Weekly Top 10
WASHINGTON, D.C. May 18, 2018

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties

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

Dear Friend,

Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee approved a bill that will elevate the State Department position of Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism to the level of Ambassador. The bill also requires that the president nominate someone to fill this position within 90 days of its passage. We released a statement after the vote voicing our support, as reported in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency this morning

Monday morning, NCSEJ Deputy Director Lesley Weiss attended a special White House viewing of the ceremony dedicating the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. That evening, Lesley and I attended a gala celebration in honor of Israel's 70th year of independence and the opening of the embassy. Vice President Mike Pence delivered a keynote address at the gala in which he reaffirmed the United States' and President Trump's support for the State of Israel. 

On Wednesday, Lesley attended a meeting with Tedo Japaridze, Special Adviser to the Prime Minister of Georgia and former Georgian Ambassador to the U.S. At the meeting, hosted by B'nai B'rith International, Japaridze discussed U.S.-Georgian relations and the state of Georgia's Jewish community.

President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoev visited with President Trump at the White House on Wednesday. It was the first time since 2002 that an Uzbek president made an official visit to the United States. The two leaders discussed the U.S.-Uzbek bilateral relationship, including increasing trade opportunities. President Mirziyoev has sought to open his country to the world since succeeding Islam Karimov, who ruled Uzbekistan for 25 years until his death in 2016. 

We have announced speakers for our June 5 Board of Governors meeting in Washington, DC. Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblet, Chief Curator of the Core Exhibition at the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jewry in Warsaw, Poland; Matthew Rojansky, Director of the Wilson Center's Kennan Institute; Gideon Taylor, Chair of Operations at the World Jewish Restitution Organization; and H.E. Ambassador Erzhan Kazykhanov of Kazakhstan will be joining us. If you have not already, please RSVP to David Shulman at dshulman@ncsej.org, or 202-898-2500. We hope to see you there.

We wish everyone a Shavuot Sameach.


Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Washington, D.C. May 18, 2018

House panel approves bills on anti-Semitism envoy, combating genocide

Jewish Telegraphic Agency, May 18, 2018

The U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee approved two bills that have wide Jewish organizational backing, one to enhance the role of the anti-Semitism monitor and the other, named for Elie Wiesel, to make combating genocide a U.S. policy.

Both bills were approved Thursday with bipartisan support.

The “Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Act” was authored by Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., who helped author the 2004 law that created the position of the anti-Semitism monitor. It would elevate the position to ambassador level and require the president to nominate someone for the position within 90 days of its passage.

Read the full article here.

Uzbekistan's Mirziyoev Meets Trump In 'Historic' White House Visit

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, May 16, 2018

U.S. President Donald Trump has held talks with Uzbek counterpart Shavkat Mirziyoev in the White House, as the Central Asian leader looks to raise the profile of a country long isolated by the repressive rule of his predecessor.

The May 16 meeting marked the first time since 2002 that an Uzbek president has made an official visit to the United States.

Mirziyoev's visit comes as he takes steps to implement reforms at home and improve ties with the outside world following more than a quarter-century of iron-fisted rule under Islam Karimov, who died in 2016.

Before the start of the talks in the Oval Office, Trump described his Uzbek counterpart as "a highly respected man in his country and throughout."

Soros Foundations Leaving Hungary Under Government Pressure

By Marc Santora

New York Times, May 15, 2018

Under intense political pressure and the threat of legal sanctions, George Soros’s Open Society Foundations said on Tuesday that it had become impossible to work in Hungary, whose prime minister has blamed Mr. Soros for the country’s problems, and that the foundations would move their operations to Berlin.

The foundations, which promote democracy, free expression and civil rights, have come under growing political and legal pressure from Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has stifled dissent and declared last week that “the era of liberal democracy is over.” The foundations have been a frequent target of the Hungarian government, and Mr. Orban himself has painted Mr. Soros as a shadowy figure seeking to undermine the country’s sovereignty.

Read the full article here.

The Authoritarian Belt in Europe’s East

By Mykhailo Minakov

Kennan Institute Focus Ukraine Blog, May 15, 2018

With the fall of the Eastern bloc and the Soviet Union (1989–91), Eastern Europe, a huge region extending from the Northern Ocean to the Bosporus and from the Ural Mountains to the Adriatic Sea, became the scene of dramatic political and socioeconomic change. A sense of optimism prevailed among observers, coloring interpretations of the diverse events unfolding in each society and across the region as a whole since 1989. The end of the communist experiment spurred hope for greater freedoms and human rights in post-communist and post-Soviet countries. The subsequent illiberal turn in the East has taken many by surprise.

Read the full article here.

The East-West Divide in Europe’s History Wars

By Georgiy Kasianov

Carnegie Moscow Center, May 14, 2018

More than a decade after the former Communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe joined the European Union, there is a widespread belief that deeper European integration has got stuck. Most of the analysis explaining why this is so focuses on issues of economics, political institutions, and corruption. But a big reason why this is so comes from different narratives of history.

From Poland to Bulgaria, this is a region that, as Winston Churchill once reputedly said of the Balkans, “produces more history than it consumes.” Recent amendments to Poland’s law on the Institute of National Remembrance are a prime example. The amended law now outlaws any public claim that the Polish nation bears responsibility for and participated in the Holocaust. It puts the actions of “Ukrainian nationalists” on a par with those of Nazi and Communist regimes. This change has caused a strong backlash in the United States, Ukraine, and Israel.

Read the full article here.

Assad Meets Putin in a Surprise Visit to Russia

By Andrew Kramer

New York Times, May 17, 2018

President Bashar al-Assad of Syria paid a surprise visit to Russia on Thursday and was told by President Vladimir V. Putin that Russia expected “foreign armed forces” to pull out of Syria as a peace process began.

It was not immediately clear which foreign troops Mr. Putin referred to, as Russia, Iran, the United States and other nations have forces in the country. Mr. Putin said such a withdrawal would be part of a settlement of the country’s long civil war.

Both Iran and Russian forces are fighting on Mr. Assad’s side in Syria. If Mr. Putin was pointing to Iran’s military presence in Syria — which this month flared into an exchange of hostilities with Israel — his comment could suggest a Russian role in preventing Iran from becoming entrenched there.

Read the full article here.

Putin’s bridge to Crimea illustrates his power — and his regime’s weak spot

By Anton Troianovski

Washington Post, May 15, 2018

President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday opened a $4 billion bridge directly linking Russia to Crimea, giving him a propaganda victory that drew condemnation from the West and served as the latest demonstration of his personalized system of power.

Putin, clad in jeans and a jacket, walked on the Russian end of the 12-mile-long, four-lane bridge alongside the business mogul who built it — Arkady Rotenberg, the president’s former judo partner. Then Putin took the wheel and drove over the Kerch Strait of the Black Sea in an orange Kamaz dump truck — manufactured by a state-owned company headed by Sergey Chemezov, Putin’s KGB colleague in East Germany in the 1980s. Both Rotenberg and Chemezov are under U.S. sanctions.

Read the full article here.

The World Cup in Russia could be a display of bigotry, xenophobia and ultranationalism

By Jules Boykoff

Los Angeles Times, May 14, 2018

The World Cup opens in Moscow a month from today, an 11-city, four-week chanting, flag-waving showcase for the world's most popular sport and, this time around, for Vladimir Putin's Russia.

Conventional wisdom has it that with Putin in charge (he was inaugurated again last week for his fourth term), the quadrennial world soccer championships will run like clockwork. Back in 2013, Jerome Valcke, then secretary-general of FIFA, soccer's international governing body, said as much: "I will say something which is crazy, but less democracy is sometimes better for organizing a World Cup…. When you have a very strong head of state who can decide, as maybe Putin can do in 2018 … that is easier for organizers."

Read the full article here.

Kremlin Critics Could Face Prosecution For 'Enabling' Western Sanctions

By Carl Schreck

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, May 16, 2018

Kremlin opponents could face criminal prosecution under new Russian legislation proposing possible prison sentences for Russians who adhere to or promote international sanctions targeting Moscow, one of the bill’s authors said on May 16.

The remarks by lawmaker Andrei Isayev came a day after the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, unanimously gave initial approval to the draft legislation, which is seen as a response to U.S.-imposed sanctions on Russian officials, tycoons, and companies.

Isayev specifically identified Vladimir Kara-Murza, a prominent critic of President Vladimir Putin, as a potential target for authorities under the legislation.

He cited Kara-Murza’s vigorous lobbying for U.S. and European sanctions imposed on Russian officials over Moscow's human rights record.

Ukrainian mayor and diplomat caught engaging in anti-Semitic rhetoric

Jewish Telegraphic Agency, May 15, 2018

Amid international pressure on Ukraine over its perceived tolerance of anti-Semitism, a local mayor and a diplomat were documented engaging hate speech against Jews.

The mayor of the village of Skole, located 60 miles southwest of Lviv, inveighed against Jews during a recent lecture before city councilmen. Eduard Dolinsky, director of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, posted a video on Facebook of Mayor Vlodimyr Moskal’s address on Monday.

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.