Jewish people in East Ukraine were told to “register” through flyers handed out by an unknown source. They claimed armed, masked men who carried a Russian Federation flag were passing out the leaflets. This happened on the first evening of Passover, as Jews were leaving a synagogue in the eastern city of Donetsk, Ukraine.
The leaflets instructed the Jews in the city over 16 years-old, to supply a property list of things that they own, and pay a fee to register. Consequences for not doing so, instructs the flyer, involves them being forcibly removed from the country, revocation of their citizenship, and their things being confiscated. The flyers provided a deadline date of May 3, and described the reason for the registry being when World War II was coming to an end, the Jewish people did not give their support to the pro-Russians, but to a Ukrainian nationalist movement leader, Stepan Bandera.
The leader of the pro-Russian temporary “government” Denis Pushilin, denied that he had anything to do with the leaflets, although they contain his signature. Despite Pushilin’s denial, Geoffrey Pyatt, U.S. Ambassador to the Ukraine refers to the flyers as “the real deal.” Pushilin refers to the leaflets as a “provocation.”
Whether the flyers are real or not, the actions by the pro-Russian activists bring back some nightmarish memories of a time past when Jews were targeted, and genocide ensued, as over six million Jewish people lost their lives. An issue of anti-Semitism is of enormous magnitude, especially in a country that is teeming with unrest, and a power struggle. Just the idea of people being identified by their religion can be dangerous in an already volatile situation.
The situation in the Ukraine is also very sensitive, and many are expressing the belief that the Jewish people who have been told to register by unknown sources, are not safe in the country. Rabbi Shmuel Kaminezki said that it is of utmost importance that the people know that “it’s not true,” and that the Jewish people will not do what the flyers demand. He also said that the perpetrators must be caught.
Anti-Defamation League international affairs director, Michael Salberg, said that anti-Semitism is being used and the Jewish people exploited, to give a message of power to the general population using the new interim government.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry expressed his disgust at the situation, saying that we have come along way throughout history and there is no place for these types of people. The behavior is “unacceptable” and “grotesque.”
Currently in eastern Ukraine, pro-Russian activists have broken an agreement, brokered by Russia and other international powers including the European Union, the Ukraine, and the U.S., to leave government facilities that they have occupied since February.
On Friday, John Kerry expressed to Sergei Lavrov, the Foreign Minister of Russia, that the situation would be closely watched by the U.S. to see if Moscow will use its influential powers, to assure that the activists vacate the government facilities. Then that evening, accusations came from the Russian Foreign Ministry charging Washington with supporting the government in Kiev, and what Moscow views as a use of force against Eastern Ukraine pro-Russian protesters.
The very complicated political situation in the Ukraine can be worsened by the unknown sources telling the Jewish people to register. Adding fuel to the fire, as suggested by some, may be a very likely motive by the perpetrators.
Opinion by Twanna Harps