27 March, 2014 23:57 ▪
The Atlantic: Ukraine's Phantom Neo-Nazi Menace
“When was the last time you personally experienced anti-Semitism?” he asked the executive director of the organized Jewish community for the city of Kiev. “You mean, called me a Zhid or something like that?” “Anything.” He thought for a moment. “Back in Soviet times.”
“The most audacious part of the Russian propaganda campaign against Ukraine is the way it suppresses and reverses the truth about the violence here: It was initiated and sustained by Russian-backed authorities,” Mr. Frum says. On November 21, under Russian pressure, the Ukrainian government rejected a trade treaty with the European Union, triggering massive protests across the country, and most visibly in Kiev’s central Independence Square, or Maidan. These protests were brutally broken up by plainclothes thugs as police stood by. Then the police joined in, with escalating brutality, including cold-blooded sniper fire against protesters and then against those who aided the wounded.
"The widespread distrust of the police, who in any case aren’t much in evidence, forms the basis of whatever fear Ukraine’s Jews do feel. If trouble were to arise, who would they call? The good news is, there isn’t much trouble. Since February 22, there have been six notable anti-Semitic incidents in Ukraine: four involving the defacement or desecration of synagogues and cemeteries, and two involving outright violence. These incidents have alarmed Jewish communities worldwide. In Ukraine, however, they are regarded with unanimous skepticism, if not outright disbelief," Mr. Frum says.
Mr. Frum spoke to more than a dozen people who occupied a variety of leadership roles within the Ukrainian Jewish community. And not a single person took seriously the idea that these anti-Jewish incidents had been carried out by “neo-Nazis.”
“There’s no denying that the relationship between Ukrainians and Jews has historically been a difficult one. Jews came in large numbers to Ukrainian territory in the 1500s, when the country was carved into estates by the Polish crown,” he says. But Mr. Frum also mentions that Ukrainians had suffered their own holocaust during a horrific famine engineered by the Soviets under Joseph Stalin in the 1930s.
“This history is the material with which Russian propaganda has fashioned its accusations against those who want to build a truly independent Ukraine. The symbols of Ukrainian nationalism are indeed historically compromised,” Mr Frum says.
“On the other hand, Putin is no one to talk. If today’s Ukrainian nationalists deserve blame for the misdeeds of their predecessors, then Russian nationalists deserve blame for the misdeeds of theirs. As Putin hurls allegations of Nazism against contemporary Ukrainians who seek democracy and honest government, it’s worth recalling that he himself traffics in Nazi-like assertions, like the claim that Bolshevism was the work of Jews. The very thing Putin seeks to prevent—true democracy in Ukraine—is the thing most likely to slay the demons of the past,” he claims.
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