WASHINGTON, May 30, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following is being released by the US-Ukraine Observer:
Director of the American Center for Democracy Rachel Ehrenfeld observes in a recent commentary that anti-Semitism remains a prevalent and troubling problem in Ukraine and that Ukraine's Svoboda political party encourages and fuels this hatred. Writing for The Algenmeier, based in New York, Ehrenfeld writes: "In Ukraine, the noisiest anti-Semitic group is the Svoboda ("Freedom") party. Established in 1991 as the "Social-National Party of Ukraine" under the SS-era symbol of the Wolfsangel. In 2004, with new leader Oleh Tyahnybok, the party renamed itself and adopted innocuous symbols. That, however, didn't change the Nazi characteristic of the party. Tyahnybok himself has stated on several occasions that the "Moscow-Jewish mafia" is running Ukraine. Other prominent party members have often used the derogatory, anti Jewish slur "zhid", including against Ukrainian-born American actress Mila Kunis, suggesting she was not a "real" Ukrainian because of her Jewish heritage. Svoboda supporters include among their heroes leaders of pro-Nazi World War II organizations known for their atrocities against Jews and Poles, such as the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), and the 14th Waffen-SS Galicia Division. (To Svoboda's vocal displeasure, Poland's parliament recently introduced a resolution condemning the OUN and the UPA for wartime massacres of Polish civilians.)"
Ehrenfeld argues that words and associations are not the only concerns about Svoboda. "As reported by the Jewish Telegraph Agency (JTA) in April, Svoboda thugs took part in an opposition demonstration against the government of President Viktor Yanukovych, and provoked a small riot in Cherkassy, a city some 125 miles southeast of Kyiv," writes Ehrenfeld. "Outfitted with T-shirts emblazoned with the words "Beat the zhids!," the Svoboda goons' provocation has, according to JTA, "raised anxieties among Ukrainian Jews fearful of rising xenophobia and racially motivated violence." Joel Rubinfeld, co-chair of the European Jewish Parliament, is quoted saying: "Svoboda lifted the lid from the sewer of anti-Semitism in Ukraine and it's spilling out," she continues.
In her commentary, Ehrenfeld acknowledges that Ukraine's other leading opposition political parties have done nothing to shun Svoboda's anti-Semitism and, in fact, have embraced by forming a united opposition to the government of Ukraine president Viktor Yanukovych. Ehrenfeld writes: "Tyahnybok and his party have already benefited from cooperation with the "mainstream" Batkivshchina and UDAR forces, which claim a 'pro-western orientation' and accuse Yanukovych and his ruling Party of Regions (PoR) of being pro-Russian. With a strong regional base in the western part of Ukraine, Svoboda emerged as a major element in the parliament following the October 2012 election, pulling in over 10 percent of the vote nationwide. Svoboda also controls local governments in parts of its home region and boosted–with the support of other opposition parties–pension payments for local veterans of the SS Galicia Division. Hoping to enhance their future prospects, recently Yatsenyuk and Klitschko appeared together with Tyahnybok to cement a joint opposition electoral program against the current government."
Rachel Ehrenfeld is the director of the New York-based American Center for Democracy.
Contact: US-Ukraine Observer, Frank Abernathy, 615-290-5662, [email protected]
SOURCE US-Ukraine Observer