Ukrainians don't want Jews, but hate others more - survey

So far authorities have failed to take "a proper stand on the problems of ethnic minorities in Ukraine."

One-third of Ukrainians do not want Jews in their country, a new survey found. Conducted by the Kiev International Institute of Sociology, the study found that 36 percent of respondents do not want to see Jews as citizens of Ukraine, compared to 26 percent in a similar survey conducted in 1994. The survey of 2,000 respondents in 24 regions of Ukraine was conducted Oct. 13-24 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points. Researchers also found that anti-Semitic attitudes were especially widespread among younger respondents. According to the survey, 45 percent of respondents ages 18 to 20 do not want to see Jews as citizens of Ukraine. The survey also registered a high level of xenophobia and racial bias in Ukrainian society, particularly toward Roma, or Gypsies, and black people. "The attitude toward Jews is not the worst; it's in the middle of our diagram," Vladimir Panioto, director of the Kiev International Institute of Sociology, told JTA. "Ukrainians harbor even more negative feelings to gypsies and black people." Regarding Roma, 71.8 percent of respondents said they did not want to see them as citizens of Ukraine, and 61.4 percent expressed a similar attitude toward ethnic Romanians. Moreover, the survey found, that 6.6 percent of Ukrainians do not want to Jews to come to Ukraine, compared to 14.6 percent of those who do not want to see Americans in the country and 0.7 percent of respondents who do not want Russians to visit Ukraine. Jewish leaders and activists differed in their assessments of the survey. One activist said the survey was an accurate reflection of widespread anti-Jewish and xenophobic moods in Ukrainian society. Moreover, said Alexander Naiman, Ukrainian authorities are exacerbating the situation by not doing enough to improve it. So far authorities have failed to take "a proper stand on the problems of ethnic minorities in Ukraine," said Naiman, who heads Ukraine's Anti-Defamation League in Kiev, a group which is not affiliated with ADL in the United States. Those who agree with Naiman believe that anti-Jewish sentiments have become even more common in this country of 47 million as a result of the situation in the Middle East, particularly in the wake of the Israeli war with Hezbollah this past summer. "Xenophobia is on the rise in Ukraine partly because Ukrainian authorities do nothing to curb it and partly because of biased information concerning the situation in the Middle East" in the Ukrainian media, said Mikhail Frenkel, a Jewish journalist and the head of the Association of Jewish Media in Ukraine. According to an annual audit of anti-Semitism in Ukraine published earlier this year by the Jewish Agency for Israel, the number of violent anti-Semitic attacks against individuals in Ukraine increased 50 percent in 2005 over the previous year. Frenkel and other activists also blamed the Interregional Academy for Personnel Management, or MAUP, a Kiev-based private university which has become a major purveyor of anti-Semitic propaganda in Ukraine. Jewish leaders tend to agree that despite some recent developments, particularly the closure of several MAUP regional branches, Ukraine is not doing enough to stop anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli propaganda by the school leadership. But some leading figures in the community said that findings of the survey required a more balanced approach and that the Jewish situation in Ukraine is not as bleak as the survey suggests. "There is xenophobia and there is MAUP, but we should take into account that all ethnic minorities continue to develop freely in Ukraine," said Josef Zissels, leader of the Ukrainian Va'ad and one of the most influential figures in the Jewish community. One of Ukrainian chief rabbis agreed with him. The level of anti-Semitism is high in Ukraine "but I consider it's much lower" than the survey suggested, Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich, chief rabbi of Kiev and Ukraine, told JTA. In related development, a group of Jewish lawmakers and activists have called on the Ukrainian authorities to stop the sale of xenophobic and anti-Semitic books and periodicals in Kiev's main square. Officials have yet to respond.