Weekly Top 10
WASHINGTON, D.C. July 20, 2018

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties

FROM: Daniel Rubin, Chairman;
Alexander Smukler, President;
Mark B. Levin, Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO

Dear Friend,

Immediately following his trip to Brussels for the 2018 NATO Summit and his visit to the United Kingdom, President Donald Trump met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland on Monday. According to media reports, the issues discussed included U.S.-Russian cooperation in Syria, Israel, and Ukraine. Analysts in the United States and Russia had questions about the tangible results of the summit. Trump has invited Putin to visit the White House in the fall.

Before Trump departed for Russia, NATO released its Summit Declaration, which stated that Georgia has made significant progress towards joining the alliance through its reforms. Although the delegates did not offer Georgia a Membership Action Plan, the statement and Trump’s meeting with Georgian President Margvelashvili signaled that Georgia remains an important NATO partner.

Before Putin and Trump’s meeting, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Moscow. During his meeting with Putin, Netanyahu proposed that Russia use its influence in the region to contain Iran in exchange for Israeli recognition of the Assad regime.

Following his trip to Moscow, Netanyahu hosted Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Jerusalem. Critics have accused Orban of employing anti-Semitic tropes in his political campaigns. The trip appeared successful despite these allegations.

In Romania, a recent film about Prime Minister Ion Antonescu regime’s massacre of Romanian Jews in Odesa during World War II secured the top prize at a festival. Experts remain concerned about Holocaust remembrance in Eastern Europe.

Earlier this week, a review of author Steven J. Zipperstein’s newest historical piece about the Kishinev pogrom in 1903 appeared in the New York Jewish Week. Titled Pogrom: Kishinev and the Tilt of History, Zipperstein discusses how the violence in Kishinev served as a watershed moment in Jewish life by introducing the word “pogrom” into the Jewish lexicon.

This week, NCSEJ joined with 15 other Jewish NGOs in a sign-on letter to the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, advocating for the passage of two bills to combat anti-Semitism abroad. The first act would elevate the position of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, while the second expresses the United States’ interest in ensuring the security of European Jewish communities. 

Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Washington, D.C. July 20, 2018

And The Winner Is... Analysts Say Putin Was Clear Summit Victor
By Mike Eckel
RFE/RL, July 16, 2018

WASHINGTON -- As U.S.-Russian summits go, the just-concluded meeting in Helsinki between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian leader Vladimir Putin ranked high for drama, but, analysts say, surprisingly low in terms of concrete outcomes.

The July 16 one-on-one meeting between Trump and Putin came at a tense moment for the two countries, with bilateral ties sinking to lows not seen since the Cold War.

The summit also came on the heels of a European trip for Trump that was punctuated by discord with NATO allies, public statements undermining British Prime Minister Theresa May, and massive anti-Trump protests in London, and then Helsinki.

Trump invites Putin to visit Washington, White House says
By Alex Pappas
Fox News, July 19, 2018

President Trump has asked his White House to extend an invitation to Russian President Vladimir Putin to visit Washington later this year, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Thursday.

“In Helsinki, @POTUS agreed to ongoing working level dialogue between the two security council staffs. President Trump asked @Ambjohnbolton to invite President Putin to Washington in the fall and those discussions are already underway,” Sanders tweeted.

Trump and Putin met in Helsinki, Finland on Monday. Earlier Thursday, Trump called the summit “a great success” and said he looked “forward to our second meeting.”

Putin Tells Diplomats He Made Trump a New Offer on Ukraine at Their Summit
By Ilya Arkhipov
Bloomberg, July 19, 2018
Vladimir Putin told Russian diplomats that he made a proposal to Donald Trump at their summit this week to hold a referendum to help resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine, but agreed not to disclose the plan publicly so the U.S. president could consider it, according to two people who attended Putin’s closed-door speech on Thursday.

Details of what the two leaders discussed in their summit in Helsinki, Finland, remain scarce, with much of the description so far coming from Russia. While Putin portrayed the Ukraine offer as a sign he’s seeking to bring the four-year-old crisis to an end, a referendum is likely to be a hard sell with Ukraine and its backers in Europe, who remain committed to a 2015 European-brokered truce deal for the Donbas region, parts of which are controlled by Russian-backed separatists.

Study: ‘Surge’ in Polish antisemitism since controversial Holocaust law
By Jeremy Sharon
Jerusalem Post, July 17, 2018

A new academic study by the Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs has described “a surge” in hostility to Jews and Israel in Polish media and politics in 2018 following the efforts to pass a controversial law making it a crime to say that the Polish state or nation was complicit in the Holocaust.

According to the study written by Dr. Rafał Pankowski, a sociology professor at Warsaw’s Collegium Civitas, there has been a “disturbing revival of antisemitism” in Poland since the law was introduced and stirred controversy.

How Russian nationalism explains Putin’s outreach to Jews and Israel
By Charles Dunst
JTA, July 19, 2018

While American politicians and pundits fumed at President Donald Trump’s performance at his much-anticipated meeting this week with Russian President Vladimir Putin, lost in the clamor was one small but crucial moment: Israel emerged from Helsinki a winner.

Trump said that he and Putin had reached a “really good conclusion” for Israel in regard to the situation in Syria. The Russian leader said he paid “special attention” to the Jewish state during the negotiations.

Trump’s unflinching support for Israel — perhaps a result of evangelical enthusiasm for the country, ideological nudging from his Jewish daughter and son-in-law or the continued need to rebuke all things Obama — is well documented. But Putin’s continuing support for the Jewish state is unexpected, especially since he backs Syria’s Bashar Assad, a war criminal whose prosaic regional interests often defy Israel’s.

In Israel, Hungary’s Orban gets praise from Netanyahu and protests at Yad Vashem
JTA, July 19, 2018

JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked his Hungarian counterpart, Viktor Orban, for defending Israel in international forums and for being a “good friend” to his country.
Netanyahu made his remarks before the leaders met Thursday in Jerusalem on the second day of Orban’s two-day visit. Netanyahu went to Hungary a year ago.

Meanwhile, later in the day, dozens of protesters prevented Orban’s car from moving for several minutes following a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial and Museum. The protesters held signs reading “Never again” in Hungarian and Hebrew and shouted “Shame on you,” The Times of Israel reported.

With Orbán, Soros, Hungary’s Jews Trapped Between pro-Israel, anti-Semitic Politics
By Anshel Pfeffer
Haaretz, July 18, 2018

BUDAPEST – It’s impossible to walk through central Budapest and not get the impression that Hungary’s capital is undergoing a Jewish renaissance…

Recent research claims that some 160,000 “self-identifying” Jews live in Hungary today, a much higher number than was previously thought – making Budapest potentially the largest Jewish community between Paris and Moscow.

But most of the Jews don’t belong to one of the synagogues or communal organizations. And it seems that a lot of the façade of the “Jewish revival” in Budapest is a concerted effort by the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán – arriving on his first official visit to Israel on Wednesday – to portray the new Hungary as Jew-friendly.

Romania Starts to Confront Holocaust Past, but ‘Cycle of Denial’ Remains
By Michael Colborne
Haaretz, July 15, 2018

BUCHAREST – While some in Eastern Europe are going to great lengths to whitewash their countries’ roles in the Holocaust, Romanian cinema seems determined to challenge false interpretations of the past.

The latest film to do so, Radu Jude’s “‘I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians,’” snagged the top prize at the prestigious Karlovy Vary Film Festival last weekend. It focuses on a director choosing to make a film about the 1941 Odessa massacre – when Romania’s Nazi-collaborating wartime leader, Ion Antonescu, ordered the murder of tens of thousands of Jews after his army captured the port city. (The film’s title is an Antonescu quote about the massacre.)

With increasing numbers of countries – including Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria and Ukraine – facing criticism over attempts to downplay or deny their country’s complicity in the Holocaust, Jude’s film “points a finger at those people who are rewriting history,” in the words of one of the festival jury members.

New Book Examines The Most Notorious Pogrom Of All – Kishinev
By Jonathan Mark
Jewish Week, July 18, 2018

Pogroms are associated with shtetls, but Kishinev was never that. At the dawn of the 20th century, Kishinev was urban, the fifth largest city in Russia; more Jews (50,000) than Frankfurt and Prague combined. Then on Easter week, 1903, a three-day pogrom left 49 Jews murdered; hundreds hospitalized; an estimated 600 raped; and thousands homeless.

The word “pogrom” — Russian for “thunder” or “storm” — was almost unknown prior to Kishinev. In his new book, “Pogrom: Kishinev and the Tilt of History” (Liveright), author Steven J. Zipperstein points out that a 1892 book on Russian Jews never even used the word pogrom. It was only after Kishinev, writes Zipperstein, a professor of Jewish culture and history at Stanford University, that the word “pogrom” emerged to denote the most merciless, violent attacks against Jews, short of the Nazis but a prelude.

As New York Times reporter Peter Steinfels wrote in 1998, “Before Kristallnacht there was Kishinev.”

Georgia Remains on Path to NATO
By Giorgi Menabde
Jamestown Foundation, July 16, 2018

The NATO summit did not “open the door” to Georgian membership—once again, the South Caucasus country did not receive a Membership Action Plan (MAP). But the outcome of the just-concluded top meeting of NATO leaders confirmed that Georgia remains an important partner, and the Allies still consider it an “Aspirant” deserving of respect for its reforms, democratic choice and active participation in international operations.

In the Brussels Summit Declaration, the heads of state and government of the 29 members of the North Atlantic Alliance reiterate the decision made at the 2008 Bucharest Summit that Georgia “will become a member of the Alliance, with MAP as an integral part of the process.” The Allied leaders also recognize “the significant progress on reforms which Georgia has made and must continue, which are helping Georgia, an aspirant country, progress in its preparations towards membership, and which strengthen Georgia’s defense and interoperability capabilities with the Alliance.”

[Link to pdf of full articles]
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Founded in 1971, the National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry 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.