by pledging that Kiev would protect the status of Russian. Those promises came to naught.

A 2017 law mandated that secondary education be conducted strictly in Ukrainian, which infuriated Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and Greece. Several regions passed legislation banning the use of Russian in public life. Quotas enforce Ukrainian usage on TV and radio. (This would be akin to Washington forcing Spanish-language media to broadcast mostly in English.)

And in February 2018, Ukraine’s supreme court struck down the 2012 regional language law – the one Kerry promised eastern Ukrainians would stay in effect.

Currently, Kiev is preparing to pass a draconian law that would mandate the use of Ukrainian in most aspects of public life. It’s another example of Kiev alienating millions of its own citizens, while claiming to embrace Western values.

THE PRICE OF WILLFUL BLINDNESS

These examples are only a tiny fraction of Ukraine’s slide toward intolerance, but they should be enough to point out the obvious: Washington’s decision to ignore the proliferation of armed neo-Nazi groups in a highly unstable nation only led to them gaining more power.

This easily predictable outcome is in marked contrast to Washington’s enthusiasm over the “Revolution of Dignity.” “Nationalism is exactly what Ukraine needs,” proclaimed a New Republic article by historian Anne Applebaum, whose celebration of nationalism came out right around the time that Ukraine green-lighted the formation of white-supremacist paramilitaries. A mere four months after Applebaum’s essay, Newsweek ran an article titled “Ukrainian nationalist volunteers committing ‘ISIS-style’ war crimes.”

In essay after essay, DC foreign-policy heads have denied or celebrated the influence of Ukraine’s far right. (Curiously, the same analysts vociferously denounce rising nationalism in Hungary, Poland, and Italy as highly dangerous.) Perhaps think-tankers deluded themselves into thinking Kiev’s far-right phase would tucker itself out. More likely, they simply embraced DC’s go-to strategy of “my enemy’s enemy is my friend.” Either way, the ramifications stretch far beyond Ukraine.

America’s backing of the Maidan uprising, along with the billions DC sinks into post-Maidan Kiev, make it clear: Starting February 2014, Ukraine became Washington’s latest democracy-spreading project. What we permit in Ukraine sends a green light to others.

By tolerating neo-Nazi gangs and battalions, state-led Holocaust distortion, and attacks on LGBT and the Roma, the United States is telling the rest of Europe: “We’re fine with this.” The implications – especially at a time of a global far-right revival – are profoundly disturbing.

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See also: Ukrainian mall displays enormous Nazi swastika on staircase (February 2019)

 

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