Ukraine passes new law defining concept of antisemitism

The law, passed in the final reading by 283 votes with the required minimum of 226, defines antisemitism as hatred of Jews and bans it.

Babyn Yar Memorial in Kiev, Ukraine. April 8, 2021. (photo credit: BYHMC)
Babyn Yar Memorial in Kiev, Ukraine. April 8, 2021.
(photo credit: BYHMC)

Ukraine's parliament on Wednesday passed a law defining the concept of antisemitism and establishing punishment for transgressions.

An estimated 0.2% of Ukraine's 41 million population is Jewish and there have been isolated cases of antisemitism since independence in 1991.

Its pre-war Jewish population of about 1.5 million was virtually wiped in the Nazi Holocaust.

"The lack of a clear definition of antisemitism in Ukrainian legislation does not allow for the proper classification of crimes committed on its basis," the law's authors said.

"In practice, this leads to the actual impunity of offenders," they said.

The Israeli Embassy in Ukraine touring Uman ahead of Rosh Hashanah (credit: Courtesy)The Israeli Embassy in Ukraine touring Uman ahead of Rosh Hashanah (credit: Courtesy)

The law, passed in the final reading by 283 votes with the required minimum of 226, defines antisemitism as hatred of Jews and bans it. Its manifestation can be directed at Jews as well as their property, religious buildings or communities.

It did spell out punishments but allows victims to claim compensation for material and moral damage.

To enter into force, the law must be signed by President Volodymyr Zelensky. The president's parents were Jewish and he has said he lost relatives in the Holocaust.

This month Ukraine will mark the 80th anniversary of the Babyn Yar massacre, one of the biggest single killings of Jews during the Holocaust.

Nearly 34,000 Jewish men, women and children were killed in mass shootings on the edge of the capital Kyiv on Sept. 29-30, 1941.

"Ukraine’s decision to pass the bill on antisemitism will contribute greatly to the global battle against the hatred and discrimination of Jews,” said Natan Sharansky, Chair of the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center, regarding the antisemitism bill passed in the Ukrainian Parliament.

“Just weeks ahead of the Babyn Yar commemorations, marking 80 years since the biggest single massacre of Jews on Ukrainian soil, this is an important piece of legislation that stresses the dangers of this age-old hatred, and its prevalence today,” Sharansky continued.