Weekly News Update 
WASHINGTON, D.C. October 21, 2016

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties
FROM: Daniel Rubin, Chairman;
Alexander Smukler, President;
Mark B. Levin, Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Dear Friend,

The fallout from last week’s UNESCO vote on Jerusalem, which repudiates the historical reality of Jewish ties to the city, continues. In a near-unanimous vote, the Czech Republic’s lower parliament voted to condemn the resolution, which it said strengthens anti-Semitism. 

Joining with other Western European countries, Italy abstained from the vote. After receiving criticism, however, its Prime Minister has spoken out forcefully against the resolution, calling it “incomprehensible, unacceptable and wrong.” “We cannot continue with these motions aimed at attacking Israel. If there is to [be a] break [with] European unity because of this, then so be it,” he said, according to reporting in a Times of Israel story. 

NCSEJ continues to join with other U.S. and international Jewish organizations in condemning the UNESCO decision.

Several weeks after an attack on a rabbi in Zhytomyr, Ukraine, police this week arrested four suspects. Rabbi Mendel Deitsch, 63, was found unconscious and bleeding after the attack. He underwent emergency surgery in Zhytomyr and was airlifted to Israel in critical condition for further treatment. He remains in serious but stable condition.

A new Jewish education center opened this month in Saint Petersburg, Russia, next to the city’s Grand Choral Synagogue. “Sinai Center” will host a kindergarten, a girl’s school and dormitory, and other youth programs.

The leaders of Russia, Ukraine, Germany, and France met this week to try to develop a new roadmap for peace in Eastern Ukraine. The leaders have agreed in principle to complete a plan to expand on the 2015 Minsk agreement. The leaders also agreed to allow armed OSCE monitors into region, to withdraw troops in several new areas, and to develop measures to improve the humanitarian situation. The details will be finalized by the countries’ foreign ministers by the end of next month. However, whether any new agreement will be adhered to in practice remains to be seen.

I want to highlight an Atlantic Council story in the update about Ukraine’s ultranationalist Azov Battalion, which is trying to secure a space for itself in mainstream politics. The author argues that, unlike in some other European countries, since 1991 such parties have not been able to take root in Ukraine, and in fact attract only a tiny minority of Ukraine’s citizens. NCSEJ will continue to monitor Azov and other far-right groups’ activities, to ensure their views do not become part of the mainstream.


Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Washington, D.C. October 21, 2016

Four Suspects Arrested in Ukraine For Attack on Chabad Rabbi
Chabad.org, October 19, 2016

Police in Ukraine have arrested four suspects for the brutal beating and robbery two weeks ago of Chabad-Lubavitch emissary Rabbi Mendel Deitsch, who remains in serious but stable condition at a hospital in Israel.

According to local press reports, two men and two women from the Carpathian mountain region attacked Deitsch, 63, near the central train station in Zhitomir on the night of Oct. 6, or in the early hours of Oct. 7. They then fled the city with the rabbi’s cell phone and cash, leaving him bleeding and unconscious under a bridge near the station.

Read the full article here.

Righteous Among the Nations meet in Warsaw
Radio Poland, October 17, 2016

A meeting of over 70 Polish Righteous Among the Nations has been held at the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Polin, in Warsaw, the first such gathering ever organised.

Polish citizens who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust took part in a ceremony held on Sunday.

Jewish Center Opens in a Historical Building in Petersburg
eJewishPhilanthropy, October 20, 2016

A new Jewish educational center opened last week in Petersburg, Russia, marking an exciting step in the city’s Jewish history. The building, constructed on behalf of the Jewish community in 1896, was returned to them in 2005 and took another 10 years to restore.

The new center, symbolically named ‘Sinai,’ will host a kindergarten, a girl’s school and dormitory, and an entire floor dedicated to youth programs and activities, clubs and events.

Russia, Ukraine Agree To Draft New Road Map Carrying Out Peace Deal
RFE/RL, October 20, 2016

The leaders of Ukraine, Germany, France, and Russia agreed to draw up a road map by the end of next month to carry out the Minsk peace agreement for eastern Ukraine.

After six hours of talks on the wars in Ukraine and Syria in Berlin on October 19-20, German Chancellor Angela Merkel emerged to say the leaders "didn't achieve miracles," but the road map would enable all sides to keep pushing ahead with the 2015 Minsk peace agreement.

Czech police arrest Russian in connection with U.S. hacking attacks
Reuters, October 19, 2016

Czech police have detained a Russian man wanted in connection with hacking attacks on targets in the United States, the police said, without giving further details.

The arrest was carried out in cooperation with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, Czech police said on their website on Tuesday evening. Interpol had issued a so-called Red Notice for the man, seeking his arrest, they added.

The Russian citizen was detained at a Prague hotel. Police said he collapsed and was hospitalized. Czech courts will decide whether he will be extradited, police said.

Read the full article here.

Russian shortie about Holocaust included in Oscar long list
Interfax-Religion, October 19, 2016

Film about Holocaust Brutus supported by the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia is included in the long list of nominates for Oscar, the FJCR press service reports on Wednesday.

Brutus filmed on the story of Czech writer Ludwig Ashkenazi is the second part of the cinema almanac The Witnesses that includes three novels representing unusual view on Holocaust. Violent human world is shown through the eyes of the dog named Brutus.
Read the full article here.

Warsaw’s Jewish Theatre finds temporary spaces to perform
JTA, October 19, 2016

The Jewish Theatre in Warsaw has found new temporary venues with the help of two government ministries. 
The historic company has faced eviction since the beginning of June when its landlord, looking to build a new high-rise on the site, blocked access to the theater.

At a news conference this week, the theater unveiled plans to launch a new season on Thursday at two temporary sites, the Club of the Warsaw Garrison Command and the home of the Warsaw Chamber Opera.

Read the full article here.

Russian lawmakers back Putin's suspension of plutonium deal
AP, October 19, 2016

The lower house of the Russian parliament unanimously approved Wednesday President Vladimir Putin's move to suspend a deal with the United States on the disposal of weapons-grade plutonium.

Amid growing strains between Moscow and Washington, most recently over the conflict in Syria, Putin has cited the "emerging threat to strategic stability as a result of U.S. unfriendly actions" for his decision. He has also noted a failure by the U.S. to meet its end of the deal.

Read the full article here.

Czech lower parliament: UNESCO Jerusalem resolution strengthens anti-Semitism
The Jerusalem Post, October 19, 2016

The Czech Republic’s lower parliament voted 119-4 on Wednesday to condemn UNESCO Jerusalem resolution which it warned only strengthened anti-Semitism.

The parliamentarians called on their government not to vote for UNESCO resolutions containing text that ignores Jewish ties to the Temple Mount.

They also asked the Czech Republic to protest “against the politicization” of the United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization, a body originally designed to be dedicated to the preservation of the world’s heritage.

Belarus Welcomes U.S. Decision To Prolong Suspension Of Sanctions
RFE/RL, October 19, 2016

Belarus has welcomed a U.S. decision to prolong the suspension of sanctions against nine Belarusian companies.

In an October 19 statement, the Foreign Ministry in Minsk also expressed "confidence" that "full removal of all sanctions would lead to the more dynamic development of Belarus-America ties."

The U.S. Treasury Department announced on October 18 that it had extended the suspension of sanctions against nine Belarusian oil and chemical companies until April 30, 2017.

Read the full article here.

Pro-Western Moldovan Presidential Hopeful Warns Of 'Massive Fraud' In Looming Vote
RFE/RL, October 19, 2016

One of the leading pro-Western candidates in this month's presidential election in Moldova has warned of "risks of massive fraud" in the vote, which has further divided the tiny post-Soviet state's already fractious political scene.

Speaking to RFE/RL on October 19 during a visit to Brussels for meetings with officials from the European Union, Action and Solidarity candidate and former Education Minister Maia Sandu said she was "here to warn the international partners of Moldova about the risks of massive fraud of the election and to ask them to help."

Ukraine approves joint WW2 declaration with Poland, Lithuania
Ukraine Today, October 20, 2016

Ukraine's Parliament has approved a joint World War 2 declaration of Remembrance and Solidarity with Poland and Lithuania that pays respects to the victims of the war in the three countries, and condemns ‘foreign aggressors'.

The document, approved by 243 Ukrainian lawmakers, says that the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, also known as the Nazi-Soviet pact, had led to the second World War.

Read the full article here.

Czechs set up unit to counter perceived propaganda threat from Russia
Reuters, October 20, 2016

The Czech interior ministry has set up a unit to counter what it sees as propaganda from Russia and elsewhere that has been affecting public opinion in the European Union and NATO member nation, Interior Minister Milan Chovanec said on Thursday.

The counterintelligence service said in September that Russia was conducting "an information war" in the Czech Republic, building a network of puppet groups and propaganda agents that could be used to destabilize the country.

Money has fled Ukraine for decades
The Economist, October 20, 2016

IT IS an accepted fact that Ukraine suffers from a high level of "capital flight". The term refers to a process by which people pull money out of a country and buy foreign assets instead. Ukraine is highly corrupt. If you make money in Ukraine, you often want to get it out of there, lest someone else steal it from you. Ukrainian oligarchs are big fans of London property, where their capital is safe.

So we suspect there is capital flight from Ukraine, but how much? The problem is that the term "capital flight" has a variety of definitions. This means that there are no easy-to-find statistics on capital flight for most countries.

Why Ukraine’s New Ultranationalist Party Will Not Last
By Alina Polyakova
Atlantic Council, October 19, 2016

On October 14, the Azov Battalion—Ukraine’s controversial ultranationalist paramilitary group that has been fighting in the Donbas as part of the National Guard—entered the political fray. Registered as a political party under the name National Corps, the new party proposes an ambitious military and nationalist agenda, including a re-nationalization of Ukraine’s private sector and nuclear re-arming. Azov counts some unsavory members among its ranks, including self-proclaimed fascists, but its main front has been the battlefield. In August 2014, Azov’s fighters were reportedly key in helping fend off a major Russian offensive on Mariupol. Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko has hailed the battalion for its military prowess. But unlike Azov’s achievements on the battlefield, its time in politics is likely to be very short lived.

Read the full article here.

In a Catholic Town, a Tribute and Reunion For Poland’s Jews
By Samuel Norich
Forward, October 16, 2016

I came to Poland for the opening of a new Jewish museum in Czestochowa, and found myself participating in a four-day “reunion,” as it was called, though most of the 125 participants seemed to be meeting for the first time. They were, almost all of them, Jews from Israel, the U.S., and other countries whose parents had lived in the city before “the war,” and had been among the few who survived the destruction of European Jewry.

Read the full article here.

Russians Increasingly Indifferent to Idea of ‘Russia for the Russians,’ Polls Show
By Paul Goble
Window on Eurasia, October 18, 2016

The share of Russians who back the idea of “Russia for the [ethnic] Russians” has remained almost unchanged at around 50 percent over the last 14 years, but the share of those who are indifferent to this idea has gone up by almost half from 14 to a high of 23 percent in 2013 and 21 percent now, according to the latest Levada Center polls.

According to a report by Viktorya Kuzmenko on the OpenRussia portal, fewer Russians this year than at any point in the past– 18 percent -- say there is inter-ethnic tension in their city or district. Only 12 percent say that such conflicts could arise where they live, although one in four said they were a problem for Russia as a whole.

Read the full article here.
Georgia's Long-Shot Democracy
By Michael Cecire
Foreign Affairs, October 20, 2016

On October 8, Georgia held what may have been its freest, fairest, and most competitive elections in its independent history. The vote proceeded more smoothly than many observers had expected, given the rising tensions between the ruling Georgian Dream (GD) party and the chief opposition party, what was once the ruling United National Movement (UNM), and the brief spike in political violence in the days leading up to it.

The vote marked Georgia’s third consecutive round of free elections since 2012, when a GD-led coalition overcame the odds to push the entrenched UNM out of power. Today, Georgia can certainly be called a democracy; it is home to a relatively open and competitive political and electoral environment. Yet whether the country’s democracy is a liberal one is less of a settled matter: the victorious GD may yet seek to mold the constitution to its own advantage, and hard-line factions within the UNM continue to agitate for GD’s ouster through extrapolitical means.

Read the full article here.
The threat from Russia
The Economist, October 21, 2016

FOUR years ago Mitt Romney, then a Republican candidate, said that Russia was America’s “number-one geopolitical foe”. Barack Obama, among others, mocked this hilarious gaffe: “The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back, because the cold war’s been over for 20 years,” scoffed the president. How times change. With Russia hacking the American election, presiding over mass slaughter in Syria, annexing Crimea and talking casually about using nuclear weapons, Mr Romney’s view has become conventional wisdom. Almost the only American to dissent from it is today’s Republican nominee, Donald Trump.

Read the full article here.
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Founded in 1971, NCSEJ represents the organized American Jewish community in monitoring and advocating on behalf of the estimated 1.5 million Jews in Eastern Europe and Eurasia, including the 15 successor states of the former Soviet Union.