Symon Petliura was head of the Ukrainian People’s Republic, 35,000 to 50,000 Jews were killed in a series of pogroms between 1918 and 1921..
(photo credit: PUBLIC DOMAIN/ WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
In a rare public statement on the honoring of antisemites in Ukraine, Israel’s ambassador to that country called the phenomenon a “problem” that is “not in line” with Israel’s interests.
Eliav Belotzercovsky made the comments on Friday during a conference of the Limmud FSU group in the southern city of Odessa, according to a translation of his remarks provided by a spokesperson for the organization, which organizes Jewish learning conferences for Russian speakers across the former Soviet Union and beyond.
His comments followed a wave of condemnations by several Jewish groups for the unveiling in the western city of Vinnitsa of a statue of Symon Petliura
. During Petliura’s time as head of the Ukrainian People’s Republic, 35,000 to 50,000 Jews were killed in a series of pogroms between 1918 and 1921. In recent years, various honors have been paid in Ukraine to several nationalists who are admired locally for fighting Russian domination, but also reviled over accusations of hatred of Jews and complicity in atrocities against them.
“Israel has a sympathetic ear in Ukraine, there is constant interaction with the government in order to deal with the problem,” Belotzercovsky is quoted as having said. “There is a trend, nationalism is on the rise,” he added.
Earlier in the week MK Yisrael Eichler, Chair of the Knesset's Special Committee for Public Petitions, sent a letter to Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groisman calling on him to remove the monument from the area.
“I appeal to you personally, following a regrettable incident, which offends the feelings of the Jews in your country and throughout the world,” he wrote to Groisman, who is also Jewish.
"In the last few days, some painful requests have been received in my office, some of them angry, regarding the placing of a monument in memory of the Ukrainian leader Siman Petliura not far from the local synagogue in Vinnitsa," Eichler wrote. "As someone who was born in Vinnitsa and even served as mayor, you are certainly familiar with the Jewish history of the region. Petliura was a leader under whose command tens of thousands of Jews were brutally murdered without any wrongdoing. Petliura is remembered in Jewish history as a nationalist who encouraged the murder of tens of thousands of Jews throughout Ukraine during the civil war between the Reds and Whites during those days of 1919."
Earlier this year, the western municipality of Kalush near Lviv was sued for deciding to name a street for Dmytro Paliiv, a commander of the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, also known as the 1st Galician.
The naming of the street for Paliiv, whose troops murdered countless Jews during the Holocaust, is part of a series of gestures honoring nationalists in Ukraine following the 2014 revolution, in which nationalists played a leading role. They brought down the government of President Viktor Yanukovuch, whose critics said was a corrupt Russian stooge.
Also before the revolution, Stepan Bandera, Roman Shukhevych and other nationalists accused of complicity in the murder of Ukrainian Jews have received honors from state authorities for their fight against Russia.
But the level and frequency of state-sponsored glorification of their actions has increased dramatically after the revolution, which sparked an armed conflict with Russian troops and separatists loyal to Moscow.
Israel has remained largely silent on this issue in accordance with its policy of neutrality on the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.