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

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties

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

Dear Friend,

On Wednesday, Israel commemorated Yom HaZikaron, Memorial Day for those who have lost their lives defending the State of Israel, and on Thursday, Israel celebrated Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israeli Independence Day. NCSEJ joins Israel in honoring those brave men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice to protect the Jewish State, a place that has been a refuge to so many, especially from Eastern Europe and Eurasia. Without the founding of the State of Israel, the Soviet Jewry movement would have never achieved the success that it did in gaining freedom for millions of Jews fleeing oppression. Jews from the USSR changed the demographic makeup of Israel forever and have brought with them innumerable positive contributions to Israeli society.

Representatives Ed Royce (R-CA), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Gregory Meeks (D-NY), and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) have co-signed a letter to Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki expressing deep concerns over Poland’s anti-defamation legislation that limits certain forms of speech regarding the Holocaust. The letter reinforces the importance and depth of the U.S.-Polish relationship while also addressing concerns that NCSEJ shares regarding the law and its role in potential historic revisionism. We support the letter and thank these members of Congress for signing it.

This week, we share with you two pieces about Ukraine. The first, from our friends at the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation discusses the importance of economic reform in the year leading up to the next presidential election in Ukraine in March 2019. The second, published by the Atlantic Council, addresses the emergence of far-right groups in Ukraine, a trend we continue to closely monitor.

We also share with you an analytical piece from the Carnegie Moscow center on the role of sanctions in the U.S.-Russia relationship.

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

Polish nationalists seek probe of Rivlin for saying Poland played Holocaust role

Times of Israel/Associated Press, April 17, 2018

A Polish nationalist group has asked prosecutors to investigate whether Israeli President Reuven Rivlin broke a new Holocaust speech law during a visit to Poland last week.

The National Movement says it believes the Israeli leader might have violated legislation that criminalizes blaming the Polish nation or state for the crimes of Nazi Germany during World War II.

The group’s vice president, Krzysztof Bosak, said it formally filed its request to prosecutors on Tuesday.

He said the matter concerns Rivlin telling his Polish counterpart during commemorations at Auschwitz last Thursday that Poland enabled the implementation of Germany’s genocide.

Read the full article here.

Polish Chief Rabbi: Some Jewish Responses to Holocaust Law Irresponsible

By Tamara Zieve

Jerusalem Post, April 15, 2018

“Some of the Jewish responses to Poland’s Holocaust law were irresponsible,” Chief Rabbi of Poland Michael Schudrich said over the weekend during a Limmud FSU Global Leadership Summit that took place in Warsaw.

Speaking during a special session on the subject, Schudrich said on Friday: “To say that all the Poles are antisemites is not true. It’s hurtful. That infamous statement that Poles drink antisemitism with their mother’s milk – my response to that is: ‘Antisemitism is down because they are bottle- feeding.’”

Elaborating on the law, Schudrich remarked: “The real problem now is not the law – it is about letting the antisemitic genie out of the bottle, and that genie doesn’t like to go back in there. How do you reverse it? I don’t know, we’re still working on it.”

Ukraine Cannot Wait Until After 2019 Elections for Anti-Corruption Reform Progress

By Clifford Bond, Orest Deychakiwsky, and Jonathan Katz

U.S.-Ukraine Foundation, April 4, 2018

When hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians took to the bitterly cold streets of Kyiv in early 2014 to push back against the corrupt and brutal Yanukovych regime and its rejection of a Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic future, they expressed an unwavering desire for a democratic, prosperous and secure nation. After Yanukovych fled Ukraine, the United States, European Union, International Monetary Fund, World Bank and other international partners responded to Ukraine’s calls for help. They provided significant resources including technical assistance and macroeconomic support to help stabilize a weakened government and economy. They also condemned Russian military aggression and imposed sanctions on Russia.

Read the full article here.

Why Ukraine’s Radical Parties Are Sitting Pretty for Upcoming Elections

By Mykola Vorobiov

Atlantic Council, April 19, 2018

Ukrainian nationalism is growing quickly, but radical parties have never done well in elections. This may change in 2019, when Ukraine will hold both presidential and parliamentary elections, which are the first national elections after the Euromaidan revolution and the Russian military invasion in 2014.

While Ukraine has committed to joining Euro-Atlantic institutions and embarked upon structural reforms, the overall situation in Ukraine remains uncertain. Even now, next year’s presidential and parliamentarian campaigns are already impacting decision making.

Read the full article here.

Hungarian Activists 'Very Alarmed' as pro-Orban Media 'Outs' Them in Soros-bashing Campaign

By Michael Colborne

Haaretz, April 16, 2018

Despite winning a fourth term last week, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is upping his campaign against NGOs and Jewish billionaire George Soros, with pro-government media outlets outing opposition activists and a ‘Stop Soros’ law in the works.

Orbán’s right-wing Fidesz party secured a third straight election victory on April 8 with nearly 49 percent of the vote. However, the country’s electoral system means Orbán has two-thirds of all parliamentary seats and another supermajority.

Some 100,000 people attended a protest in Budapest on Saturday, the BBC reported. Many of the demonstrators were wearing Hungarian and European Union flags, it noted, as they protested what they see as an unfair electoral system, and the corruption and abuse of power they say characterizes Orbán's rule.

Read the full article here.

Russian Duma To Consider Retaliatory Sanctions Against U.S.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, April 16, 2018

Russia's lower parliament house has scheduled the first reading of a bill on retaliatory sanctions against the United States for May 15, meaning the first of three State Duma votes on the legislation could be held that day.

Senior lawmakers met on April 16 to discuss plans to hit back against Washington, which 10 days earlier imposed asset freezes and financial restrictions on tycoons, security officials, politicians, and companies seen to have close ties to President Vladimir Putin.

The U.S. treasury secretary said the sanctions were a response to Russia's “malign activity around the globe,” alluding among other things to the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain and Moscow's alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.

Read the full article here.

Trump puts the brakes on new Russian sanctions, reversing Haley’s announcement

By Philip Rucker, Carol D. Leonnig, Anton Troianovski, and Greg Jaffe
Washington Post, April 16, 2018

President Trump on Monday put the brakes on a preliminary plan to impose additional economic sanctions on Russia, walking back a Sunday announcement by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley that the Kremlin had swiftly denounced as “international economic raiding.”

Preparations to punish Russia anew for its support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government over an alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria caused consternation at the White House. Haley had said on CBS News’s “Face the Nation” that sanctions on Russian companies behind the equipment related to Assad’s alleged chemical weapons attack would be announced Monday by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

But Trump conferred with his national security advisers later Sunday and told them he was upset the sanctions were being officially rolled out because he was not yet comfortable executing them, according to several people familiar with the plan.

Read the full article here.

Sanctions and Retaliation: Where Russia-U.S. Relations Are Headed

By Andrey Movchan

Carnegie Moscow Center, April 19, 2018

The expansion of U.S. sanctions to 24 individuals and 14 companies linked closely to Russia should not have come as a surprise to anyone: the United States had warned many times that oligarchs close to the Kremlin might be added. Andrei Skoch and Suleiman Kerimov, two of the businessmen who were added, have long been politicians, and have restructured their property accordingly, and therefore won’t fall under the purview of the sanctions. Vladimir Bogdanov, the head of Surgutneftegaz oil company, who was also included on the latest list, had only been left off previous lists by a fluke: Surgutneftegaz itself has long been under sanctions. Only two names add a new dimension to the list: Oleg Deripaska and Viktor Vekselberg.

The choice of two major Kremlin-controlled businessmen who had been working productively with the United States and with Americans would seem random if not for one thing that unites them: aluminum. Deripaska’s En+, together with SUAL, co-owned by Vekselberg, are the two main owners of Rusal, the Russian aluminum giant.

Read the full article here.

Nazi SS veterans hold an annual march in Latvia. Here’s how one woman is fighting back.

By Cnaan Lipshiz

Jewish Telegraphic Agency, April 17, 2018

Each year on March 16, a macabre event unfolds on the square around this capital city’s most famous monument.

Known as the Memorial for Latvian Legionnaires, it is the world’s only march by veterans of Nazi Germany’s elite SS unit.

A handful of them, including nonagenarians in wheelchairs, lead the procession through the Old City to the monument. Some wear the insignia from their old units — the 15th and 19th Waffen Grenadier Divisions — as they receive flowers from young women flanking the procession.

A Hopeful Moment for Uzbekistan

By The Editorial Board

New York Times, April 13, 2018

It is a measure of how repressive Uzbekistan was under its first post-Soviet president, Islam Karimov, that the first, tentative steps by his successor to curb the secret police are raising high hopes of an Uzbek Spring in the making. Yet with democracy in retreat across much of the former Soviet empire and elsewhere in the world, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s efforts bear watching and deserve support.

Little was expected of Mr. Mirziyoyev when he ascended — unconstitutionally — to the presidency on Mr. Karimov’s death 19 months ago. He had long served the dictator as prime minister and was widely expected to maintain his despotic system. Yet he has unexpectedly taken a very different, and so far positive, path.

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.