Portrait of UPA leader Stepan Bandera (left) at a rally marking the anniversary of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), which fought both Nazi and Soviet forces in World War II [File].
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A former head of the Russian-Jewish community called for the deaths of two of his Ukrainian counterparts on Wednesday, drawing harsh condemnations from Jewish figures in both countries.
In an interview with radio Govorit Moskva, Yevgeny Satanovsky, a former president of the Russian Jewish Congress and current head of the Institute of Middle Eastern Studies in Moscow, accused Ukrainians, including Jewish leaders, of downplaying the role of World War II era nationalist leader Stepan Bandera in the massacre of their country’s Jews.
“When and if there is such [an opportunity] I will hang at least [Igor] Kolomoisky and Joseph Zissels,” in front of Dnepropetrovsk’s Golden Rose synagogue, he said.
The Jewish community of Dnepropetrovsk, in which Kolomoisky is a central figure, has been vocal in its support of the current war effort, collecting donations for wounded soldiers in its schools and taking a nationalist public line. Kolomoisky, himself, in his role as governor of the Dnepropetrovsk district, has personally funded the creation of a militia battalion that is fighting separatists in the neighboring Donbas region.
Zissels, an ardent nationalist, is president of the Vaad of Ukraine and has been one of the most vocal critics of Russia’s role in the conflict.
“Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad. That is, given the Jewish context – “Whom God would destroy, He first makes mad,” Zissels quipped in response to a request for comment.
“He is crazy. What can I do? I know him for a long time and he was a little crazy and now he is more crazy,” he said.
Rabbi Boruch Gorin of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia said he was shocked to hear his countryman’s comments, saying that while Satanovsky was known for his “sharp speeches,” his most recent comments constituted “madness of the highest level.”
Such incitement is especially worrying since it comes in the wake of the assassination of Russian opposition activist Boris Nemtsov
, who was a halachic Jew.
Gorin said it was tragic that the war had broken up friendships between some Ukrainian and Russian Jews and that “if normal Jewish voices are not raised against such speeches, we will hear more such things.”
A Ukrainian friend he has known for decades said he would kill him if he saw him again, Gorin recalled.
“Community leaders [in Ukraine] think the same,” he alleged. “Thank God they are not saying it publicly like Satanovsky.”
Some Ukrainian Jews have expressed anger at Russian Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar, who is known as a strong supporter of President Vladimir Putin.
“Kolomoisky and Zissels are not pro-Bandera but they are [in favor of a] democratic Ukraine just like the rest of the Jewish community,” Chief Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich told The Jerusalem Post.
“The Russians are still living under the illusion that the all Ukrainians are Banderistas and fascists. People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. I really think that the Russians aren’t the ones to lecture Ukraine and Ukrainians about fascism, especially since they were the ones that signed the pact with the devil [Nazi Germany] and started World War II… and even today they are still glorifying Stalin,” Bleich said.
Neither the Russian Jewish Congress nor Satanovsky responded to requests for comment.