Kiev (GPA) – Israel is apparently surprised by the findings of the new report showing an uptick in Ukrainian antisemitism.
This year’s report on global incidents of anti-Semitic hate-crimes by the Ministry for Diaspora Affairs (MDA) has singled out Ukraine as an odd case in Eastern Europe.
Ukrainian Anti-Semitism Worst In Post-Soviet Europe
According to the MDA, the incidents of hate crimes against Jews have been dropping steadily in Eastern Europe for the past several years. Among the former Soviet republics, this trend continued through 2017, except for one country: Ukraine.
Opposite of nations like Poland and Russia, Ukraine was found to have more incidents of crimes against Jews in the last year than they did in 2016. Their number for 2016 was also the highest in the old Soviet bloc as well as being the only nation seeing the number of anti-semitic hate crimes on the rise.
On top of Ukraine being “a striking exception” to the reports overall finding, the MDA also noted that “the number of recorded anti-semitic attacks was doubled from last year” in the country. The report highlighted that what makes Ukraine’s underperformance so blatant is the anti-Semitic hate crimes in the country “surpassed the tally for all the incidents reported throughout the entire region combined.”
While the report did not specify the exact number of anti-Semitic incidents that were reported in Ukraine, the MDA does estimate the number to be over 130.
According to the Minister for Diaspora Affairs, Naftali Bennett these new trends are a result of “Much of this discourse was related to the changes in governments around the world, the refugee crisis and the visibility of antisemitism in social media.” While Bennett did not mention the far-right groups that run Kiev, he instead singled out Germany’s rising Alternative for Deutschland (AfD), a right-wing anti-immigrant party.
Kiev Denies Accusations
While the Israeli report is alleged to have drawn their information from reliable public news sources, representatives of the Ukrainian junta immediately took to the media to dispute Tel Aviv’s claims.
According to Vyacheslav Likhachov, head of the National Minorities rights monitoring group in Ukraine, the actual number of anti-semitic crimes did rise. However, according to Likhachov, the final number for the year was 24 up from 19. Likhachov delivered these statistics on the far-right Svoboda radio, so that should factor in on how seriously to take these numbers.
Likhachov brushed off most of these incidents, saying that they “were mostly acts of vandalism against Jewish monuments. We recorded only one physical attack in 2016, and none in 2017.”
Other Ukrainian officials also attempted to portray some anti-Semitic incidents as fabricated stories planted by Russia and Israel to discredit Kiev. One individual guilty of this is Josef Zisels, the chairman of the Association of Jewish Organizations and Communities of Ukraine, who told was quoted as saying of Ukrainian hate crimes that “We can’t really prove it, but many of those incidents could be Russian-backed provocations. As Ukraine is constantly fighting mostly on ideological war (with Russia).”
Zisels also blamed police inaction for the lack of records around these incidents by saying that his organization “reported all the vandalism acts against the Jewish people to the police and prosecutors, but in four years not a single anti-Semitism case has been investigated and taken to the court.” The downside of this according to Zisel isn’t the fact that Jewish victims don’t receive justice but rather that “we really can’t even say which acts were Russian provocations, and which were really anti-Semitism” without proper investigation.
Israel still contests these numbers and cited their media sources as the only available outlet to research these types of crimes. Israel couldn’t consult official records due to their being no hate-crime laws in Ukraine.
James Carey is an organizer based in Detroit, Michigan, founder of Geopolitics Alert, and an experienced analyst on Middle Eastern affairs with a particular focus on Turkey. He also covers topics ranging from Latin America and Asia to Europe. You can also hear James in his weekly podcast; The Left is Dead which he co-hosts with investigative journalist Jake Anderson.