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November 27, 2014 / 5 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Russia’

Russian and Ukrainian Jews at Each Other’s Throats

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

The conflict between Russia and Ukraine has pitted Jewish leaders from both countries against each other, touching off a discordant exchange between prominent rabbis on opposite sides of the border.

The discord had been brewing since the onset of the protests in Ukraine in November, but it turned public earlier this month after Russia deployed its military in Crimea in response to what President Vladimir Putin claimed was a “rampage” of anti-Semitic and nationalist groups.

Putin’s claim sparked angry reactions from Ukrainian Jewish leaders, many of whom said it was a false justification for aggressive Russian actions that were more dangerous to Jews than any homegrown nationalism.

On Monday, one of Russia’s chief rabbis, Berel Lazar, hit back, urging Ukrainian Jews to stay silent on matters of geopolitics and reiterating concerns about anti-Semitism in the post-revolutionary government — concerns that he further suggested Ukrainian Jews were too afraid to voice for themselves.

“The Jewish community should not be the one sending messages to President Barack Obama about his policy or to President Putin or to any other leader. I think it’s the wrong attitude,” Lazar told JTA.

The revolution in Ukraine, a country with bitter memories of Soviet domination but also a large population of Russian speakers, erupted last fall after President Viktor Yanukovych declined to sign an association agreement with the European Union. Svoboda, an ultranationalist political party that Ukrainian Jewish leaders consider both anti-Semitic and dangerous, played a prominent role in the uprising that eventually ousted Yanukovych from office last month.

Amid the revolutionary turmoil, several anti-Semitic incidents occurred, including the stabbing of a religious Jew in Kiev, several street beatings of Jews, the attempted torching of a synagogue and, at another synagogue, the spray-painting of swastikas and “Death to the Jews.”

At a March 4 news conference in Moscow, Putin said Russia’s “biggest concern” was “the rampage of reactionary forces, nationalist and anti-Semitic forces going on in certain parts of Ukraine,” warning that Russia would make further incursions if minorities were endangered.

In response, Josef Zissels, chairman of the Association of Jewish Communities and Organizations of Ukraine, or Vaad, and 20 other leaders of the Ukrainian Jewish community sent Putin an open letter in which they disputed the existence of unusual levels of anti-Semitism in post-revolutionary Ukraine and accused Russia of threatening the security of Ukrainians.

“Your policy of inciting separatism and crude pressure placed on Ukraine threatens us and all Ukrainian people,” the letter said.

On Wednesday, Vaad placed the letter as a full-page ad in The New York Times and several other newspapers.

To Lazar, a senior Chabad rabbi who spoke to JTA this week at the biannual conference of the Rabbinical Center of Europe in Budapest, the Vaad letter was a case of Jewish leaders involving themselves in issues that don’t directly concern the Jewish community.

It was a sharper version of previous calls for Jewish silence on the Ukraine crisis, including a March 17 statement co-signed by Lazar and 47 other Russian and Ukrainian rabbis, many of them affiliated with Chabad.

“Religious and community leaders should stay out of the political sphere,” the letter said. “Do not forget: Any thoughtless word can lead to dangerous consequences for many.”

But several Ukrainian Jewish leaders said that by using anti-Semitism to justify his actions, Putin had left them no choice but to speak out.

“We were not the ones who brought the Jews into the debate to make it a Jewish question,” said Yaakov Dov Bleich, one of Ukraine’s chief rabbis. “Putin did it by his cynical abuse of anti-Semitism as a justification for his actions.”

Canadian Politician Irwin Cotler ‘Honored’ to be Banned by Russia

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

Irwin Cotler, a veteran human rights activist and member of Canada’s parliament,  says being banned from Russia is an “honor.”

When Russia issued its blacklist of 13 Canadians on Monday, Cotler was quick to express his pleasure at being included. ”I wear my exclusion from Russia as a badge of honor and am proud to be in such distinguished company,” he said in a statement. “I have no intention of visiting Siberia. I have no investments in Sochi. I have no desire to visit Moscow.”

This is not the first time Cotler, renowned for representing Jewish refuseniks from the Soviet era, has been banned from Russian soil.

He was expelled from the Soviet Union and then banned in 1979 while advocating on behalf of political prisoners, including Natan Sharansky. “I was arrested and accused of consorting with ‘criminals,’ among them the great Soviet human rights dissident, Andrei Sakharov,” Cotler wrote on his website. “These acts did not stop my human rights advocacy. Indeed, [Monday's] announcement only inspires me to redouble my efforts to advance the cause of human rights for all.

“I stand in solidarity with the Russian people and those fighting for human rights and democracy. Their day will come and [President Vladimir] Putin will be no more.”

This time, Cotler suspects his banishment is because he introduced a bill regarding Sergei Magnitsky. The Huffington Post reported that Magnitsky was an accountant and auditor in Moscow who uncovered a corruption scheme and testified against several senior Russian officials. He was subsequently imprisoned and died in jail in 2009 at the age of 37. Cotler chairs an intra-parliamentary group on Magnitsky, and he said that is like a “red flag” to Russia.

“My sense is that’s probably the retaliatory reason in my case,” according to Cotler.

He said some of the Americans banned by Russia were people who had worked on the Magnitsky file. Cotler added he does not need to go to Russia to advocate for Magnitsky.

“Our intra-parliamentary group for Sergei Magnitsky is international. It contains parliamentarians from over 20 countries.”

Jews Brought Holocaust on Themselves, Says Russian TV Host

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

A Russian TV presenter, in a conversation with a writer about the Ukrainian protests and Crimea, said that the Jews brought the Holocaust on themselves.

Writer Aleksandr Prokhanov, while being interviewed by anchor Evelina Zakamskaya on the state-funded Rossiya 24 TV channel, said (as translated by JNS.org) that it is “strange that Jewish organizations, the European and our own Russian organizations, support the Maidan [protests]. What are they doing? Do they not understand that they are bringing about a second Holocaust with their own hands? This is monstrous.”

Zakamskaya replied that the Jews “brought about the first [Holocaust] similarly.”

“It is a blindness. It is an unbelievable blindness, that is clearly repeating itself, because even then in 1933 in Europe, many liberal organizations were feeding the Fuhrer,” Prokhanov then said, a statement that Zakamskaya agreed with.

A video of the comments in Russian was first posted by a blogger on Americablog.com, who provided his own translation.

Earlier in March, Josef Zisels, chairman of the Association of Jewish Communities and Organizations of Ukraine (VAAD), and several other prominent Ukrainian Jews wrote a letter accusing Russian President Vladimir Putin of exaggerating the level of ultra-nationalism and anti-Semitism in Ukraine.

A few anti-Semitic incidents have occurred throughout Ukraine since the beginning of the Maidan protests in November 2013, including the vandalism of a synagogue in the Crimean city of Simferopol and a Molotov cocktail attack on a Chabad center in Zaporozhye. But those incidents have not been directly linked to the Maidan protests.

Rabbi in Crimea Makes it Out on the Last Train

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

Clarification and Update:

Wording in the title of this article has been changed from “Rabbi in Crimea Escapes with Torah Scroll” to “Rabbi in Crimea Makes it Out on the Last Train”, to avoid any potential misunderstanding that Rabbi Yitzchok Meyer Lipszyc may have stolen the Torah from the Crimea war zone, or abandoned his community in its time of need.

The Torah was moved to a safer location in Simferopol, and Rabbi Lipszyc was advised by his superiors at Chabad headquarters to temporarily move his center of operations out of Crimea. The Rabbi is still working with his community via Skype, phone and email.

JewishPress.com apologizes for any misunderstanding the title may have caused if read out of context from the text of the article.

Crimea’s Chabad Rabbi Yitzchak Meyer Lipszyc escaped Simferopol with his wife on the last train that left the area before the Russian sealed it off.

“The main action in Crimea was taking place right across the street from our synagogue,” said Rabbi Lipszyc, who has been a Chabad-Lubavitch emissary in Simferopol, the capital of Crimea, for more than two decades. “There were demonstrations with over 30,000 people. The protestors were pro-Ukrainian. But eventually the ones who took over were in the unidentified uniforms—they were obviously Russian military. There was Cossacks there too; for Jews that was a bit scary because of their history in the pogroms.”

Lipszyc spoke told JNS.org, “For the last 22 years under the Ukrainian government, everything has been going very well. When this situation began, it turned things upside down. We were told by Chabad headquarters to get out and we barely made it out. My wife in fact got the last two tickets on a train out of Simferopol on the night before everything got sealed off by the Russians.

He said that despite the referendum that was almost unanimous for annexation by Russia, the thinks “most of the people wanted to stay with Ukraine, because that was what they were familiar with, but then when the Russians took over the media and propaganda switched the other way, within days we saw it swing towards being overwhelmingly pro-Russian.’

The situation is even worse for Americans like the rabbi, he added. “Americans were persona-non-gratis for both Ukrainians and Russians at this time. For Russians it is because of the stance the American government has taken against Russia. While on the Ukraine side they are deeply disappointed that America is not doing enough to help them.

“Oddly enough we had to leave there more because we were Americans and not because we were Jewish.”

Nevertheless, the atmosphere was anything but comfortable for Jews. Rabbi Lipszyc said that the Russian troops cordoned off the synagogue and that he and his wife moved to their house.

At his wife’s suggestion, they decided to move away as far as possible and wrote a note to the Lubavitcher Rebbe to ask his help to get them out.

“Believe it or not, when our friend reached the military checkpoint, he explained to them that we needed to retrieve the Torah out of the synagogue, [the Russian soldier] suddenly moved out of the way and removed the barriers to let him,” according to the rabbi. “On his way out, the solider actually even apologized to him for the inconvenience, which was unheard of there! It was a miracle. We were able to move our Torahs to a safer location in Simferopol, where services were held for several weeks.””

Despite anti-Semitism, Jews are able to practice without interference. However, he noted, “We have to prepare for Passover and need to raise a lot of money to help with the extra costs. We not only need extra security, but we have taken loses during the process.

“We were getting our kosher meat from Ukraine; we had ordered and paid for it, but they [Russian forces] didn’t let it through. We also paid for the Matzos, but that didn’t get through either. We need to figure out how to all our supplies through now. We are appealing to everyone to help out the Jewish community there.”

Sam Kliger, the American Jewish Committee’s director of Russian Jewish community affairs, told JNS.org that according to international law and most Western observers, the referendum was illegitimate.

“In 1991, Crimea went to independent Ukraine because, since 1954, it was part of Ukrainian Soviet Socialistic Republic which in turn was an integral part of the Soviet Union,” said Kliger. “That is why nobody really cared. As long as it was a part of the USSR, it did not really matter whether it is formally a part of Russia or Ukraine. Now Russia, using as pretext the instability created by Ukrainian revolution and imaginary ‘discrimination’ against ethnic Russians, just grabbed the opportunity to return Crimea to where, according to Russia, it historically belongs.”

Russian Search Giant Buys Israeli Start-Up

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

The Russian search giant Yandex has bought out Israel’s KitLocate start-up, a maker of low-power mobile geolocation technology, for “several million Euros,” TechCrunch reported Tuesday.

KitLocate features low battery consumption by using proprietary algorithms that allow location-based apps to request the device’s geographic coordinates less frequently without losing too much precision.

Yandex will use KitlLocate’s technology for car navigation and maps and also is interested in the Israel start-ups cloud solution.

KitLocate consists of eight people, whose Tel Aviv offices will become Yandex R & D headquarters, with the probability of more engineers being added by the new owners.

Ya’alon Calls the Obama Administration a Weakling

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who earlier this year called U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry “messianic” and “obsessive,” upped the ante on Monday by calling the entire Obama administration a weakling and undependable in the “stop nuclear Iran” campaign.

“We had thought it would be the United States that would lead the campaign against Iran,” said Ya’alon at a lecture at Tel Aviv University.

He cited the Ukraine crisis as an example of “weakness” in the White House which he said cannot be depended on to stop Iran’s nuclear program. “We had thought it would be the United States that would lead the campaign against Iran,” said Ya’alon.

“People know Iran cheats”, he added, but the United States and its other Western allies “engage” Iran, leaving Israel with no choice other than “ to behave as though we have nobody to look out for us but ourselves.”

That is as close as he can come to threatening a military attack on Iran without actually giving the order in public.

His comments came on the eve of more talks with Iran in Vienna under the shadow of the crisis with Russia over its plan to annex the Crimean peninsula of the Ukraine.

As for the talks with Iran, Ya’alon implied a zero rating for American and Western negotiators. “Unfortunately, when it comes to negotiating at a Persian bazaar, the Iranians are better,” according to Ya’alon.

For good measure, the Obama administration’s feebleness regarding the civil war in Syria, where he said lack of American support for Sunni Muslims at war with Syrian President Bassar al-Assad and his Iranian-Hezbollah allies is a “disappointment” to rebels and their supporters, such as Saudi Arabia.

Ya’alon did not say anything that others in the government do not know, but he simply is being less diplomatic and calling a spade a spade and a weakling a weakling.

It is a bit pitiful that Kerry and Obama talk as if the world has not changed in 60 years since the United States was the undisputed world leader. When it said jump, other countries would ask, “Head first or foot first.”

When Obama says jump, the other side indeed jumps – on Obama. It is not surprising that Iran mocks the United States every day. It is not even a small miracle that Muslim countries make fun of him.

But now it is both the Palestinian Authority, which this week supported a YouTube song video mocking Kerry, as seen here, and Israel’s defense minister using Obamas a punching bag.

Israel and the Palestinian Authority are Obama’s two hopes to show the world how much influence he has, and the world is seeing exactly how impotent he is.

The last word goes to Mitt Romney, was laughed at in the 2012 presidential campaign when he attacked Obama’s foreign policy.
He wrote in The Wall Street Journal Tuesday, “President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton traveled the world in pursuit of their promise to reset relations and to build friendships across the globe. It is hard to name even a single country that has more respect and admiration for America today than when President Obama took office, and now Russia is in Ukraine.”

U.S. Imposes Sanctions on Putin’s Advisers

Monday, March 17th, 2014

The Obama administration imposed sanctions on seven Russians and four Ukrainians in retaliation on Monday in response to the apparently imminent annexation by Russia of the Crimean peninsula of the Ukraine.

Among those sanctioned were advisers to Russian President Vladimir Putin and parliament members in and former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

The European Union has frozen assers of 13 Russian leaders and eight others in Crimea and has alaso placed a travel ban on them.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/u-s-imposes-sanctions-on-putins-advisers/2014/03/17/

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