On the situation with anti-Semitism in the context of civic protest
A statement from human rights organizations regarding reports in the media and claims of a surge in anti-Semitism in Ukraine
Over recent weeks, publications have been appearing in the Ukrainian and foreign media which claim categorically that the level of anti-Semitism in Kyiv and in Ukraine as a whole is catastrophic. Such conclusions are frequently based on statements or remarks by public figures claiming to represent various Jewish organizations. Virtually all such statements claim that there is a link between a supposedly recorded “increase in anti-Semitism” and the civic protests known as EuroMaidan now into their third month. Various publications have seriously asked whether pogroms should be expected, and various appeals and statements demanding reaction have been sent to the diplomatic structures of various countries.
Such statements and remarks in the press in our opinion mislead their audience especially when the latter does not have good access to reliable information about what is happening in Ukraine and creates an unwarranted atmosphere of panic within the Jewish community.
In view of the fact that the situation in Ukraine is currently attracting world attention and is indeed arousing public concern, though not in any way because of a supposed surge in anti-Semitism, but because of the wide-scale violation of human rights by the authorities and law enforcement bodies, we feel it necessary to clarify the situation.
1. According to systematic monitoring of xenophobia over many years carried out by our organizations, there is a consistantly low level of anti-Semitic incidents (especially in comparison with other European countries). Over the last 2 months there has not been a surge in manifestations of anti-Semitism in connection with the civic protest movement.
2. The only exceptional incidents were two attacks on religious Jews on Jan 11 and Jan 17 in Kyiv near the Rosenberg Synagogue. Statements from several public figures apparently speaking on behalf of Jewish organizations have directly linked the attacks with the civic protest movement, and have accused its participants of anti-Semitic violence. We feel it necessary to state that there are absolutely no grounds for such assertions. In view of the passive behavior and sloppy style of investigative activities in the criminal investigations initiated over the attacks, nothing is presently known about the possible culprits. Several representatives of the Jewish community are inclined to believe that the attacks on Jan 11 and 17 were organized as provocation to discredit the political opposition and protesters.
3. We must state that supporters of the current regime are running a systematic propaganda campaign aimed at discrediting the political opposition and participants of the civic protests by spreading false information about mass disturbances, a wave of extremism, and in particular “a surge of anti-Semitism in Ukraine” supposedly caused by EuroMaidan. This campaign is an important part of the propaganda backup for the crushing by force of the protest movement. Under the pretext of needing to fight intolerance and fascism on Jan 16 the ruling party, with flagrant violations of procedure, adopted a package of repressive laws which deprived Ukrainians of their civil liberties and right to peaceful protest.
4. The only real grounds for such assertions is the fact that certain marginalized and small radical nationalist groups are taking part in the protest movement. This in our view is in no way enough to justify the wholesale accusations of anti-Semitism of EuroMaidan protesters. In fact over recent months there have been more cases of anti-Semitic rhetoric from representatives of the current regime. Furthermore, and this is much more important, we can confidently state that given the situation at present in Ukraine the law enforcement bodies and representatives of criminal structures enlisted by the heads of government bodies in many regions to use force in countering peaceful protest pose an exponentially greater and more real threat not only to human rights and civil liberties, but also to the life and health of Ukrainians regardless of their ethnic background or religious beliefs than the members of small radical nationalist groups.
5. It often transpires that the people circulating the most panic-mongering statements do not have any relations whatsoever to the Jewish community, speak on behalf of non-existent organizations using false names and spread overt lies. Unfortunately these statements coincide with the main thrust of the regime’s propaganda drive and are readily reported by the media.
We call on Ukrainian citizens and foreign observers to remain calm and critically assess the panic-mongering statements in the media regarding anti-Semitism in the country.
Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union
Kharkiv Human Rights Group
The Congress of National Communities of Ukraine
The Without Borders Project of the Social Action Centre