Rector of major Ukraine college says 'no such thing as anti-Semitism'
Ukraine academy official accuses Chabad of ties to international terrorism.
KIEV, Ukraine - Outwardly, the main campus of the Interregional Academy of Personnel Management, known in English by the acronym MAUP, looks like a college in every way. Assorted buildings are dispersed around lawns of the campus on the outskirts of town, with a group of young students milling about between them in a somewhat informal atmosphere.
Notice boards display announcements regarding academic matters and entertainment events. On the surface, there is nothing to indicate the facts that have made MAUP a staple of every report on anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe published over the past five years. There are indeed a great many statues, symbols and small picturesque buildings that underscore the nationalist and religious identity of the place. Pravoslavic crucifixes abound, along with signs marking milestones in the history of the Ukrainian nation, and everywhere one can find the picture of Bogdan Khmelnitsky, the 17th-century Cossack leader who also led the attacks that killed hundreds of thousands of Jews, and who is a national hero in Ukraine.
But who can complain about Khmelnitsky's presence in Kiev, where a huge statue of him on a charging steed stars in one of the city's main squares. And besides, there are also statues of such giants of the human spirit as Plato and Socrates and pictures of contemporary politicians, local and global, who have extended their patronage or granted prizes to the university, such as former South African president Nelson Mandela. And this fact is perhaps the most troubling of all for the Jewish and Israeli bodies that monitor anti-Semitism worldwide. They are unable to understand how in the middle of the Ukrainian capital there operates an academic center that publishes entire series of books and regular editions of newspapers with explicit anti-Semitic content, and why the central government refrains from taking determined action against it.
The office of MAUP's rector, Mykola Golavatiy, continues the thematic scenery from outdoors. Its walls are hung with photographs of national heroes and archaeological sites from the glory days of the Ukrainian people, including the usual picture of Khmelnitsky. Beside his desk stands a long wax candle illuminating a religious icon. In the sitting area is a calendar published by the Ukrainian National Conservative party, the most anti-Semitic party in the country, which was founded by MAUP's president, Georgy Tchokin.
Prof. Golavatiy agreed to be interviewed for an Israeli paper only after some hesitation. On the one hand, MAUP officials want to present a front devoid of racism and anti-Semitism. On the other hand, they are determined to preserve their "academic freedom" and are not willing to appear to be groveling before Jewish pressure groups. He protests the reports against them by Jewish organizations and efforts by the "socialist" education minister not to recognize MAUP degrees. He points with pride to the certificates from the Ukrainian council for higher education and to the 2004 report by a government committee, one of whose members - he stresses - was even Jewish, which confirmed that they are tolerant and teach the history of all peoples equitably. He even managed to locate an official MAUP textbook that has stories from Ukraine's various nationalities, including one story about the Holocaust. He himself had a Jewish friend, "a man who is better than a lot of Ukrainians," who emigrated to the United States eight years ago.
Golavatiy cannot understand how his school can be tarred with the brush of racism. The university has students of 40 different nationalities, including several hundred Jews, and there are also Jews on the faculty. So how, the rector is asked, can books be sold under the MAUP imprint accusing Zionism and Jewish organizations of posing a danger to Ukraine and to world peace? His response: "When the issues of terror and globalization arose, discussions were held here on these matters, and also about Zionism and anti-Semitism. The publications in question merely report on the discussions. It was only discussions," he explains.
MAUP also invited Jewish figures to those discussions, but they declined. "But there were also Jewish lecturers, even one from Israel named Shahar; I don't think he's connected to any academic institution in Israel, but he's from there," he said.
MAUP, he insists, is not anti-Semitic. "There is no such thing as anti-Semitism anyway, it's a concept invented by scientists," he maintains. "Those [Jewish] organizations are anti-Semitic. Every time there is talk of Jews, they say it's anti-Semitism."
Golavatiy holds one organization responsible for everything: Chabad - the most prominent and best-known Jewish entity in Ukraine today, which in the eyes of many locals represents all Jews.
"Chabad gave the world nothing good," he grumbles. "Something is wrong with them. This is an international organization with branches around the world and you cannot say they are for peace; they do evil things. They are also tied to extremism and terrorist actions."
As far as he's concerned, what is really at issue is a battle over academic freedom. "There are not only positive things in Jews and Judaism, there are also negative things, and nobody will deprive me of the possibility to research these negative things in the history of the Jews," he said. "The UN ruled in 1975 that Zionism is racism. It is necessary to study this as well and understand why it was said."
The vast majority of MAUP's 50,000 students, enrolled at 18 branches across Ukraine and additional branches in other Eastern European countries, are not engaged in anti-Semitic activity. However, according to Amos Hermon, head of the Jewish Agency's task force on countering anti-Semitism, "MAUP has not only become the main producer of anti-Semitic literature in Ukraine, but it distributes these materials in various languages throughout Eastern and Central Europe."