(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Anti-Semitic epithets were uttered at an anti-government rally in Kiev where speakers called for the end of what they asserted was Jewish control over the Ukrainian government, and accused Israel of seeking to colonize their country.
“Ukraine found itself in a grip of the world Zionist conspiracy. We are fed up with this power with President Valtsman and [Parliament] speaker Groisman and other Jew trash,” a speaker asserted at Sunday’s rally, referring to an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that identifies President Petro Poroshenko as a hidden Jew.
“We are Ukrainians and our state is Ukraine. We have to rule,” the speaker also said.
Another speaker, who said he was wounded during the Maidan Revolution, called Poroshenko a “kike” and accused him of neglecting those who injured on Ukraine’s behalf.
On Saturday Ukraine officially marked two years since a violent clampdown on student demonstrations sparked an uprising that toppled the former Soviet Republic’s President and led to armed conflict with Russia.
At the time, the prominent and violent role of the neo-Nazi Svoboda party in the protests, as well as a concurrent spike in anti-Semitic incidents, caused widespread worries that popular discontent would spill over against the local Jewish community.
Within months of joining the post-revolution government, however, Svoboda’s popularity declined precipitously, and while anti-Semitic vandalism did indeed rise, violence against Jews declined and remains much lower than in western Europe.
But anti-Semitic conspiracy theories abound online in the former Soviet Union, especially with regard to the Ukrainian conflict, and more than one was advanced at Sunday’s rally.
“World Zionism wants to move all of Israel to Ukraine,” former anti-Maidan activist Alexander Borozenets told the crowd. “All of this war is to settle Israel here. This is their goal and the blood of our sons is not worth anything to them.”
One protester was photographed by local media holding up a sign with a picture of a worried looking Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk wearing a hat from a concentration camp uniform and standing next to a barbed wire fence.
According to the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress’ Vyacheslav Likhachev, around 500 people attended the rally organized by fringe groups unconnected with the political mainstream.
“No [major] political force or movement” in the government attended, having organized their own events the day before, he said.
Despite that, however, “the rally was important,” said Eduard Dolinsky of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee.
Dolinsky said the Coalition of Orange Revolution, one of the organizers, is planning another such rally next Sunday.
“We haven’t decided what we are going to do,” said local Rabbi and community leader Moshe Azman. “I don’t think its going to have many consequences.”
Earlier this month vandals painted the name Valtsman and a gallows on a Holocaust memorial in the Poltava region.