Statement of human rights organizations on the situation with anti-Semitism in the context of civic protests
Over the recent weeks, publications have been appearing in the Ukrainian and foreign media claiming categorically that the level of anti-Semitism in Kyiv and, generally, in Ukraine has become catastrophic. Such conclusions are frequently made on the basis of statements by public figures claiming to represent various Jewish organizations. Virtually all such statements claim that there is a link between an alleged “increase in anti-Semitism” and the civic protests known as EuroMaidan that are now into their third month. Various publications are seriously asking whether pogroms should be expected, while appeals and statements are being sent to the diplomatic missions of various countries demanding response.
The dissemination of such statements in the media, in our opinion, misinforms their audiences, particularly, if the latter does not have at their disposal a reliable information regarding the events in Ukraine, and creates an unwarranted atmosphere of panic within the Jewish community.
While the situation in Ukraine is currently attracting the world’s attention and indeed arousing public concern, although not because of an imaginary surge of anti-Semitism, but due to the wide-scale violation of human rights by the authorities and the law enforcement, we believe it necessary to clarify the situation.
1. The systematic monitoring of xenophobia over many years carried out by our organizations points to a consistently low level of anti-Semitic incidents (especially in comparison with other European countries). Over the last 2 months, in connection with the civic protest movement no increase in manifestations of anti-Semitism has been recorded.
2. The only exceptions are the two assaults against religious Jews on January 11 and January 17, 2014 in Kyiv near the Rosenberg Synagogue. Statements by several public figures apparently speaking on behalf of Jewish organizations have directly linked the assaults to the civic protest movement and accused its participants of anti-Semitic violence. We believe it necessary to point out that there are absolutely no grounds for such assertions. In view of the passive behavior and negligence in the course of the investigation opened in the framework of the criminal proceeding in connection with the assaults, nothing is presently known about the culprits. Several representatives of the Jewish community tend to believe that the assaults on January 11 and 17 were organized as a provocation to discredit the political opposition and protesters.
3. We would like to point out that supporters of the current regime are engaged in a systematic propaganda campaign aimed at discrediting the political opposition and participants of the civic protests by spreading false information about civic unrest, 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 forcible crackdown on the protest movement. On January 16, 2014, the ruling party, using as a pretext the need to fight intolerance and fascism, passed with flagrant violations of the parliamentary procedures a package of repressive laws that effectively deprive Ukrainians of their civil liberties and the right to peaceful protest.
4. The only real ground for such assertions is the fact that some marginal and numerically weak radical nationalist groups have joined the protest movement. This in our view is hardly enough to justify the wholesale accusations of anti-Semitism leveled at EuroMaidan protesters. In reality, over the recent months, there have been more instances of anti-Semitic rhetoric emanating from representatives of the current regime. Furthermore, and more importantly, we can say it with full responsibility that in the present situation in Ukraine, the law enforcement and representatives of criminal circles mobilized by the authorities in many regions to violently confront the peaceful protest movement, pose a far greater and a very real threat – compared to small radical nationalist groups – 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.
5. It often turns out that people disseminating the most panicky messages have no relation whatsoever to the Jewish community, speak on behalf of non-existent organizations using false names and spread overt lies. Unfortunately, such statements resonate with the key messages of the regime’s propaganda campaign and are eagerly reproduced by the media.
We call on Ukrainian citizens and foreign observers to remain calm and critically assess the panicky statements regarding anti-Semitism in Ukraine that appear in the media.
Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union
Kharkiv Human Rights Group
The Congress of National Communities of Ukraine
The ‘No Borders’ Project, the Social Action Centre
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