Weekly Top 10
 
 
 
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. January 29, 2021
 
TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties

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

Dear Friend,

During Holocaust International Remembrance Day in Lithuania, Valdas Rakutis, a member of the Lithuanian parliament and chairman of the historical memory commission stated  "there was no shortage of Holocaust perpetrators among the Jews themselves, especially in the ghetto self-government structures. We need to name these people out loud and try not to have people like them again." NCSEJ contacted the Embassy of Lithuania who provided the following statement from the Lithuanian government.  The Jewish Community of Lithuania also released a statement today.

We learned this morning that Valdas Rakutis resigned from his position as head of the Commission over his comments on the Holocaust.  We support the Lithuanian government's quick action to have him step down. 

Please read the moving article in The Washington Jewish Week by Ben Gorvine, the son of Deputy Director Lesley Weiss, about his reaction to the events of January 6th.
 
 
Sincerely,
 
 
Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
NCSEJ WEEKLY TOP 10
Washington, D.C. January 29, 2021

Rakutis quits as head of parliament's commission over Holocaust comments​​​​​​​
Delfi.en | January 29, 2021

The parliamentarian said in a statement on Friday that he decided to quit because he had been asked to by the leadership of the Homeland Union–Lithuanian Christian Democrats and its parliamentary group and because he wanted to take political responsibility for his comments.

"I hope that this step will help to eliminate unnecessary tensions both at home and abroad (...) and will allow further discussion to develop in a more constructive direction," he said.

Rakutis, a historian by education, said that in his op-ed published on Wednesday, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, he wanted to say that the occasion required not only paying tribute to the victims, but also analyzing the causes and manifestations of the phenomenon


In Holocaust memorial day speech, Lithuanian lawmaker says Jews and communists share blame
Cnaan Liphshiz 
JTA | January 19, 2021

(JTA) — In an unusual move, the U.S. ambassador to Lithuania accused a local senior lawmaker of distorting the history of the Holocaust and blaming Jews for it.

Robert Gilchrist, who took up the post in February last year, made the accusation following a speech Wednesday by Valdas Rakutis, a member of the Seimas, Lithuania’s parliament, and chairman of its commission on historical memory.

“There was no shortage of Holocaust perpetrators among the Jews themselves, especially in the ghetto self-government structures,” Rakutis said in the speech, which took place on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. “We need to name these people out loud and try not to have people like them again.”

Rakutis also said that two wartime collaborators with Nazi Germany, Kazys Škirpa and Jonas Noreika, were not to blame for the fact that more than 95% of Lithuanian Jewry was murdered, mostly by locals and often by followers of the two leaders.

The speech prompted rare recrimination from the U.S. ambassador, as well as from advocates who monitor anti-Semitism in the region.


Lithuanian Jewish Community Chairwoman Demands Investigation for Holocaust Denial
Lithuanian Jewish Community | January 29, 2021

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky reacted to MP Valdas Rakutis’s statement on the Holocaust by demanding the Office of General Prosecutor initiate a pre-trial investigation on Holocaust denial and distortion.
“Representing the Lithuanian Jewish Community, I demand … the prosecutor general begin a pre-trial investigation on Holocaust denial and distortion.

“Crumbs don’t satisfy us. We, citizens of Lithuania, Jews living here, demand the rule of law and defense of our basic rights. And in the end, you should feel shame before those whose blood soaks the land of Lithuania,” Kukliansky said in a statement to the press.

The Office of Prosecutor General said they would consider beginning an investigation after they receive a complaint. “Currently this complaint has not yet been received, but if it is received, it will be considered in the prescribed manner and the corresponding decision will be made,” Office of Prosecutor General press representative Elena Martinonienė told BNS.


‘Camp Auschwitz’ in the Capitol
Ben Gorvine
Washington Jewish Week | January 27, 2021

It’s the morning of Jan. 7 — the day after the U.S. Capitol was brought to its knees by either terrorists or patriots, depending on who you ask. I reach for my phone and begin scrolling through my Twitter feed, looking for any coverage I could find about the riots. I find myself staring at a picture of a man who had broken into the Capitol. The front of his hoodie reads “Camp Auschwitz.” “Staff” is printed on the back.

I hope my grandmother doesn’t see this, I think.


Two cities in Europe symbolically mark Holocaust, Tu Bishvat with trees
The Jerusalem Post
Sarah Ben-Nun | January 29, 2021

In two European cities, Kiev and Dortmund, trees were planted in the center of town on Thursday.

They were planted in a nod to Tu Bishvat, but also in the shadow of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which was commemorated worldwide yesterday, acknowledging and respecting the tragic Jewish past in Europe, with eyes to a
brighter future.

On Tu Bishvat in 2020, last year, trees were planted in a park in the center of Kiev. The project was completed a year later, and on Tu Bishvat 2021 the Israeli embassy in Kiev officially dedicated the park, aptly naming it for the friendly relations between Israel and the Ukraine.


Court Keeps Navalny In Jail As Russian Authorities Step Up Campaign Against Allies
Radio Free Europe | January 28, 2021

MOSCOW -- A Russian court has rejected opposition leader Aleksei Navalny's appeal against his arrest as authorities stepped up their campaign against the Kremlin critic with new detentions of his associates and warnings by police they will crack down on protesters expected to take to the streets this weekend in support of the 44-year-old lawyer.

Judge Musa Musayev said at a court hearing on January 28 that Navalny will remain behind bars until February 15, upholding a previous ruling ordering Navalny be incarcerated to allow a different court to decide in early February on converting a suspended 3 1/2 year sentence into real jail time in relation to an embezzlement case that is widely considered trumped up and politically
motivated.

Navalny, who took part in the hearing via a video link, called his arrest a sign of the “lawlessness” that has become commonplace in Russia “with a goal to frighten me and everyone else.”

“They want to muzzle people like me," Navalny said, adding that Russia's current authorities "are not masters of our country and they will never be."

"Yes, the power now is on your side, but that will not last forever," Navalny said.
After the judge’s ruling, Navalny’s team announced that it planned to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.



In phone call with Putin, Biden did not hold back: White House
Reuters | January 28, 2021

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Joe Biden “did not hold back” in his phone call this week with Russian President Vladimir Putin, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Thursday.

Biden brought up Russia’s treatment of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny and other difficult issues in the phone call.

“He did not hold back in conveying his concern about the treatment of Alexei Navlany and his treatment of protesters,” Psaki told reporters. She said Biden “had never held back as it relates to President Putin or his concerns about the actions of the Russian government and he certainly conveyed that clearly in the call.”

Read the full article here.
'Hate Never Disappears. It Just Takes a Break for a While.' Why the U.S. Capitol Attack Makes Holocaust Remembrance Day More Important Than Ever
Olivia Waxman
Time Magazine | January 25, 2021

Among the most shocking images from the Jan. 6 insurrection on Capitol Hill were pictures of a man wearing a sweatshirt that said “Camp Auschwitz” and “work brings freedom.” It’s an anti-Semitic reference to the Nazi concentration camp and extermination center where over 1 million Jewish people died or were murdered during the Holocaust.

The hoodie-wearer Robert Keith Packer was arrested in Virginia a week after the attack on Jan. 13. Two days later, at an emotional press conference, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi choked up when she singled him out as “one figure” that stood out to her the most after watching “so many disgusting images.”

“To see this punk with that shirt on and his anti-Semitism that he has bragged about…be part of a white supremacist raid on this Capitol, requires us to have an after-action review to assign responsibility who are part of organizing it and incentivizing it,” she said.

To scholars of the history of anti-Semitism and Holocaust history, however, the anti-Semitism on display was shocking, but not new. To them it was the latest example in a long history of the association between white supremacist groups and pro-Nazi sentiment in America that predates World War II. In fact, in the 1930s, many Americans admired aspects of Adolf Hitler’s agenda, and pro-Nazi Americans rallied at Madison Square Garden.


Kyrgyzstan: Japarov sworn in as president, pledges justice and prosperity
Ayzirek Imanaliyeva 
Eurasia.org | January 28, 2021

Sadyr Japarov pledged to create “a dictatorship of law, where justice and prosperity prevail” as he was sworn in as Kyrgyzstan’s sixth president on January 28.

As Japarov formally assumes control over a country he has in effect been running since late October, in the wake of a revolt that toppled his predecessor,
Sooronbai Jeenbekov, he will now focus on pushing through reforms to consolidate his authority further.

“We are facing the beginning of a new stage of history,” he said.
During his swearing-in ceremony, Japarov played up his nationalist-patriotic credentials, waving the national flag and joining the crowd in singing the national anthem.

Among the guests of honor were Jeenbekov, who now becomes the first Kyrgyz president to be overthrown without being forced to go into exile, the head of the security services and old Japarov ally, Kamchybek Tashiyev, and Talant Mamytov, who has been keeping the president’s seat warm in an interim capacity for the past few weeks.

Japarov, who had been serving a prison sentence on kidnapping charges at the time of the unrest of October 5, has his work cut out. He begins his time in power at the helm of an economy flattened by the COVID-19 pandemic. Even once the epidemiological crisis has blown through, it is difficult to see what options Kyrgyzstan possesses to achieve the prosperity Japarov is promising.
Public sentiment appears largely behind Japarov for now, but even the inauguration was not untroubled by controversy. In the weeks ahead of the ceremony, it was announced that 10 million som ($118,000) were being earmarked for the event – a barely affordable expense for an unscheduled inauguration. On January 22, Japarov sought to defuse the irritation by saying that he would forego pomp and a motorcade.


The Pandemic Has Failed to Unite Russia and Europe
Alexander Baunov
Carnegie Moscow Center | January 27, 2021

For many years, it was assumed that if the United States drifted away from its alliance with Europe, that would result in Europe becoming closer to Russia. Until recently, that scenario seemed purely hypothetical. Then Donald Trump was elected U.S. president, and the theory was put to the test.

Trump’s political nationalism and opinion that Europe was a freeloading ally, his euro- and NATO-skepticism, his support for Brexit, and unilateral withdrawal from agreements that were valued by Europe—such as the Paris agreement on climate change and the Iran nuclear deal—quickly drove a wedge between Europe and the United States. The pandemic and Trump’s behavior during the 2020 U.S. presidential election only made things worse. For the first time in over half a century, Europe has been forced to distance itself from U.S. leadership. 

Yet the global crisis caused by the pandemic did not lead to a rapprochement between Europe and Russia, or drive Europe to look for a quick replacement for a discredited United States. On the contrary, Europe demonstrated that it exists not just as a branch of the Greater West or Greater Eurasia, but as a separate and fully independent and self-sufficient world region. This “European isolation” (to quote the political scientist Ivan Krastev) does not, however, include Russia.


The Plot to Purge Jews in Eastern Europe
Bob Ryan
The Times of Israel | January 28, 2021

An anti-Semitic leader in Europe had made things increasingly difficult for the Jews during his reign. A plan was put in place to send the Jews in cattle cars to be taken to camps to be starved, beaten, occasionally shot and worked to death without concern for the elements. This is not a reference to Hitler, but Stalin.

The NIH (National Institute of Health), published a paper written by Dr. A. Mark Clarfield, Director, Medical School for International Health, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel, called The Soviet Doctors’ Plot – 50 yeas on, which makes numerous references to Stalin’s anti-Semitism leading up to his plot to purge the Soviet Union of the entirety of the Jewish population. One of the many references found in the article states, “Stalin had long manifested his hatred not only of Jews but, by extension, of Jewish nationalism (Zionism).”


Year 2020 in Review: Uzbekistan Grapples With Pandemic, Disasters, Russian Pressure
Fozil Mashrab
The Jamestown Foundation | January 28, 2021

The fourth year of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev rule proved his most difficult yet, not only because of the COVID-19 pandemic but also due to a series of natural and man-made disasters throughout 2020 that tested the Uzbekistani government’s strength to its limits. Poor-quality engineering and construction works in a number of the government-funded projects as well as the annual onset of crippling energy shortages in winter all challenged President Mirziyoyev’s rhetoric of building a “New Uzbekistan” and “laying the foundations for the Renaissance.”

Like many other countries, Uzbekistan was not prepared for the pandemic’s outbreak in early 2020. Testing kits arrived on March 14 from Russia, and on March 15, the authorities officially identified the country’s first case—an individual who had been among a group of travelers that arrived from France (Gazeta.uz, March 15, 2020).

Many local experts who evaluated the government’s early response to the novel coronavirus agree that it was ultimately the wrong approach. Tashkent initially spent tens of millions of dollars on constructing special quarantine centers for all those arriving from abroad and then kept all those people there at the government’s expense (Podrobno.uz, March 27, 2020). But this strategy quickly exhausted the limited state fund set aside for dealing with the growing health crisis. Later, when those resources began to dwindle, Uzbekistan’s government was forced to radically change its policies and began requiring all those arriving from abroad to stay at a hotel at their own expense. Patients experiencing lighter cases of the disease were instructed to undergo treatment at home instead of being hospitalized (Gazeta.uz, June 22, 2020).

Throughout the pandemic, government-provided health statistics were routinely questioned and methods of counting the fatalities criticized. The authorities’ compiled figures routinely did not match the number of COVID-19-related death reported by independent sources. Yet these discrepancies kept emerging despite the state’s tight control over the information on the pandemic that was being released. And notably, the government eventually stopped publicly touting the official numbers showing supposedly a low percentage of death among the population (Currenttime.tv, November 12, 2020). As of January 27, 2021, the official tally of deaths from COVID-19 in Uzbekistan stood at 621.


Russian Groupthink
Gulnaz Sharafutdinova
Riddle.io | January 28, 2021

The Levada center has recently published the results of a survey exploring the reaction of Russian citizens to the poisoning of Alexei Navalny, the country’s main opposition politician. The survey was conducted after the publication of the joint investigation by Bellingcat, CNN and The Insider that presented detailed evidence about FSB officers trailing Navalny over a period of a few years. The Levada survey revealed that only 15% of respondents viewed the poisoning as an attempt of the Russian state to murder a political opponent. 30% of respondents said the incident was “staged” and 19% said that foreign intelligence agencies arranged the poisoning.

For those familiar with the uncovered evidence associated with the Navalny poisoning investigation and those who listened to Navalny’s phone conversation with one of the officers responsible for the clean-up operation, these findings might be eyebrow-raising. Indeed, this was not the first time we encounter these sorts of public perceptions. In 2016, only 14% of Russian citizens (again according to the Levada center) found the WADA commission reported evidence on manipulation of doping tests by Russian athletes during the Sochi Olympics to be convincing.

These public opinion patterns do not come out of the blue. In fact, they highlight major differences in information processing and individual-level judgment conditioned by the affective politics the Kremlin has promoted since around 2012. This politics was born as a response to the 2011-2012 protests. The Pussy Riot affair marked the beginning of the Kremlin’s new turn towards traditional values and emotion-driven collective identity. One can plausibly suggest that the public opinion patterns revealed in relation to the Navalny poisoning show the lasting effect of this new political legitimation strategy that appeals to Russian citizens’ sense of belonging to the Russian state. When the top news events are framed with reference to national identity, people tend to form their judgments in the context of perceived external threats and rivalry. The resultant impulse is to defend and even glorify in-group members and group leaders. Suc