Both sides in Russian-Ukrainian public relation battle condemn anti-Semitism, says visiting leader of Ukrainian Jewry.
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For several centuries, Ukraine earned a reputation as a center of anti-Semitism. Mobs looted the homes of Jewish merchants in the 12th century, there were murderous pogroms in the 17th century and Jewish shops were vandalized in the 19th. The 20th century was no better, with Ukrainian nationalists massacring Jews during World War II followed by crude anti-Semitic propaganda during decades of communist rule.
Ukraine conflict has ripple effect on Mideast crises, given Russia’s key role.
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Tel Aviv — Russia’s military takeover of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea couldn’t seem more distant from the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. But as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a swing through Washington this week for White House talks with President Obama, many officials and analysts back home see the potential for fallout in places like the Middle East.
The Jewish Agency said it would offer immediate emergency assistance to the Jewish community of coup-ravaged Ukraine and help secure its institutions.
Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky’s announcement on Saturday came hours after protests in the former Soviet republic forced President Viktor Yanukovych to flee Kiev and the parliament announced new presidential elections for late May. Dozens died in violent demonstrations leading to the coup.
My grandma Sadie lived in the town of Droghobych in Ukraine until she was 13. Nearby, there is a dirt road through a forest leading to the mass graves where the town’s last Jewish population lies buried. It is barely marked — if you did not know to look for the large slabs of concrete between the trees, you would have a hard time finding it. As a human rights lawyer who has spent a lifetime documenting atrocities, I was not prepared for the effect of this visit a few months ago. I broke into tears.
Thousands of Jewish pilgrims are leaving Ukraine, where their weeklong stay in Uman resulted in a fire, power shortages, a sewage flood and several arrests.
In one incident, three Israeli police officers who were sent to Uman to help police there reportedly scuffled last week with locals while off duty. An estimated 26,000 Jewish pilgrims congregate every year ahead of the Jewish New Year near the gravesite of Rabbi Nachman, founder of the Breslov hasidic movement.
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