Weekly Top 10
WASHINGTON, D.C. February 5, 2021
TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties

FROM: James Schiller, Chairman;
Mark B. Levin, Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO

Dear Friend,

Shabbat Shalom!

Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Washington, D.C. February 5, 2021

Biden Signals Break With Trump Foreign Policy in a Wide-Ranging State Dept. Speech
David E. Sanger and Eric Schmitt
The New York Times | February 4, 2021

WASHINGTON — President Biden on Thursday ordered an end to arms sales and other support to Saudi Arabia for a war in Yemen that he called a “humanitarian and strategic catastrophe” and declared that the United States would no longer be “rolling over in the face of Russia’s aggressive actions.”

The announcement was the clearest signal Mr. Biden has given of his intention to reverse the way President Donald J. Trump dealt with two of the hardest issues in American foreign policy.

Mr. Trump regularly rejected calls to rein in the Saudis for the indiscriminate bombing they carried out in their intervention in the civil war in Yemen as well as for the killing of a dissident journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, on the grounds that American sales of arms to Riyadh “creates hundreds of thousands of jobs” in the United States. And he repeatedly dismissed evidence of interference by President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in American elections and Russia’s role in a highly sophisticated hacking of the United States government.

Navalny sacrificed his freedom to liberate Russia; now he needs our help
Rachel Sharansky Danziger
Times of Israel | February 3, 2021

Ten days ago, a man told reporters in Moscow that he was tired of being afraid.
The man’s name is Sergei Radchenko. There’s no reason for this name to ring a bell: Radchenko is neither a known leader nor a celebrity of any sort. Yet on Saturday January 23, 2021, this ordinary man did something extraordinary: he risked arrest, injury, and police harassment, by protesting Putin’s regime and the arrest of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

Navalny was poisoned on the 20th of August 2020. He was eventually evacuated to Germany, where he received medical treatment and eventually recovered. On December 21, 2020, he released a video that showed him interviewing one of the men who had poisoned him. Navalny presented himself as a Russian security official, and the man he questioned freely admitted that the poisoning was ordered by the Russian authorities. On January 17th, 2021, Navalny returned to Moscow and was promptly arrested for his supposed violation of his probation — a probation that was part of a 2014 verdict that was already overturned by the European Court of Human Rights.

Yesterday, Navalny was sentenced for 3.5 years imprisonment.

Jewish lawmaker starts impeachment push against Ukraine’s Jewish president
Cnaan Liphshiz 
JTA | February 4, 2021

(JTA) — A Jewish lawmaker in Ukraine has initiated impeachment proceedings against the country’s Jewish president.

Vadim Rabinovich, who leads Ukraine’s largest opposition party, announced the move Wednesday against Vlodymyr Zelensky over the closure of three television channels that allegedly are funded by Russia.

The closure Tuesday of channels 112, ZIK and Newsone was a “political reprisal against critical media” leading to “a personal dictatorship in Ukraine,” Rabinovich, a former news mogul and co-chair of the Opposition Platform-For Life party, warned in a statement.
On Wednesday, Zelensky said freedom of the press and of expression is not under any danger in Ukraine, but that his steps regarding the three channels had “a clear justification due to the funding from Russia and cooperation with terrorist organizations.”
Ukraine and Russia have been involved in a bloody territorial dispute along their shared border and in areas in eastern Ukraine held by pro-Russian separatists, which the Ukrainian government considers terrorist groups.

Zelensky’s centrist party, Servant of the People, has only a 43% share of the Verkhovna Rada, the national parliament.

Building a unique Holocaust museum at Babyn Yar
Alan Rosenbaum
The Jerusalem Post | February 4, 2021

It is the site of one of the most infamous massacres of World War II, yet the precise location of the murders remained hidden until recently. Almost 80 years have passed since the sunny September day when thousands of Jews were ordered to a ravine near Kyiv with their belongings. Yet, despite its notoriety, no museum or substantive memorial exists to mark the scene. Its name is Babyn Yar, but soon, a vast museum complex will begin to rise in its place. The complex will include a dozen buildings in memory of the Jewish and non-Jewish victims of the massacre and the estimated 1.5 million Jews murdered in similar Nazi mass shootings across Ukraine and Eastern Europe. 

On September 28, 1941, three days before Yom Kippur and nine days after the Germans occupied Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, the Nazis ordered all of the city’s Jews to gather on the following day, together with their money, documents, and valuables, near the city’s cemetery. The local police escorted the Jews to the Babyn Yar ravine, where they were machine-gunned to death over two days. In total, more than 100,000 people were murdered on the site during World War II, including thousands of Roma (Gypsies), Soviet prisoners of war and Soviet civilians, along with most of Kyiv’s Jewish community. 

Zelenskiy Defends Decision To Block TV Channels Controlled By Russia-Linked Magnate
Radio Free Europe | February 4, 2021

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has met with a group of ambassadors from the Group of Seven (G7) and the European Union to defend his government’s decision to shut several television channels controlled by a Russia-linked magnate, a move supported by Washington but questioned by Brussels and slammed by Moscow.

Zelenskiy told the group in Kyiv on February 3 that the decision to block the 112, NewsOne, and ZIK channels was justified by the need to "fight against the danger of Russian aggression in the information arena."

Relations between Ukraine and Russia deteriorated in 2014 after Moscow annexed the Crimean Peninsula and began supporting separatists in eastern Ukraine. The conflict, now in its seventh year, has killed more than 13,200 people.

The now-blocked channels are believed to belong to Viktor Medvedchuk, who has close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is the godfather of Medvedchuk’s daughter. Medvedchuk supports the Opposition Platform for Life, a political party that is popular in Ukraine's southeast and holds a minority in the Ukrainian parliament.

EU diplomat tells Russia to free Kremlin critic Navalny at rare talks in Moscow
Andrew Osborn, Robin Emmott
Reuters | February 4, 2021

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The European Union’s top diplomat appealed to Russia on Friday to free jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, a case he said had brought EU-Russian ties to a low, drawing a robust response from Moscow which called the EU an unreliable partner.

Navalny, President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent critic, was jailed this week for almost three years for parole violations he called trumped up, a move the West sharply condemned.
In Moscow for rare talks, Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief, said he had pressed Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the Navalny case.

Borrell said there was not yet a formal proposal for new EU sanctions on Russia but that the 27-member bloc would have a discussion next month about relations between the EU and Russia.

“I have conveyed to Minister Lavrov our deep concern and our appeal for his (Navalny’s) release and for the launch of an investigation over his poisoning,” Borrell told a news conference alongside Lavrov.

Read the full article here.
Kosovo to open Embassy in Jerusalem as Israel recognizes the Balkan nation
Cnaan Liphshiz 
JTA | February 1, 2021

(JTA) —  Kosovo, a Muslim-majority territory that only part of the world recognizes as a country, intends to open an embassy in Jerusalem after it formally establishes diplomatic relations with Israel.

Foreign Minister Meliza Haradinaj-Stublla and her Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi signed an agreement on Monday, Radio Free Europe reported.

News that Israel will agree to recognize Kosovo as a country emerged in September in talks mediated by the Trump administration. But the intended location of the future embassy was not disclosed until Monday.

Under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, often with the help of the Trump administration, Israel has made considerable diplomatic efforts to have countries with embassies in the Tel Aviv region move them to Jerusalem, as the United States did in 2018. Both Israel and the Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capitals, but many countries have recognized neither claim pending peace talks.

“Recognition by Israel is one of the greatest achievements for Kosovo, coming at a key moment for us, thanks to the United States of America, our common and eternal ally,” Haradinaj-Stublla said in a statement Jan. 29 ahead of the signing ceremony.

Kyrgyzstan: Jeenbekov leaves country, sparking talk of exile
Chris Rickleton 
Eurasia.org | February 4, 2021

Will Kyrgyzstan ever become a comfortable home for its former presidents? 

Last October, Sooronbai Jeenbekov became the third Kyrgyz leader in history to be ousted by political upheaval. The early signs that he would be able to retire in peace were encouraging. 

One day after his resignation, Jeenbekov appeared alongside then-interim successor Sadyr Japarov before lawmakers. Before leaving the room, he made a short speech that was met with friendly applause. 

Last month, he attended the inauguration of Japarov, who had by then been elected in a landslide vote. Another attendee was Roza Otunbayeva, who briefly served as president in 2010, but only in a temporary caretaker capacity. 

Before that, Japarov had poured cold water on talk of reprisals. Jeenbekov’s complicity in serious crimes “had so far not been identified” Japarov said in November in perhaps less than fully reassuring terms. It was, after all, important that Jeenbekov retain immunity in order to ensure a “peaceful transfer of power in future,” Japarov said. 

Might Versus Right: Putin’s Bunker and the Protests Outside
Andrei Kolesnikov
Carnegie Moscow Center | February 2, 2021

How many divisions does the pope have?” Josef Stalin is said to have once asked Winston Churchill, in a mocking reference to the Vatican’s lack of military strength. And so Vladimir Putin, in possession of a vast army of riot police, might ask of Russia’s opposition leader: “How many divisions does Alexei Navalny have?” But a conflict is not just fought using brute force; there is also moral strength. And right now, that moral strength is on the side of the protesters. 

The police brutality that is becoming visible thanks to online videos has elicited sympathy among Russians who were previously skeptical of political protests, while Navalny’s courage in returning to Russia to go immediately to jail—even after being poisoned with a deadly nerve agent last August—has earned him respect. Navalny is a far cry from the Soviet intelligentsia idol Andrei Sakharov, but the state persecution of him makes him not just a political fighter, but a moral hero.

In Belarus, Marc Chagall’s synagogue is for sale to anyone willing to restore it
Cnaan Liphshiz 
JTA | January 29, 2021

(JTA) — The remains of the synagogue in Belarus where the family of painter Marc Chagall used to pray are up for sale to anyone willing to restore the building.

The municipality of Vitebsk is seeking a nominal fee only for the dilapidated exterior walls of what used to be the Great Lubavitch Synagogue, according to the People’s News of Vitebsk. But the new owners of the synagogue, whose remnant walls are listed as cultural monument, need to preserve those walls and restore the 19th-century building’s architecture, though it does not need to serve as a synagogue.

The Great Lubavitch Synagogue in Vitebsk, which is located 155 miles northeast of the Belarusian capital of Minsk, was once one of more than 60 synagogues in the city of about 60,000 residents where half the population was Jewish before the Holocaust.    

Does the Normandy Group on the Russia-Ukraine Conflict Have a Future? (Part One)
Vladimir Socor
The Jamestown Foundation | February 4, 2021

Ukraine is multiplying calls for changing the composition of the “Normandy Four” group (Russia, Germany, France, Ukraine) and its derivative Minsk Contact Group (see below). The Kremlin has effectively used these negotiation forums from 2014 to date in order to conserve, instead of end, its occupation of Ukraine’s eastern Donbas. The Normandy forum has not met at the summit or ministerial level since 2019; it has operated at the level of senior political advisors since then; and it has been moving against Ukraine’s interests when not completely deadlocked (see EDM, December 11, 12, 2019; January 16, March 26, July 9, 15, August 5, 12, 13, 2020).

In the Normandy group, furthermore, Berlin and Paris alongside Moscow have rejected Kyiv’s proposals to add Russia’s seizure of Crimea to the Normandy negotiations’ agenda. Ukraine, therefore, is initiating an international “Crimea Platform” dedicated to that issue.

Russian university fires lecturer who denied Holocaust
Cnaan Liphshiz 
The Times of Israel  | January 30, 2021

A prestigious university in Moscow said it would fire a professor who denied the Holocaust on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Vladimir Matveyev, a lecturer on international relations, told teachers from the St. Petersburg region on Thursday that “no gas chambers were found to kill people in concentration camps,” “the gas was used by the Germans for disinfection” and “six million dead Jews are a fiction.”

In a statement that same day, the state-owned university, known as RANEPA, said it “cannot accept” the lies told by Matveyev.

Matveyev was not representing the university on the video call in which he made the remarks, RANEPA said, and was participating outside his professional duties.

RANEPA stands for Russian Academy of National Economy and Public Administration.
International Holocaust Remembrance Day occurs on the date that Red Army troops liberated the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp that the Nazis built in occupied Poland.

Menachem-Mendel Pevzner, a rabbi from St. Petersburg, said his office is pressing charges against Matveyev for hate speech and Holocaust denial, which are illegal in Russia, the news site Jewish.ru reported.