Weekly Top 10
WASHINGTON, D.C. February 23, 2018

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties

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

Dear Friend,

The international Jewish community, the United States, Israel, and other governments continue to react to Poland's new anti-defamation legislation. On Tuesday, NCSEJ issued a press release in response to Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki's comments that equated Jews forced to work for the Nazis with other perpetrators of the Holocaust. Prime Minister Morawiecki issued a clarification, expressing his desire to keep dialogue about Poland's painful history as open as possible. We are hopeful that ongoing dialogue with the Polish government will reinforce mutual understanding and address the concerns of the international community.

The European Union renewed a large sanctions package against Russian officials and Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine. This week marked the fourth anniversary of the killing of protesters on Maidan Square in Kyiv. Former Ambassador to Ukraine Steven Pifer authored an analysis of the current situation in Ukraine for Brookings, reflecting on changes and challenges Ukraine has faced in the last four years. Corruption remains a major issue in the country, including in the military, as a report in the New York Times this week demonstrates.

This week, I, along with NCSEJ Chairman Daniel Rubin and President Alexander Smukler, were in Israel for the yearly mission of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. We had the opportunity to meet with several Israeli government officials, including Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Washington, D.C. February 23, 2018

Poland’s new ‘Holocaust law’ comes up against massacre of Jews in 1941

By James McAuley

Washington Post, February 22, 2018

The Jews who survived the axes were burned alive in a barn on the outskirts of town. The Germans had just recaptured the area from the Soviets, but it was not the Germans who bolted the doors, poured the gasoline and lit the fire.

On July 10, 1941, villagers here turned against their neighbors — although some would later claim they were taking orders from the Germans. Szczepan Sulewski, a retired baker, remembers running over from a neighboring village to watch the incineration of the Jews. Now 88, he does not remember why the Jews had to burn; he remembers only the screams and how difficult it was, as a boy of 10, to catch a glimpse of the fire.

“Everybody lived well with the Jews,” he said in his living room filled with cigarette smoke. A nervous grin played on his face. “You could do business with the Jews.”

Read the full article here.

Poland’s prime minister said some Jews collaborated with Nazis. Scholars say he distorted history.

By Cnaan Lipshiz

Jewish Telegraphic Agency, February 20, 2018

The row between Poland and Israel about the Holocaust reached new heights this week after Poland’s prime minister said that the genocide had not only Polish, Ukrainian and German perpetrators, but Jewish ones as well.

Addressing a new law that criminalizes blaming Poland for Nazi crimes, Mateusz Morawiecki said in an interview Saturday that the law’s effects would not be as sweeping as its critics complain.

“It’s not going to be seen as criminal to say that there were Polish perpetrators, as there were Jewish perpetrators, as there were Ukrainian; not only German perpetrators,” he said.

If his statement was meant to soothe the law’s critics – they include international Jewish groups and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who called the legislation baseless in a rare rebuke of an ally of Israel — then Morawiecki failed spectacularly.

Read the full article here.

Polish Jewish groups say they don’t feel safe due to rise in anti-Semitism

Jewish Telegraphic Agency February 19, 2018

Twenty-three Jewish organizations in Poland signed a joint letter in which they emphasize that they do not feel safe in Poland and call for mutual “respect and truth.”

“Increasingly, hate speech has escaped the confines of the Internet to infiltrate the public sphere. It has found its way into newspapers and television broadcasts, including those belonging to public media outlets,” the letter states. The Jewish organizations also noted that Poland’s Jewish community has received a rising number of anti-Semitic messages. They emphasize that public officials have condemned anti-Semitism, but “do nothing to stop the spread of evil.”

Polish Jews, unlike many of Europe’s Jews today, “do not now face direct physical threats” but the situation “is far from normal,” the groups said. Anti-Semitism, according to these groups, is a growing problem in Poland today.

Read the full article here.

The Nazis Were Sluggish in Bulgaria This Year. But Their Torchlit European Hate Tour Has Plenty More Dates

By Michael Colborne

Haaretz, February 19, 2018

"There is no reason to talk about anti-Semitism," one of the organizers, Plamen Dimitrov, told a journalist covering Saturday night’s Lukov March  in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia.

I was there. There’s every reason to talk about anti-Semitism.

Your stewards, Mr. Dimitrov, in black paramilitary uniforms and combat boots, had to censure at least one marcher for doing a Hitler salute.

One of your fellow marchers said, "It wouldn't be a problem" if the eponymous WWII General Hristo Lukov was anti-Semitic.

Read the full article here.

Moscow court denies appeal by Raoul Wallenberg’s family to see his files

AFP/Times of Israel, February 21, 2018

Moscow court on Tuesday upheld the Russian security service’s refusal to open the files of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg — who saved thousands of Jews during World War II — to his family.

Wallenberg, often described as the “Swedish Schindler,” disappeared under Soviet rule after the war. His family has for decades tried to establish what happened to him.

After being repeatedly refused access to his files, the Wallenberg family last year sued the FSB security service (the successor of the KGB). A Moscow court rejected the lawsuit in September, a decision which the family appealed.

Read the full article here.

EU Renews Sanctions On Russian Officials, Ukrainian Separatists

By Rikard Jozwiak

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, February 21, 2018

European Union ambassadors have prolonged the asset freezes and visa bans on 150 Russian officials and Moscow-backed Ukrainian separatists for another six months, EU diplomats told RFE/RL. The measure was also rolled over for 38 entities on the sanctions list.

The diplomats, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak on the record, said the measures would be formally adopted in the coming days.

Asset freezes and visa bans were first imposed by the EU on people responsible for actions against Ukraine's territorial integrity in March 2014, after Russia occupied and seized control of Crimea. Those sanctions have been extended every six months.

Read the full article here.

Ukraine four years after the Maidan

By Steven Pifer

Brookings, February 22, 2018

In late February 2014, following three months of demonstrations on Kyiv’s Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square), then-President Victor Yanukovych fled the Ukrainian capital on a tortuous path that ultimately took him to Russia. On February 22, 2014, Ukraine’s parliament appointed an acting president and acting prime minister, who promptly announced their intention to press reforms and bring Ukraine closer to Europe.

Four years later, Ukraine finds itself in a low-intensity but still very real war with Russia. Russia seized Crimea and has prosecuted a conflict in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas that has claimed more than 10,000 lives. While President Petro Poroshenko and his governments have implemented serious reforms, the pace has slowed markedly. Many are particularly frustrated that more has not been done on the anti-corruption front.

Read the full article here.

In Ukraine, Corruption Is Now Undermining the Military

By Andrew Higgins

New York Times, February 19, 2018

Nearly four years into a grinding war against rebels armed by Russia, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry proudly announced last month that it had improved its previously meager medical services for its wounded troops with the purchase and delivery of 100 new military ambulances.

Not mentioned, however, was that many of the ambulances had already broken down. Or that they had been sold to the military under a no-bid contract by an auto company owned by a senior official in charge of procurement for Ukraine’s armed forces. Or that the official, Oleg Gladkovskyi, is an old friend and business partner of Ukraine’s president, Petro O. Poroshenko.

Ukraine’s spending on defense and security has soared since the conflict in the east started in 2014, rising from around 2.5 percent of its gross domestic product in 2013 to more than 5 percent this year, when it will total around $6 billion.

Read the full article here.

Sharansky Warns of Building Ties with ‘Pro-Israel’ European Anti-Jewish Groups

By Tamara Zieve

Jerusalem Post, February 20, 2018

Far-right European political groups that profess to love Israel often hold antisemitic views, Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky warned on Tuesday.

In an address in Jerusalem to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Sharansky asserted that there is a growing phenomenon of political groups on the Right in Europe returning to their Nazi pasts, while supporting Israel for its stand against Islamic extremism. “But we should not fall into the trap,” he said.

Sharansky noted that Jews have become accustomed to left-wing groups who were vocally anti-Israel emphasizing positive feelings toward Jews.

Russia knocks Iran over vow to destroy Israel

By Alexander Fulbright

Times of Israel, February 19, 2018

Russia admonished Tehran on Monday for calls by Iranian leaders to destroy Israel, marking rare criticism of Moscow’s ally in the Syrian civil war.

“We have stated many times that we won’t accept the statements that Israel, as a Zionist state, should be destroyed and wiped off the map. I believe this is an absolutely wrong way to advance one’s own interests,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was reported by the TASS state news agency as telling a conference in Moscow.

Senior Iranian leaders, among them Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei, have frequently called for the Jewish state’s destruction.

Read the full article here.

[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.