Beyond the Cusp

February 25, 2014

Synagogue Firebombed in Ukraine

The place is Zaporizhia, southeast of Kiev, where the community’s Giymat Rosa Synagogue was firebombed by unknown assailants on the night of February 23, causing minor damages. The building showed the scars from traces of a fire on the facade of the balcony. The fortunate news is that there were no casualties and the authorities have promised to take precautions and to do whatever was necessary to arrest those responsible. The neck of a glass bottle was found near the area damaged by the fire affirming that a Molotov cocktail was the cause of the fire which also confirmed the suspicions this was the result of an intentional act. There have been other threats by forces from both the now deposed government including some threats made by government police and other threats came from elements from among the opposition protesters. The Ukrainian police claimed the Jews were behind the opposition to the government while those from the opposition were blaming the Jews for supporting President Yanukovych and his cronies and as such responsible for the deaths of opposition demonstrators shot by the government police. This is not a new situation for Jews living in a nation going through internal turmoil such as civil wars and other uprisings.

 

Even the United States had a major incident where Jews were victimized being held responsible for working against the government of the United States. This event came immediately after the end of the United States Civil War (War Between the States) when General Ulysses S. Grant as the military governor of the Kentucky Territory (governing the areas including Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi) ordered all properties, homes, cattle, horse and other assets confiscated from the Jewish residents and for them to be removed from the areas under his charge. Despite this situation being countermanded immediately as reports reached the White House, such while commemorative was too late to avoid much of the damage as the reversal of Grant’s orders took over a week before the new orders reached the area. Communications were quite a bit slower and the confusion quotient was fairly high, but there was no excuse for the order to have been given in the first place. If it could happen that Jews were singled out for scorn and blame without any proof of actions and chosen as others of equal or greater responsibility were not so treated is an anathema to any civilized society. Let us hope that nothing similar occur anywhere throughout the Ukraine which thus far appears unlikely.

 

Still, the Jewish communities in Kiev particularly and throughout the Ukraine have beefed up their security in response to the increased tensions. Reports from within the communities throughout the Ukraine tell of them putting their activities on hold out of safety concerns. There have also been arrest warrants issued for President Yanukovych and various members of his Administration over the violence perpetrated by security and police forces during the months of the demonstrations. Meanwhile, President Yanukovych was reportedly seen to be in a southern port in the company of Russian Marines. The area he was reportedly currently hiding is an area that is among those aligned with Russia as the majority of the citizens are Russians who were imported into the Ukraine during the reign of the Soviet Union in order to serve as a cause for Soviet forces to be injected and the rest of the Ukrainian population pacified. If there will be any shove back from Russia, it will be in response to petition from these Ukrainians as many may prefer to remain aligned and even ruled by the Russians. There have already been reports of demonstrations against the new government and calls from those demonstrating for the return of President Yanukovych as the duly elected President of the Ukraine. The struggle for the heart and soul of the Ukraine is not yet a settled disagreement and the potential for additional violence is still high enough to cause serious concerns until the new government has been elected hopefully as scheduled for May 25. A prayer for the people of the Ukraine and for calm to be the rule and not the exception and for the nation to heal and come together once a new government has been elected. Let us call for patience and for all anticipation be for changes through the ballot box and not the baseball bat.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

February 24, 2014

Ukraine Gets New Face Overnight

Yesterday the world awoke to find a new parliament and new Parliament Speaker attempting to straighten out the tangled disarray resulting from months of violence between government forces and demonstrators. Oleksander Tuchynov is the new Ukrainian Parliament Speaker and will hold the position until elections which are scheduled for May 25. The parliament will not have an easy task especially in the first initial weeks as they try and put the Ukraine back on a normal footing and return the society to a normal routine which has been impossible during the months of demonstrations. This will be even more difficult as the demonstrations melded together some disparate groups which each have their own agendas with some of them being so opposite as to be impossible to satisfy simultaneously. Some of the initial changes were the foreign minister Leonid Kozhara and the education minister Dykmitro Tabachnyk have been relieved of their posts, sixty-four protestors have been released from jail, and the president’s estate at Mezhyhirya has been nationalized. They have also declared that Ukrainian will be the sole official language of the Ukraine thus removing recognition of Russian usage in official circles. It will remain to be seen if there will be any place for the Russian language going forward though such is highly doubtful.

 

While it will very probably be many weeks before normalcy will have returned to Kiev, the rest of the Ukraine should have somewhat easier task of returning to normal as outside of the capital the demonstrations were less disruptive for much of the period only gaining power in the final weeks. The real question will be over the eastern and southern provinces where the population includes many Russians. There is a chance that these provinces may decide to split from the Ukraine and might even petition to become a part of Putin’s Russia or an autonomous state aligned more closely to Russia than to the Ukraine. It has been reported that there were some in these areas who had requested Russian protection should the protests break out in their regions. The reactions from the eastern and southern regions will require delicacy; something that could easily turn ugly if not handled deftly and with some degree of understanding. Making such tasks even more difficult will be the fact that the demonstrators do not come from one viewpoint and some of the groups who had banded together consisted of far right nationalists with a separate vision than many of the other parties and groups. The three main political parties, UDAR, Fatherland and Svoboda, which had claimed to have been working jointly during the demonstrations to oust President Yanukovych, will now be in direct competition in order to field and win the most seats they can in the upcoming elections.

 

The initial problem of removing the thuggish and dictatorial Presidency of Yanukovych and his cronies has now been realized may eventually prove to be of great benefit for the future of the Ukraine but right now it simply leaves a plethora of unanswered questions and a tangled web of new problems. Those tasked with putting the Ukraine in general and Kiev particularly back together and operating for the mutual benefit of all the people will be an uphill slog challenging those who are assuming power. The election in May is a mere quarter of a year, three months, into the future but the people will be expecting progress from their newly emplaced leaders before then and they will not be given much of a grace period. The real peril right now is the potential for a strong populist leader offering to solve all the problems if the people will simply trust them and give them the tools with the power to wield them effectively taking the elections and becoming an even worse problem than they just removed. This will become even more pressing of a possibility should the new government elected in May result in an ineffectual problematic governance that is basically a failure both economically and in keeping order. Should inflation become an even larger problem and start to run rampant, then there will be the situation which is susceptible to favor such a solution being adopted. It was just such a scenario with rampant hyperinflation and ineffectual governance of the German Weimar Republic after World War I that led to the rise of the Nazis and Adolf Hitler. The Ukraine currently has an enormous debt and a very weak economy that has suffered greatly from the disorder of the months of demonstrations. Their situation was partially due to the economic downturn which struck much of the world just over five years ago and the Ukraine still has not fully recovered. The economic recovery should be the first order of business once a newly elected government is in place. The only advice that they should receive is that government is more likely to be the problem than it is to be the solution. The best track for the government to take would be to make themselves as unobtrusive as possible, reduce regulations to a bare minimum, lower taxes on both the people and businesses and rely on free trade and unburdened free enterprise to lift the entire nation and people providing the best opportunity for a healthy economy. They should try to take a path which allows them to maximize their abilities to trade with the entire world and take steps to increase foreign trade relations as much as possible. This will require tactful handling of Ukrainian relations with Russia but they need to tell Putin that the Ukraine expects to continue to do business with Russia but also expects to be free to trade with the rest of the world as well. Europe also may need to step up and take steps to assure that the Ukraine will be accepted and thus allow them an alternative to survive any pressures from Putin and Russia. The one thing I am sure of is I am glad I will not be elected to any position in the next Ukrainian government and I wish those who are the best of luck.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

Update: The Russian government, which means Vladimir Putin, has recalled their Ambassador to the Ukraine to Moscow for consultations on the “deteriorating situation” in Kiev. In the United States National Security Adviser, Susan Rice, issued a warning to Russian President Vladimir Putin against attacking Ukraine in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” where she was quoted stating, “the United States is on the side of the Ukrainian people” having democratic elections with “the opportunity for the people of Ukraine to come together in a coalition unity government” representing them honestly after former President Yanukovych was removed ending his questionable Administration.

 

February 23, 2014

Anti-Semitism; the Ugly Underside of the Ukraine Uprising

Amid the claims of good news and the distinct possibility that the uprising in the Ukraine may be on the cusp of a resolution and to be forming an interim government which will be composed of representatives of the various political parties, there are some sobering reports of increasing anti-Semitism. The most disturbing portions of these reports has been that both the police and security personnel of the former government of President Yanukovych as well as enforcers from various segments from among the rebellious demonstrating parties have been threatening Jewish residents in Kiev. There have been reports which imply that Ukrainian radical movements are working with and have very close ties to the Hungarian Fascist Jobbik Party, a reputed neo-Nazi nationalist party. Furthermore, there have been accusations of protesters reaching Jewish areas of Kiev and vandalizing shops. Many of Kiev’s Jewish population have fled the Ukrainian capital city escaping to safer regions where there are no protests and the police are not acting as enforcers of a hated regime stamping out those who they consider to be a source of the country’s problems. With the validation of the police threatening the remaining Jews claiming the uprising was orchestrated by Jews attempting to take control of the Ukraine government and also validating that some members of the extreme right-wing nationalist parties are also denouncing the Jews as supporters of President Yanukovych and his criminal governance, it becomes clear that both extremes are attacking the Jews in order to make them responsible for both sides of the civil strife setting the grounds for potential persecution of the Jews regardless of which side prevails. Such accusation of Jewish manipulation of governance in order to pit one sector of the society against the rest in order to gain influence is an old and vicious blood libel.

 

Twenty-five years ago, in 1989, there were almost a half a million Jews in Ukraine, now a mere 70,000 Jews are citizens of Ukraine according to official statistics. The cause of this radical decline in the Ukrainian Jewish population was a direct result of slowly growing anti-Semitism which had been steadily worsening well before the uprisings. The truth is that the uprising allowed for additional opportunities to blame the “other” for the financial, social, political and other ills that were affecting the Ukrainian peoples. As has been the case historically in the Ukraine, as in much of the rest of the world, that “other” singled out to carry the blame for all that was wrong in the society were the Jews. Recent examples of Ukrainian anti-Semitism have included a teacher of Talmud Torah in Kiev was brutally attacked by three locals requiring medical treatment at a local hospital, the stabbing a Hareidi man in Kiev this last January and the failed attempt to assassinate Vadim Rabinovich, President of the Ukrainian Jewish Congress, as an unknown assailant hurled a bomb at his car. With the renewed and escalated threats against Jews living in the Ukraine, especially in Kiev, Jews have taken precautions by not wearing Yarmulkes or other clothing and jewelry which might indicate their Jewishness.

 

Meanwhile, President Yanukovych has raised the issue that he is the victim of a coup and that the vote by the Ukrainian Parliament calling for him to vacate the Presidency was illegal and made under duress from outside forces. He has also gone to the extreme of comparing the current situation in the Ukraine to the Nazi takeover of pre-war Germany from the democratically elected Weimar Republic. President Yanukovych was quoted claiming, “We see the repeat of the Nazi events, when in the 1930s in Germany and Austria the Nazis came to power. This is a repeat of that. They banned parties. The same is happening now. They are banning the Communist Party of Ukraine, the Party of Regions, putting labels on it, chasing, beating people, burning houses, offices.” These statements came as President Yanukovych had fled Kiev taking refuge in the countryside in the northeast of the Ukraine, an area which supports his position of preference for close ties with Russia rather than with the European Union and other European nations.

 

On the brighter side of events in the Ukraine, Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has been released from the prison hospital where she was serving a seven year sentence resulting from a controversial verdict on her actions as Prime Minister. Many had contended that her trial and conviction were politically motivated by President Yanukovych as he saw her as posing the greatest threat to his being reelected president in the future. She was ordered released by a vote of the parliament on Friday. Yulia Tymoshenko was warmly received by the crowds celebrating their apparent victory in Liberty Square in Kiev. Unable to stand, she addressed the cheering masses from her wheelchair proclaiming, “You are heroes!” She further stated, “Until you finish this job and until we travel all the way, nobody has the right to leave, because nobody could do it, not other countries, nobody could do what you have done. We’ve eliminated this cancer, this tumor.” Ms. Tymoshenko is rumored to be the most likely person to assume the Presidency once Mr. Yanukovych has been officially confirmed to have stepped down.

 

There are still a number of potential slips and falls threatening a peaceful transition as Yanukovych is still refusing to abdicate despite the protesters having gained uncontested possession of the Parliament building and much of the capital of Kiev. There is currently a tentative peace, or at least a lull in active violence between protesters and police. This would be the third agreement to halt hostilities thus far just in the last few days. The Parliament has fallen in line completely backing the calls for new governance including a new constitution which will place stricter limits of Presidential powers stripping it of much of the privileges and dictatorial powers usurped by Yanukovych since he ascended to the Presidency. The Ukraine appears to be close to a new lease on life, so to speak, yet the path ahead is neither sure nor easy. The one conclusion which can be taken is that the nationalists will have vastly increased power going into the new governance. The Ukraine also will be economically better off after removing the criminal influences and thuggery that accompanied President Yanukovych’s terms in office. Still, there is a definitive possibility that any new government could prove to fall under the influence of xenophobic purists who will call for cleansing the Ukrainian society of those who are considered to be foreigners or parts of accused subversive elements. This was part of the poisonous anti-Semitism which has been on the rise in the Ukraine as well as much of the rest of Europe as has been made overtly evident by the protestations and accusations in Hungary by the Jobbik Party and in Greece by the Golden Dawn Party.  The Ukraine will require close observation going forward and any signs of xenophobic influences should be pointed out and denounced. It is very probably too late to save and ensure a healthy Jewish population in the future of the Ukraine as the decimation of the Jews over the past twenty-five years has reduced their once significant Jewish population to a dwindling remnant more likely to be erased than it is to thrive and grow. It is a sad end to what had been a vibrant and dynamic Jewish center and an example of what is currently occurring across Europe and, I fear, soon to become all too real in the United States as well. It is this exact situation which makes Israel a necessity as otherwise the Jews would have nowhere in which to take refuge leaving them victim to the full force of unbridled hatred such as what has led to the murderous intentions so many times through the ages since the Roman dispersion. There is currently an exodus of Jews from the nation with the third largest Jewish population in the world behind Israel and the United States respectively, and that tragedy is befalling the Jews of France. Today, every Jew in France is being accused of treasonous tendencies and may as well carry the name of Captain Alfred Dreyfus. And France is far from alone, they are just the leading example with Britain, Sweden and across Europe in general everywhere that nationalist extremists are gaining in power and popularity. This too is a situation which deserves inspection and exposure to the light of day.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

Next Page »

Blog at WordPress.com.