The prominent role assumed by extreme nationalistic groups in the Ukrainian opposition has caused the Jewish communities in Ukraine to fear that they may come under attack. The CEO of the European Jewish Union turns to Netanyahu in a seemingly simple request, “Act to make changes for Jews in Ukraine. This is no doubt an emergency situation”.
During the week of dramatic events in Ukraine, a number of movements have come under the wings of the now powerful opposition movement in the country. All those who opposed the pro-Russian rule of ousted president Viktor Yanukovych joined in the protests to overthrow his regime. Now the sides hope to build a successful government coalition for the elections to come. Some of the groups that seek to become part of the coalition are pro-Western and want a more liberal and democratic government, but amongst them there are also extreme activists, like those from the ‘Svoboda’ party, with Oleh Tyahnybok at its head. The rising power of the nationalistic party now worries the Jewish community in Ukraine that anti-semitism could become a prominent part of the new government.
Ukrainian television crews followed a masked man into the ousted president’s former office and presidential palace in Kiev. Aside from the images of the spectacular riches belonging to the Ukrainian president, it is also possible to distinguish masked men painting Nazi and fascist symbols on the walls of the palace.
Oleh Tyahnybok, the leader of the ‘Svoboda’ Party, has become one of the most prominent figures in the movement against Yanukovych’s regime, meeting with important politicans like the American Senator John McCain, who most likely didn’t know that the party’s leader once asserted that a ‘Jewish-Russian mafia” controls the government of Ukraine. He is also a member in the European-wide Nationalistic Movement, together with movements like neo-Nazi Hungarian Jobbik movement. The Jewish community in Ukraine increasingly worries that parties like Svoboda, with anti-semitic inclinations, could take on a prominent role in the government.
“No doubt, an emergency situation for Jews”
The CEO of the European Jewish Union, Rabbi Menachem Margolin spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Defense Ya’alon requesting, “Due to the political changes in Ukraine, the Jewish community must be protected”. Rabbi Margolin wrote, “The activity of anti-Semitic groups is likely to get violent, even to the point of Jewish deaths throughout Ukraine”. He also asked of the European community “to clarify to members of the opposition in Kiev that they have a responsibility to prevent the continued harassment of Jews in the country”.
Margolin reported to Netanyahu and Ya’alon that in the past two days alone, different Jewish communities throughout Ukraine have expressed their fear of the current situation, expressing feelings of hopelessness in response to the rise in anti-semitic attacks throughout the country.
Rabbi Margolin referred to a number of disturbing instances of anti-semitism in the country, including grenades being thrown into synagogues and threats issued to prominent members of Ukraine’s Jewish community. “The challenge is clear and the complexity of taking steps to ensure the security of the Jewish populations in a foreign country leave no grain of doubt that this is an emergency situation for Jews”, wrote Rabbi Margolin.