Propaganda seeks to drive wedge between Ukrainian and Jewish communities
On Sept. 17, the Edmonton Journal reprinted what amounts to a grossly biased piece of Russian propaganda under the inaccurate headline “Envoy honours Nazi-linked Ukrainians” followed by a misleading subhead “Attendance angers Jewish groups.”
First and foremost, the Aug. 21 ceremony of sanctification of the future “Remember” Memorial Complex to victims of the Second World War in Ukraine was organized by the Kyiv City Jewish Committee and the Toronto-based Ukrainian Jewish Encounter. It was attended by the Primate of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Patriarch Sviatoslav, the Primate of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, Metropolitan Epiphanius, and the Chief Rabbi of Ukraine, Yaakov Dov Bleich, whose presence was conveniently omitted from the report.
The ceremony was held to seal the compromise achieved earlier to move three crosses from the territory of the Jewish cemetery and to erect a monument to 17 young Ukrainians, members of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), who were shot by the Nazis in July 1944. While two of the three crosses still remain on the Jewish cemetery, both parties are working to correct this.
The report cites Eduard Dolinsky, director-general of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee to back up the contention that Jewish groups are supposedly angered by the ceremony. The Ukrainian Jewish Committee is a marginal group and not representative of the Jewish community in Ukraine at large. Its president, Oleksandr Feldman, is a member of parliament for the pro-Russian “Our Land” party, which was created as a refuge for former members of the Party of Regions, headed by Viktor Yanukovych, the former president who fled to Russia following the Revolution of Dignity in 2014.
The mainstream organization of Jews in Ukraine — a country which just elected a Jewish president with an astonishing 73 per cent of the popular vote — is Vaad (Hebrew for council), the Association of Jewish Organizations and Communities of Ukraine. On Sept. 11, they issued a statement in which they expressed “full confidence in and support of the Ukrainian Jewish Encounter, the Kyiv City Jewish Community and Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich in their efforts to memorialize Nazi victims and organize the mourning ceremony in Sambir.”
In addition they called upon: “everyone to self-restraint in one’s assessments and statements on this situation;” and “journalists to use only verified information and to seek comments from direct participants in the events only; concluding with a statement “resolutely condemning all provocative posts and comments on the situation in Sambir spread about by the mass media and social networks in order to fuel negative emotions.”
Unfortunately, space does not permit me to comprehensively refute the myth about OUN’s collaboration with the Nazis as that is a subject that requires much more in-depth analysis. But, in a nutshell; While OUN did initially co-operate with the Nazis when they invaded the USSR based upon the old adage “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” this co-operation was very brief. Right after OUN leaders proclaimed Ukrainian independence on June 30, 1941, they were arrested by the Germans and sent to concentration camps. The Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) was created two years later to fight the German occupiers and later continued the battle against Soviet Russian occupiers. There were many Jews who served with the UPA and UPA’s commander in chief, Roman Shukhevych and his wife Natalia, saved a Jewish girl, Iryna Rechtenberg, by hiding her from the Nazis. The statement that “at one point, they broke away from their support of the Nazis, but later joined forces again with Germany” has absolutely no foundation in historical fact.
The repeated attempts to besmirch OUN-UPA, as well as drive wedges between the Ukrainian and Jewish communities is a principal goal of Russian propaganda. One would hope that Postmedia and its respective member newspapers would practise much more journalistic responsibility and check the facts before they regurgitate such drivel, which comes from a source whose intention is to undermine democracies around the world.
By MARCO LEVYTSKY