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.
Reuters
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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs