Nightmare time for Jews of eastern Ukraine (updated)
A leaflet distributed on Passover eve in the city of Dontesk in the Russian-speaking eastern region of Ukraine is reviving memories of pogroms of a century ago for the 17,000 Jews resident there.
Ynet news provides details:
The leaflet, signed by Chairman of Donetsk's temporary government Denis Pushilin, was distributed to Jews near the Donetsk synagogue and later in other areas of the city where pro-Russians activists have declared Donetsk as an independent "people's republic", defying an ultimatum from Kiev to surrender.
The leaflet was written in Russian and had Russia's national symbol on it, as well as the Donetsk People's Republic insignia.
"Dear Ukraine citizens of Jewish nationality," the flyer began, "due to the fact that the leaders of the Jewish community of Ukraine supported Bendery Junta," a reference to Stepan Bandera, the leader of the Ukrainian nationalist movement which fought for Ukrainian independence at the end of World War II, "and oppose the pro-Slavic People's Republic of Donetsk, (the interim government) has decided that all citizens of Jewish descent, over 16 years of age and residing within the republic's territory are required to report to the Commissioner for Nationalities in the Donetsk Regional Administration building and register."
The leaflet detailed what type of documents the Jewish citizens would need to supply: "ID and passport are required to register your Jewish religion, religious documents of family members, as well as documents establishing the rights to all real estate property that belongs to you, including vehicles."
If the message was not made clear enough, the leaflet further stipulated the consequences that would come to those who failed to abide by the new demands: "Evasion of registration will result in citizenship revoke and you will be forced outside the country with a confiscation of property."
Haaretz, the left-leaning Israeli newspaper, casts some doubt as whether this leaflet might have been produced by Pro-Ukraine forces as a kind of black op:
…according to the Novosti Donbassa news agency… the notice was distributed by "three unidentified men wearing balaclavas and carrying the flag of the Russian Federation." The notice was reported by members of the Jewish community of Donetsk.
Novosti Donbassa speculated that the men involved were provocateurs who "tried to provoke a conflict, then to blame the attack on separatists."
Either way, the leaflet reminds us that hatred of Jews is a longstanding and still-virulent feature of life in Ukraine and much of Eastern Europe, once home to a substantial portion of world Jewry, and now just a remnant of the Holocaust. Ukraine supplied SS troops to the Nazis and was among the most enthusiastic locations for the Holocaust during Nazi occupation. The Christian Holy Week/Passover period was the worst time of the year for persecution of Jews, usually culminating on Good Friday. The timing of this leaflet seems intended to revive these memories.
Update. Julia Ioffe of The New Republic thinks Donetsk's Jews have nothing to worry about:
The Donetsk Jewish community dismissed this as "a provocation," which it clearly is. "It's an obvious provocation designed to get this exact response, going all the way up to Kerry," says Fyodr Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs. "I have no doubt that there is a sizeable community of anti-Semites on both sides of the barricades, but for one of them to do something this stupid—this is done to compromise the pro-Russian groups in the east."
Why? The Russian government has beenplaying up the (real but small) role of fascists and neo-Nazis in the victory of the EuroMaidan in Kiev. The Ukrainian government, utterly powerless to fight off the Russians and their local stooges, have had to rely on other methods, like leaking taped phone calls of allegedly local separatists getting their commands from Moscow. This may be just another tactic to smear the so-called anti-Maidan in the east of Ukraine: you think we're fascists? Well, take a look at these guys.