Weekly Top 10
WASHINGTON, D.C. February 9, 2018

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties

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

Dear Friend,

President of Poland Andrzej Duda has signed controversial Holocaust legislation into law. He sent the law to Poland's Constitutional Court for review of potential protected speech violations. We, along with the governments of Israel, the United States, Ukraine, and several other states as well as the worldwide Jewish community have spoken out against the bill, which criminalizes some references to Polish complicity in the Holocaust, including use of the phrase 'Polish death camps.' NCSEJ maintains its opposition to the legislation but will continue to work with the Polish Government to ensure our concerns are understood. 

Ksenia Sobchak, who is running for President of the Russian Federation, visited Washington, D.C. this week. She spoke at a number of high-profile events, including at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Sobchak is the daughter of former Mayor of Saint Petersburg Anatoly Sobchak; President of Russia Vladimir Putin worked for Mayor Sobchak in the 1990s. 

A neo-Nazi march is planned to go on as scheduled in Sofia, Bulgaria. We and other Jewish organizations have worked closely with the Government of Bulgaria to take all possible action to prevent the march, but despite opposition in the city and national government, the courts cannot ban the march outright.

This morning, on the invitation of the Ukrainian Embassy, I had the opportunity to address a Ukrainian delegation meeting in Washington for yesterday's National Prayer Breakfast.  

Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Washington, D.C. February 9, 2018

Poland’s President Supports Making Some Holocaust Statements a Crime

By Marc Santora

New York Times, February 6, 2018

President Andrzej Duda said on Tuesday that he would sign into law a bill making it illegal to accuse “the Polish nation” of complicity in the Holocaust and other Nazi atrocities, a measure that has roiled relations with Israel and the United States, and spurred claims that the nationalist government is trying to whitewash one of the bloodiest chapters in Poland’s history.

Opponents have predicted that the law — which prohibits, among other things, the phrase “Polish death camp” — would stifle free speech and put questions of historical accuracy into the hands of judges and prosecutors who may be more motivated by politics than scholarship. Despite weeks of ferocious criticism from other nations and from independent scholars, Mr. Duda’s right-wing Law and Justice Party pressed ahead with the bill.

Read the full article here.

Poland Digs Itself a Memory Hole

By Marci Shore

New York Times, February 4, 2018

“Life, as we find it, is too hard for us,” Sigmund Freud wrote. “In order to bear it we cannot dispense with palliative measures.”

Since coming to power in Poland in 2015, Law and Justice, the nationalist populist party led by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, has embarked on a series of palliative measures. The most recent is a draft law outlawing accusations of Polish participation in the Holocaust and other war crimes that took place during the German occupation of Poland. In the past 10 days, the bill has been approved by both legislative houses, the Sejm and the Senate. Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda, was given 21 days to decide whether to sign the bill.

This draft law is part of a program introduced in the past two years, named by the Law and Justice government “a good change.” The change has included attempts to legalize government control of the media and introduce draconian anti-abortion laws. Law and Justice has also debased public language, conjuring phrases reminiscent of the “newspeak” of the Communist years. Liberals have become “pigs cut off from the trough.”

Read the full article here.

Poland isn’t the only country trying to police what can be said about the Holocaust

By Cnaan Lipshiz

Jewish Telegraphic Agency, February 6, 2018

In 2015, Ukraine’s president signed a law whose critics say stifles debate on the historical record of World War II and whitewashes local perpetrators of the Holocaust.

Law 2538-1 criminalized any rhetoric insulting to the memory of anti-communist partisans. And it celebrates the legacy of such combatants – ostensibly including the ones who murdered countless Jewish and Polish citizens while collaborating with Nazi Germany.

The law generated some backlash, including an open letter by more than 70 historians who said it “contradicts the right to freedom of speech,” ignores complicity in the Holocaust and would “damage Ukraine’s national security.”

Read the full article here.

Remembering the Holocaust in Ukraine

By Josh Cohen

The National Interest, February 3, 2018

With Holocaust Remembrance Day dawning last Saturday, it’s important to remember that the Nazis could not have implemented the Shoah without widespread assistance from local collaborators. While Western European nations have largely come to grips with the fact that some of their citizens collaborated with the Nazis, some countries in Eastern Europe remain reluctant to fully confront the darker aspects of their nation's World War II history.

One country struggling with this is Ukraine, a nation seeking to create a new national narrative while simultaneously fighting an existential war against a Russian enemy seeking to block Kyiv’s desire to join the West.

Read the full article here.

‘Glory to Ukraine!’ It’s the Law. Or Could Be, If PM Gets His Way

By Christopher Miller

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, February 7, 2018

Do svidania, "comrade."

If the Ukrainian government gets its way, the country’s military will soon ditch the official Soviet-era call-and-response greeting that has persisted since Kyiv’s break with Moscow nearly 27 years ago for "Glory to Ukraine!" -- a chant rooted in Ukraine's nationalist past but repurposed and popularized during the 2013-14 Euromaidan street protests.

The proposal came from Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroysman, who on February 5 submitted a draft bill to parliament that would amend the existing law requiring Ukrainian servicemen and senior officers to greet each other with the Soviet-era "Hello, comrade!" and "Good day, sir!" and swap it with the exchange "Glory to Ukraine!" and "Glory to the heroes!"

Read the full article here.

Russia’s Sobchak Brings Presidential Campaign to Washington

By Mike Eckel

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, February 6, 2018

Ksenia Sobchak, the Russian TV celebrity, socialite, and daughter of President Vladimir Putin's political mentor, brought her long-shot campaign for the presidency to Washington, saying that her political ambitions were genuine and long-term.

Sobchak’s visit to the United States, coming just six weeks before the Russian election, has raised eyebrows among liberals, opposition activists, and political observers, and fueled questions about whether the Kremlin was using her candidacy to boost turnout and help Putin's bid for another six-year term.

Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on February 6, Sobchak indicated that, among other things, she planned to meet with administration officials about U.S. economic sanctions imposed on Russia in recent years.

Read the full article here.

The Confrontation Between the West and Russia” A Tale of Concentric Circles

By Nathalie Tocci

Carnegie Moscow Center, February 8, 2018

The confrontation between the European Union and Russia plays out at three distinct levels: the domestic, the regional, and the global. Whereas all three circles are underpinned by fundamentally different worldviews, cooperation is possible globally, unlikely in the shared neighborhood, and next to impossible when confrontation hits home.

Divergent norms between the EU and Russia are well delineated. The union and (most of) its member states fundamentally believe that a political system is sustainable to the extent that it provides rule of law, freedom, participation, prosperity, and security to its citizens. Putin’s Russia fundamentally believes the postmodern age of supranational governance was a chimera, and the world has finally reawakened to the reality of nationalistic nation-states attached to conservative social and political values.

Read the full article here.

Vladimir Putin’s Wartime Presidency

By Leon Aron

American Enterprise Institute, February 6, 2018

Yes, we've seen it before: the meticulously scripted but utterly sterile twists and turns in Russia's Potemkin "presidential" election campaign, Vladimir Putin's fourth.

Once again we are being treated to the sight of the Russian president's mighty torso as he steps into the icy water of Lake Seliger in the Russian Northwest to mark the Orthodox Epiphany, surrounded by black-cassocked priests with church banners aloft.

An old hat, indeed. Except for two things. First, by the end of his term Putin will have been in power as president or de-facto leader for 24 years — longer than any Russian ruler since Nicholas I (1825-1855) except for Stalin. And, second and more important, these six years are supposed by many to be his last.

Read the full article here.

Neo-Nazis to Converge to Honor ‘Bulgarian Promoter of the Holocaust’

By Michael Colborne

Haaretz, February 8, 2018

Some of Europe’s most notorious neo-Nazis and far-right extremists plan to march through Sofia next week to honor a man one international Jewish leader calls “the leading Bulgarian promoter of the Holocaust.”

Bulgarian far-right extremists have organized the so-called Lukov March every year since 2003 to honor Hristo Lukov, a Bulgarian general who led the pro-Nazi Union of Bulgarian National Legions and was assassinated by Communist partisans in February 1943. The march regularly includes sympathizers from neo-Nazi and violent extremist groups across Europe.

But this year’s version is different. Just weeks after the Lukov March, Bulgaria will commemorate the rescue of its almost 50,000 Jews from the hands of the Nazis – while also remembering the 11,000 Jews in Bulgarian-occupied parts of Greece and Yugoslavia who were sent to their deaths. The march will also take place as Bulgaria, one of the European Union’s newest members, chairs the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU for the first time.

How Shavkat Mirziyoyev Became Uzbekistan’s Supreme Leader

By Bruce Pannier

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, February 3, 2018

The dismissal of the head of Uzbekistan’s National Security Service (SNB), Rustam Inoyatov, on January 31 was the latest and arguably most important step so far in President Shavkat Mirziyoev’s consolidation of power.

It was clear when Mirziyoev came to power in September 2016 after the death of Uzbekistan’s first president, Islam Karimov, that Mirziyoev would have to fend off some challenges before he could cement his claim to leadership.

Mirziyoev now appears firmly entrenched in power and it is possible to trace how he accomplished this.

Read the full article here.

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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.