On the Inflaming of “Inter-Ethnic Love”

Jewish author Eduard Hodos comes to the defense of an author silenced for “anti-semitism”


Eduard Hodos

Russky Vestnik

8 April 2004

Translated from the Russian





Eduard Hodos

Editor’s note: On January 28, 2004 the largest Ukrainian-language newspaper in the Ukraine, “Sel’skie Vesti” (with a circulation of more than 500 000), was closed down by court order. The publication was charged with “anti-semitism”, allegedly contained in a series of articles discussing the Jewish question. The court’s decision aroused a storm of indignation among the newspaper’s readers. In a surprising turn of events, well-known Jewish community leader and anti-Zionist Eduard Hodos (whose book, “The Jewish Syndrome” has been partially translated on this site), has come to the defense of the newspaper and articles’ author, Vasily Yaremenko. In the course of his speech intended for a hearing of the Appellate Court of the City of Kiev (scheduled for May 25, 2004, but delayed indefinitely for reasons unknown), the author denounces the Talmud as “monstrous” and defends Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion of the Christ’, which has come under attack by ‘human rights advocates’ in Russia.

Respected Judge!

As we know, the pretext for today’s judicial proceedings was two articles written by a professor at the Inter-Regional Academy of Personnel Management, Vasily Yaremenko — “The Myth of Ukrainian Anti-Semitism” and “Jews in the Ukraine Today: Reality Minus the Myths” — published in the newspaper “Sel’skie Vesti”. We also know that today’s session was preceded by another one of the Shevchenko District Court in the City of Kiev, which returned the decision closing down “Sel’skie Vesti”.

The main arguments in favor of such a decision were assertions that Vasily Yaremenko’s articles allegedly contained statements intended to inflame inter-ethnic and religious strife between the Ukrainian and Jewish peoples. This is recorded in the text of the Shevchenko District Court’s decision, which states: “The Court finds that the articles in question contain expressions intended to inflame national strife” (p.5).

“…the Court finds that setting the Jewish and Ukrainian peoples in opposition serves as a source of inter-ethnic enmity” (p.11).

The main objections to Vasily Yaremenko’s publications are based on his research into Ukrainian-Jewish relations, which are examined by the professor both from a historical point of view and from the position of today’s reality. It was in this research which the Shevchenko District Court discovered an evil intent: a purposeful opposition of the Ukrainian and Jewish peoples and the creation of an image of “the enemy” in the form of Jewry. The court decision states plainly: “Such an exposition of alleged historical facts points to an intentional portrayal of Jewry as a negative, and even sinister, national minority, which portrayal cannot fail to inflame ethnic strife and lead to the renewal of acts of vengeance” (p.15).

And now, respected Judge, in light of the above-cited opinions on professor Yaremenko’s research, handed down by the Shevchenko District Court of the City of Kiev, allow me to acquaint you with the views on the history of Jewish-Ukrainian relations set forth in the encyclopedia “Jewish World. Essential Facts about the Jewish People, Its History and Religion”. But before drawing your attention to several passages from this volume, let me say a few words about the publication itself.

“Jewish World”, whose author is Rabbi Iosef Telushkin, a researcher of Jewish history and the Jewish faith considered highly authoritative in international Jewish circles, was published in 1995 in Moscow. For the sweep of its subject matter this book has been dubbed the “Little Jewish Encyclopedia”, and it boasts in its preface to be a “textbook which presents a renewed view of Jewish history”. Today Rabbi Telushkin’s “Jewish World” is on the shelves of practically all of the innumerable Jewish institutions which exist in the Ukraine: in Jewish cultural centers, organizations, educational institutions and also in the majority of Jewish homes.

I think that in the context of our discussion about mutual-relations between the Jewish and Ukrainian peoples and of the reaction of the Shevchenko District Court to the Ukrainian professor’s research, the respected Court will find it useful to acquaint itself with materials on this topic in the form in which they’re presented to the Jewish minority living on the territory of the Ukraine.

For example, in the section entitled “Bogdan Khmel’nitsky and mass murder” we read the following:

“Few people know that three centuries before the Catastrophe (the Holocaust, that is — E.H.) there were mass-murders comparable to those of the Nazis.

“The massacre of 1648-1649 was organized by Bogdan Khmel’nitsky, the Ukrainian Hetman who led an uprising against Polish rule. Since there were many Jews who served Polish landowners, Khmel’nitsky’s anger turned toward the Jews too. Like Hitler, Khmel’mitsky hated all Jews, without distinction. His Cossack detachments are considered to have killed more than 100 000 Jews (at a time when World Jewry amounted to no more than a million and a half persons).

“The below-mentioned account of one contemporary enumerates the atrocities committed by Khmel’nitsky’s Cossacks. Those with weak nerves should skip over it. I had major doubts about including such a text, but I’m afraid that otherwise this episode in Jewish history might be forgotten.

“Some Jews were flayed alive, their bodies used to feed the dogs. Others had their hands and legs cut off and were thrown onto the road, where they were run over by carts or trampled to death by horses. Many were buried alive. Some children were killed on their mothers’ breasts, while others were torn apart like fish. Wombs of pregnant women were cut open, their unborn children torn out and thrown at the faces of their mothers. Some had their stomachs cut open and live cats stuffed inside, and the victims’ arms were cut off so they couldn’t take them out … there was no manner of death to which they were not condemned.”

“It’s hard to believe that people created in the image and likeness of God could be capable of such sadism – and even harder to believe that Bogdan Khmel’nitsky is considered a great Ukrainian national hero to this day.” (p.167).

As the respected Court has now seen, the Jewish interpretation of historical Jewish-Ukrainian relations is least likely of all to further the “inflammation of inter-ethnic love” between two peoples whose neighborly existence has undeniably been less than unclouded. What’s more, the “Little Jewish Encyclopedia’s” author doesn’t even trouble himself to name the source of his published account, limiting himself to a vague mention of an alleged eyewitness account of an unnamed “contemporary”. On the other hand, he doesn’t hesitate to draw a categoric analogy between the Nazi atrocities and the actions of Ukrainian Cossacks, comparing a Ukrainian national hero with a fascist leader whose very name has been anathemized by humanity. And that’s not all: the author expresses his fear (!) that “this episode of Jewish history might be forgotten” by Jews, doing everything to enhance “inter-ethnic love” of Jews towards Ukrainians by such descriptions of wild atrocities.

In light of the above quotation the arguments which the Shevchenko District Court of the City of Kiev has used to justify its decision regarding the publications of Professor Yaremenko in “Sel’skie Vesti” take on a different cast, to wit: “The court does not support the position of the defendants that the given case represents free expression of opinion, inasmuch as such freedom has nothing in common with the information set forth, which sets the Ukrainian and Jewish peoples in opposition to one another, creating an image of “the enemy” in the form of the Jewish people, inflaming national and religious strife, and creating an intolerant attitude of one people to another, which could lead to acts of vengeance” (p.16).

Just how, in the opinion of the respected Court, should information setting the Ukrainian and Jewish peoples in opposition look, if we’re not to consider the descriptions set forth in the “Little Jewish Encyclopedia”, which are now read by Jews in the Ukraine, to fall under this description? And this is just one of many such passages on “Jewish World’s” pages.

Consider the following citation from the section entitled “Pogroms”, in which the author has chosen a purely Ukrainian example to explain the meaning of this term! I quote:

“What is a pogrom like? Horrifying eyewitness accounts were collected by Shalom Schwarzbard. Schwarzbard himself survived the pogrom of 1918-1920, which occurred during the short period of Ukrainian independence under Simon Petliura. When the Reds routed the the Ukrainian forces, Petliura fled to Paris, where Schwarzbard murdered him in 1926. After a three-week trial, where Schwarzbard gave evidence of how Petliura’s forces and the Ukrainian masses had treated the Jews, the French court acquitted him. Here’s the citation:

“At the end of August (1919), when I was in Kiev, the first detachments of Petliura’s guard entered the city. They killed all the Jews whom they met on their path. In the middle of Bol’shaya Vasil’kovskaya Street I saw the corpse of a young man on the pavement and a woman grieving for her only son, laying her head on his chest. Hooligans shouted insults, mocking at her grief. Another taunted: “That’s good. We’ll show you, you accursed Jews, we’ll kill you all.”

“[In another place] they forced the unfortunates to eat their own excrement. They covered people with dirt and buried them alive. Not even the dead were spared… In Tripole on the Dnieper, where Petliura himself was born, after the fifth pogrom 47 bodies of the old, sick, and children were thrown out onto the streets, and there wasn’t a soul left among their friends and relatives. Dogs began to devour the bodies and pigs rooted in them. At last one non-Jew who had worked with Jews took pity, dug a grave and buried them. Gaidamaki (Ukrainian soldiers) found out what he’d done and killed him… This all happened in the Twentieth Century” (pp.199-200).

I want to emphasize again that in the whole history of the Jewish people, which in the past 2 000 years has suffered more than once, to put it mildly, from what we call “pogroms”, the author of “Jewish World” could find no better example to illustrate this phenomenon than the example of the Ukraine.

Respected Court, in your opinion is such national emphasis likely to promote “inflammation of ethnic love?”

In this connection I want to draw your attention to one other point in the decision of the Shevchenko District Court, which agreed with the accusations of “inflaming ethnic strife” made against Professor Yaremenko and the Newspaper “Sel’skie Vesti”: “The Court, while not objecting to the legal right of the defendants to use criticism for emphasis and a accenting of problematic issues, considers that only concrete individuals, political figures, political parties, public organizations and so forth can be subjected to criticism and censure — not whole peoples, inasmuch as in this case it’s necessary to prove that the object of criticism (one or another action, behavior, traditions, sayings, etc.) is a norm, characteristic for every representative of this people” (p.17).

And now I’ll ask the respected Court, bearing this in mind, to look at the following excerpt from the book “Jewish World”, in the section entitled “Einsatzgruppen. Babiy Yar.” I quote: “Nazi forces usually received help from the local population, especially in the Ukraine. Ukrainian anti-semitism has a long and bloody history going back to the pogroms of Khmel’nitsky (1648). When the mayor of New York Ed Koch, a Jew by nationality, was once invited to lead the Ukraine Day parade in New York, he jokingly remarked, while addressing the Ukrainian organizer: “It’s wonderful to live in New York, where I can march at the head of the parade. Back in the old country I would have been running down the side of the street with you chasing after me with knife in hand.”

“The most horrifying massacre was organized in the Kiev suburb of Babiy Yar during Rosh Hashana (the Jewish New Year) in 1941. More than 33 000 Jews were herded into one area and killed over the course of two days. Their bodies were buried in huge pits.

“After the Second World War, Babiy Yar became a symbol of Soviet hostility to Jews, comparable to that of the Nazis and Ukrainians” (p.197).

In my opinion, the above citations are more than enough to demonstrate the Jews’ generalized image of the Ukrainian people, which stands before them as a personification of pathological anti-semitism, a living symbol of the bloodiest pages of Jewish history.

Respected Court, ought we really be surprised at the appearance on the pages of “Sel’skie Vesti” of Professor V. Yaremenko’s publications, a representative of the Ukrainian intelligentsia who considers it impossible to reconcile himself to such an interpretation of the image of the nation of which he is a member?

Note that the book “Jewish World” made its appearance back in 1995, long before the appearance of V. Yaremenko’s materials, which were first published in 2003 in the form of a separate collection of articles. By the way, in the preface to this collection the author underlines, and I quote: “As a member of the Ukrainian intelligentsia I harbor no evil or hostility toward any people, even to those peoples who in the past have caused my people innumerable calamities through the actions of their worst scoundrels…”

Unquestionably, V. Yaremenko’s research comes as a reaction to the Jewish interpretation of the history of mutual relations between two peoples and is an attempt to dispel the myth of Ukrainian anti-semitism, stubbornly imposed by the Jewish side.

Dear Court, can one deprive a member of the Ukrainian people the right to discuss the given question, when members of the Jewish people exercise this same right openly and freely? What’s more, unlike Ukrainians, they do so in a hectoring manner rather than in the spirit of calm discussion…

Can such an aggressive imposition of “inter-ethnic love” bring an end to ethnic strife, whose roots, according to the Jewish side, go deep into past centuries and whose character, according to the extremely dubious evidence of Jewish “encyclopedists”, has strongly-expressed Nazi traits?

Concerning the “reality without myths” depicted by V. Yaremenko in his article of that name, “Jews in the Ukraine today: Reality Minus the Myths”, let me give you just one example, “hot from the presses”, so to speak.

Recently in Kiev the United Jewish Community of the Ukraine concluded its latest conference. The main questions on the conference’s agenda, according to the “Interfax-Ukraine” information agency, were the following, and I quote: “the battle with manifestations of xenophobia and anti-semitism, particularly in the media, the problem of Jewish assimilation, and the formation of a correct public opinion about Israel’s domestic and foreign policy”.

As you see, respected Court, on the list of life-threatening problems to be solved (allegedly in the name of the Ukraine’s entire Jewish population, by the way) there’s not even a hint of concern about the problems of the Ukrainian state and the rest of its citizens, who for many years already have been flailing in socio-economic quicksand, desperately trying to scramble out of it. First place is occupied by the battle against anti-semitism, a bugbear which permits Jewish bugbearers to securely insulate themselves from all the problems oppressing the Ukrainian majority.

The battle against anti-semitism is nearly upstaged by the battle against assimilation. God forbid that the Jewish minority take its place alongside the other 133 ethnic minorities of the Ukraine, dissolving, like the Ukraine’s 11 million Russians, into the notion of the “Greater Ukrainian People”.

But they saved the best for last: “formation of a correct public opinion about Israel’s domestic and foreign policy”! There you have it. So the UN Security Council, which recently nearly unanimously condemned Israel’s policy towards the Palestinians, is incorrect in its opinions? Maybe the indignation of the whole world community at the Holocaust of the Arab majority being carried out by Israel is just a manifestation of anti-semitism and xenophobia? Israel has only one option left, it seems: to appeal to the Shevchenko District Court in Kiev for another decision to gag the mouths of “anti-semites” […] to the cheers from the united Jewish community of the Ukraine.

Returning to the Shevchenko District Court’s decision ordering the closure of the newspaper “Sel’skie Vesti”, let me draw your attention to one more of its items: “… the Court has determined that the articles in question contain expressions intended to inflame ethnic strife” (p.9).

Judging from the evidence, this last argument used by the Court to justify its decision is founded on the use by Professor Yaremenko of citations from the Talmud. It must be said that, indeed, certain passages from that ancient Jewish book of laws stink to high heaven of racism and pretensions to world domination, setting the Jewish people not only in opposition to Ukrainians, but to all the other nations of Earth. But it wasn’t the Ukrainian Yaremenko who thought up those texts!

In spite of the fact that many Jews reject Talmudic principles and have never used them as guidelines in life, the Talmud itself has never been annulled, continues its invisible presence alongside the notion of “Jewry” and remains a part of Jewish history.

If Rabbi Telushkin, the author of the “Little Jewish Encyclopedia”, considers himself justified in making statements like: “… and even harder to believe that Bogdan Khmel’nitsky is considered a great Ukrainian national hero to this day”, then why shouldn’t Ukrainians have the right to affirm: “… it’s also hard to believe that the Talmud, whose monstrous essence causes non-Jews to go into shock, is considered valid as a Jewish book of laws to this day”?

In light of the above I must add that a special talent in finding signs of “inflammation of national and religious enmity” characterizes so-called “professional Jews”, those great masters of finding black cats in dark rooms, even when there are none.

Once they’ve found them, they don the robes of representatives of the “whole Jewish people” and resort to their tired old methods again and again, repeating the same arguments ad nauseum while rapturously waving the “anti-semitic” bugbear in our faces and even manage to turn the proceedings into a profitable gescheft with a whole range of dividends – political, economic and financial… A fresh example of Jewish activity in this field was the scandal blown up in neighboring Russia concerning the film “The Passion of the Christ”. At the end of April the Internet publication “Gazeta.Ru”, with a credit to “Interfax”, placed the following information on its site: “Russian human rights advocates are considering suing creator of the film ‘The Passion of the Christ’ Mel Gibson. They also want to lodge a claim against the Russian company which distributed the film. “A number of Jewish organizations and private individuals turned to us after the film appeared in Russian theaters, considering that the film inflames ethnic hatred and cultivates xenophobic myths about the guilt of the entire Jewish people for the crucifixion of Christ”, announced the director of the Moscow bureau for human rights Alexander Brod…”

At this very moment ‘The Passion of the Christ’ is being widely shown in Ukrainian theaters, so everyone present here, including representatives of Ukrainian justice, has the opportunity to convince himself of the complete lack in this film of any hint of the guilt of the whole Jewish people and therefore of the complete baselessness of yet another Jewish claim of “inflaming of ethnic hatred”.

Respected Court!

I hope that what’s been said will be more than enough to come to the unequivocal conclusion: Inter-ethnic relations in general and Jewish-Ukrainian ones in particular are a delicate and explosive matter, demanding a weighted and careful approach. In discussing them the main thing is not to cross that fine line separating the area of discussion which the Ukrainian side is trying to stay within from an artificial “inflammation of inter-ethnic love” which the Ukrainians’ opponents insist upon. It’s impossible to force two peoples to love one another without getting to the bottom of what prevents them from doing so.

Eduard Hodos.

Russky Vestnik is an Russian Orthodox Weekly published in Moscow.

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