Fishman: on the anti-Semitic flyers in Donetsk

In The Real Truth About Those Anti-Semitic Flyers in Donetsk, historian David Fishman provides an analysis of the flyers as an “act of political theater” consistent with a broader strategy of “playing the ‘Jewish card’.” Fishman is a professor of Jewish history and director of the Moscow-based Project Judaica.

A few quotes:

“With all the focus on the Donetsk incident, the conversation has missed the forest while being distracted by a single tree. During the past month, since the annexation of Crimea, the Kremlin has shifted its rhetoric and tactics in playing the “Jewish card.” It has embraced the language of classical Russian nationalism, going back to tsarist times, and has engaged the dark forces of the Russian ultra-right. That includes using anti-Semitism as an ingredient in the anti-Ukrainian campaign.

“In a nutshell: the Kremlin’s attempt, back in late February and March, to paint the new Ukrainian regime as Nazi and anti-Semitic has failed. It didn’t pick up much traction in world public opinion. So now the Kremlin is spreading the line that the Ukrainian leaders are Jews. Or at the very least, servants and lackeys of Jews. The intended audience is no longer international; it is domestic.”

The article then goes on to document Russian television coverage of the Jewish roots or alleged Zionism of highly placed figures in Ukraine’s current political class — including former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko and current prime minister Arseniy Yatseniuk — and the ways these claims and insinuations have been taken up by pro-Russian Ukrainians as well as the Russian Black Hundreds, who have infiltrated eastern and southern Ukraine in recent months.

“For the conventional (non-anti-Semitic) Russian viewer, these disclosures of Jewishness were insignificant — after all, they lasted only 20 seconds in a half-hour program. Or they could be brushed aside as editorial lapses into bad taste. But for the Russian ultra-right, these words were gold. They legitimized their wedding of anti-Ukrainianism to anti-Semitism.”

Fishman concludes:

“Despite the ambivalence now expressed about the flyers in Donetsk, one fact is unequivocal: It is no coincidence that virtually all of the known anti-Semitic incidents since the fall of the Yanukovych regime have taken place in the Eastern part of the country — Crimea, Odessa, Donetsk, Nikolayev. It is the region where Russia exerts the greatest influence and interference, and it is there where a group thought relegated to the dustbin of history is now active again, thanks to Russia: the Black Hundreds.”

The full article can be read here.




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