Jewish Leader Calls on Ukrainian Gov't to Condemn anti-Semitic Rhetoric

Head of All-Ukranian Jewish Congress says Conservative Party has stepped up anti-Jewish rhetoric in recent weeks.

The Associated Press
The Associated Press
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The Associated Press
The Associated Press

KIEV, Ukraine - A Jewish leader on Wednesday called on the Ukrainian government to condemn the use of anti-Semitic rhetoric in campaigning ahead of March parliamentary elections, saying it was being used to whip up support by at least one minor political party.

"If before it was modest, now it is open and very obvious," said Vadim Rabynovich, head of the All-Ukrainian Jewish Congress.

He said the Conservative Party and its leader, Heorhiy Shchokin, had stepped up the anti-Semitic propaganda in recent weeks in their newsletter, which is distributed across this former Soviet nation of 48 million.

In the fall, many in Ukraine's Jewish community, which numbers about 100,000 people, expressed alarm about growing signs of anti-Semitism and some high-profile attacks on Jews, including the beating a rabbi and his 14-year-old son. Police routinely classify such attacks as hooliganism, denying any religious undertones.

Hundreds of thousands of Jews were killed in Ukraine over the centuries in pogroms staged by nationalists, and millions died during the Holocaust.

Shchokin, who is also head of Ukraine's Interregional Academy of Personnel Management, has long been a controversial figure in Ukraine for his comments against Jews and Israel. His university also came under fire for hosting former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke as a visiting lecturer.

In December, President Viktor Yushchenko condemned the university for the anti-Semitic tone of its publications. No one answered the phone at Shchokin's party headquarters Wednesday.

Rabynovich appealed to the Ministry of Justice to strip the party's registration, but was rebuffed. The Jewish Congress filed a lawsuit against the ministry, accusing it of failing to act, and is appealing to other government bodies to take action, Rabynovich said.

The Conservative Party "is leading an unprecedented propaganda campaign to whip up ... hatred not only against Jews but against other ethnic groups living in Ukraine," Rabynovich said. "We have a basis to be concerned."