NYT: Real anti-Semites in Russia, not Ukraine

From the NYT:

Ukraine’s Jews Dismiss Claims of Anti-Semitism 

By ANDREW HIGGINS   APRIL 8, 2014

DNIPROPETROVSK, Ukraine — From his office atop the world’s biggest Jewish community center, Shmuel Kaminezki, the chief rabbi of this eastern Ukrainian city, has followed with dismay Russian claims that Ukraine is now in the hands of neo-Nazi extremists — and struggled to calm his panicked 85-year-old mother in New York. 

Raised in Russia and a regular viewer of Russian television, she “calls every day to ask, ‘Have the pogroms happened yet?` ” Rabbi Kaminezki said. He tells his mother that they have not, and that she should stop watching Russian TV. “It is a total lie,” he said. “Jews are not in danger in Ukraine.” 

Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, added his own voice to the scaremongering in a speech at the Kremlin on March 18, when he described the ouster of President Viktor F. Yanukovych of Ukraine as an armed coup executed by “nationalists, neo-Nazis, Russophobes and anti-Semites” who “continue to set the tone in Ukraine to this day.”

But instead of reeling in panic at any fascist resurgence, the Jewish community of Dnipropetrovsk, one of the largest in Ukraine, is celebrating the recent appointment of one of its own, a billionaire tycoon named Ihor Kolomoysky, as the region’s most powerful official. 

“They made a Jew the governor. What kind of anti-Semitism is this?” asked Solomon Flaks …   

Mr. Kolomoysky, the new governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region, derided Rabbi Lazar’s support for Mr. Putin as Kremlin-orchestrated propaganda. …

Mr. Kolomoysky, a Russian speaker who has both Israeli and Ukrainian passports, scoffed at the Kremlin’s pledges to protect Jews, Russian-speakers and other minorities. … 

Anti-Semitism is experienced in daily life, he said, but gets no support or encouragement from the state, unlike in Russia, where the security services have tolerated and at times nurtured neo-Nazi nationalist groups with openly anti-Semitic agendas. Russia’s state-run news media regularly air the views of Aleksandr A. Prokhanov, the editor of the Zaftra newspaper, a notorious platform for anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. 

Although not particularly observant, Mr. Kolomoysky, who is also the president of the United Jewish Community of Ukraine, has poured tens of millions of dollars into Jewish causes over the years. Together with a fellow billionaire, Gennadiy Bogolyubov, he financed the Menorah Center, the seven-towered, $70 million community center here where the veterans’ association, the Dnipropetrovsk Jewish Community and dozens of other organizations have their offices. Also housed in the building are the Israeli Consulate, a synagogue, kosher restaurants, a Shabbat-friendly hotel and a high-tech Holocaust museum. 

The museum skirts the delicate issue of how some Ukrainian nationalists collaborated with the Nazis when Hitler invaded Ukraine in 1941, explaining instead how Jews supported Ukraine’s efforts to become an independent nation. 

Before the Holocaust, Jews made up nearly a third of Dnipropetrovsk’s population, making it one of the most important centers of Jewish life and culture in Europe. The city now has 30,000 to 50,000 Jews, a small fraction of a total population of over a million but enough to sustain a vibrant community. The World Jewish Congress estimates that there are more than 250,000 Jews in Ukraine as a whole, the third-largest population of Jews among European nations. …

When protests against Mr. Yanukovych started in November, he said, many Jews shared the pro-European aspirations of the demonstrators who gathered in Kiev’s Independence Square, though some worried about the role played by far-right nationalist groups. One such group, Svoboda, stirred particular unease because of anti-Semitic remarks by its leaders in the past and their lionization of Ukrainian nationalist heroes who, in some cases, helped the Nazis and shared their ethnicity-based concept of nationhood. 

But Rabbi Kaminezki said fears of a fascist revival had faded, “as there is a difference between what these people say to their own crowd and what they do when they become legitimate political leaders.” Anti-Semitism, he added, “exists in Ukraine, like everywhere,” but it has shown no sign of increasing since Mr. Yanukovych lost power. …

Even Right Sector, a coalition of ultranationalist and in some cases neo-Nazi organizations, has made an effort to distance itself from anti-Semitism. In late February, its leader, Dmytro Yarosh, pledged during a meeting with Israel’s ambassador in Kiev to fight all forms of racism. …

The protest movement that overthrew Mr. Yanukovych, the letter added, included some unsavory nationalist groups, “but even the most marginal do not show anti-Semitism” and are “well controlled by civil society and the new Ukrainian government — which is more than can be said for the Russian neo-Nazis, who are encouraged by your security forces.”

   
Allow me to mention again my Taki column on how traditional Fiddler on the Roof-style anti-Tsarism is one of the driving forces in this dangerous America v. Russia brouhaha. It`s perfectly understandable why the revival of a stronger, more traditionalist government in Russia so upsets Victoria Nuland, Masha Gessen, or Anne Applebaum, but here in modern American there are a lot of thing we`re not supposed to understand, even when they are perfectly understandable.