KIEV – The Ukrainian parliament is preparing legislation to adopt the internationally recognized definition of antisemitism of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, and the Ukrainian government has formally applied for membership to the body.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin made the announcement, at the Kyiv Jewish Forum taking place this week, that he had recently filed the application.
Doubts have been raised in some quarters, however, that the process will be completed – in light of several statements made in recent years by Klimkin that Ukraine was joining the alliance.
In order for the IHRA definition to be formally adopted in Ukraine, legislation needs to be passed in the parliament.
Georgii Logvynskyi, a member of the Ukrainian parliament and chairman of its Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, told The Jerusalem Post that the legislation has been approved by his committee and now requires a vote in the parliament’s plenum.
Logvynskyi said he hoped that the vote would take place before the parliamentary elections scheduled for October, and that the legislation would be approved.
Boris Lozhkin, president of the Jewish Confederation of Ukraine which is holding the Kyiv Jewish Forum, said that the organization would be conducting lobbying efforts in parliament to ensure that the legislation is approved. Like Logvynskyi, he expressed the hope that the legislation will be passed this year.
Lozhkin said that although national, racial or religious incitement and discrimination is already prohibited by law in Ukraine, the lack of definition regarding what constitutes antisemitism makes it hard to prosecute such incidents.
“The IHRA definition will give judges the ability to say whether something is antisemitism or not. Without this definition, it is quite difficult to prosecute such crimes,” he said.
Klimkin stated that joining IHRA and adopting its antisemitism definition was needed to fight the new rise of antisemitism on a transnational level.
“Last week I sent a formal proposal to the president for Ukraine to join IHRA. It is not just a political point, it is a point of fairness for all of us and also for Ukraine. We can’t [just] have a national approach anymore. It should be done and it will be done,” he said.
Also present at the Kyiv Jewish Forum was US Special Envoy on Combating Antisemitism Elan Carr, who also expressed concern about rising antisemitism, pointing to a recent, highly controversial cartoon in The New York Times as an example, which he described as “abhorrent,” as well as antisemitism on college campuses in Western Europe and the US.
Carr said he was looking in particular at “new antisemitism,” which he said is being used as a cover for more traditional forms of Jew hatred.
“There is new antisemitism which masquerades as anti-Zionism and just switches the word ‘Jew’ for ‘Zionist,’” he said.
“You can say and print anything in an unvarnished way if you don’t say ‘Jew’ and just say ‘Zionist’ and ‘Israel’ instead,” the envoy said, adding that: “We need to combat traditional antisemitism and also the Jew hatred which hides behind the fig leaf of anti-Zionism. It’s a focus of mine, of the [US] president and the secretary of state.”
Dr. Michael Mirilashvili, president of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, who participated in a panel at the forum on “Jewry in the Modern World,” emphasized the need to focus not only on antisemitism but on waning Jewish identity among many Jews, especially in the former Soviet Union.
“We must recognize that antisemitism is not the only threat facing the Jewish people today,” he said.
“Jews around the world, particularly many in the former Soviet Union, do not have a strong hold on their Jewish identity. More importantly, many are not even transmitting their identity as Jews to the next generation. That is why my organization, the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, is making sure that we also exert our efforts in supporting educational projects like Limmud,” he said, in reference to the Jewish learning organization.