News / Middle East

Israel Rejects Link of Ukraine Crisis to Anti-Semitism

A Jewish boy prays at a synagogue in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, April 20, 2014.
A Jewish boy prays at a synagogue in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, April 20, 2014.
Israel played down on Thursday suggestions that anti-Semitism in Ukraine is linked to Kyiv's standoff with Russia, offering a more measured assessment than the Kremlin or the United States as it avoids taking sides in the East-West confrontation.

Moscow has aimed allegations of anti-Semitism against the pro-Western Ukrainian government. Washington has condemned an incident in a city with a strong pro-Russian movement where Jews were handed leaflets using language reminiscent of the Holocaust.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman rejected a connection between the five months of unrest and the situation of Ukraine's 200,000 Jews.

“There is no specific action against Jews which is an outcome of the political crisis,” said Lieberman, a Russian-speaker who grew up in Moldova when it was a Soviet republic.

“What there is, as happens to my regret in every country, is a phenomenon of anti-Semitism which is not necessarily linked to the political events but which, given the political events, of course receives unusual attention,” he told Israel Radio.

Remaining neutral

Anti-Semitism remains a feature of militant nationalism in both Ukraine and Russia. During unrest that saw the overthrow of Kyiv's Kremlin-backed president in February, several attacks on Jews and synagogues were blamed on Ukrainian far-right groups.

The Jewish state has tried to keep out of the crisis, wary of upsetting its crucial U.S. ally or Russia, which is influential in the Middle East flashpoints Iran and Syria.

That has entailed turning down appeals from some Ukrainian Jewish leaders for a public stand against Russia and even the dispatch of Israeli security experts. The community is itself divided between Kyiv and pro-Russians in Crimea and other southeastern areas.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry denounced as  “intolerable” and “grotesque” the distribution in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk of leaflets during Passover last week that appeared to call on Jews to register with the self-declared new separatist authorities occupying local government offices.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, making a solidarity visit to Kyiv on Tuesday, said anti-Semitism and bigotry “can have no place in the new Ukraine.”

Myriad facets

The leaflets revived memories of the Holocaust, when Ukraine's once large Jewish population was devastated. Pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk, however, dismissed them as a forgery designed to smear them, and the city's chief rabbi said it was not clear who was behind the incident.

Citing a labor dispute by its diplomats, Israel sat out a vote by the U.N. General Assembly on March 27 declaring invalid a Moscow-backed referendum in Crimea on seceding from Ukraine. The U.S. State Department voiced “surprise” at the Israeli inaction.

Israel has also played down Ukrainian media reports that Simon Ostrovsky, a U.S. journalist detained on Monday by the separatists, also holds Israeli citizenship. An Israeli diplomat told Reuters the government was “working on the assumption” that Ostrovsky was indeed a dual national, but preferred Washington to take the lead in securing his release.

Lieberman, who has helped to mastermind Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's policy of closer relations with Russia, made no apology for the government's fence-sitting on Ukraine.

“We don't lack challenges and conflicts and I don't advise that we force ourselves into others,” he said. “There are such truly major players there - Russia and the United States and Ukraine — so let's make do with the challenges facing us and not look for new challenges.”

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs