THE PROBLEM OF JEWISH-UKRAINIAN RELATIONS

Jews have lived on Ukrainian soil for over a thousand years if one considers the Khazars Jews. Jews from Palestine came to Ukraine via Western Europe about six centuries ago. In any event, there has been ample time for good neighborly relations to develop between the indigenous population and the Jewish immigrants.

Relations between the enslaved nation and the immigrant oppressors, as in the case of the Poles and Russians, is entirely different from the relations between the indigenous population and peaceful immigrants such as the Greeks, the Serbs and Bulgarians along the Black Sea strip or the Czechs, Germans and Byelorussians in the northwest. These peaceful immigrants either slowly became "ukrainianized" or preserved their ethnic heritage without causing conflict with the autochthonous Ukrainian population.

Neither in ancient times, in Kievan Rus nor in the fourteenth century nor thereafter did Jews come to Ukraine as conquerors or occupiers. They came to seek shelter, fleeing from Western Europe's savage persecution. They should have quickly established good-neighborly relations with the Ukrainian population, and earned its respect, as did the Greeks, Serbs, Bulgarians, Czechs and Germans who emigrated to Ukraine.

It turned out quite differently, however. Why? Who was at fault? Was it the landlords, who could not and cannot please uninvited guests or was it perhaps the "guests", who behaved in such a fashion that the hosts' patience was sorely tried?

Professor Stefan Possony, a researcher at the Hoover Institute in Stanford, California, in his work on "plural relations" focused on the problem of Jews in Ukraine and came to this conclusion:

"Insofar as the Jews are concerned, they seem to be persuaded, in an overwhelming majority, that the Ukrainians are incurably anti-Semitic. Hence Jewish organizations have repeatedly engaged in strong anti-Ukrainian propaganda. Thus, the traditional roles are reversed: the Jews who usually are targets of hostile propaganda are cast in the role of persecutors of the Ukrainians. This is not to say that Jewish propaganda against Czarist and Communist Russian anti-Semitism and against German Nazism was weak or non-existent. The difference is that the persecution of the Jews by the Nazis was an indisputable fact, while that of anti-Semitic persecution by Ukrainain governments is not; and that Communist Russian anti-Semitism which is real enough has been acknowledged only after much hesitation and delay, and somehow is but rarely taken seriously". (Ukrainian Quarterly, Summer 1975, p. 139-140.)

As to the accusations of Jewish "pogroms" by Ukrainains during the period of Khmelnytsky, Professor Possony affirms in his thesis:

"Massacres were frequent during the period, which is that of the Thirty Years War. The massacres and sack of Magdeburg in 1631 was most terrible. The outrage was perpet rated by troops under the command of Jan Tilly who is not blamed for the crime but is regarded as innocent".

Professor Possony also remembers, that in the times of Khmelnytsky's battles, the most terrible pogrom of the Jews was caused in Lublin by the Polish Army. But the Jews stubbornly reserve antagonistic blame for anti-Semitism and pogroms for Ukrainians.

In 1961 a distinguished Jewish journalist, in a thesis, "Ukrainians and Jews", wrote:

"On June 18, 1961, Israel's President Issac Ben-Zvi received 150 representatives of Ukrainian Jewry now resident in the Jewish State. Himself born in Ukraine, where he organized the first Jewish self-defense unit at Poltava to protect the local Jewish community from a wave of Russian anti-Semitic pogroms, in 1905, the President was proud to see top Israeli Cabinet ministers, scientists, poets, writers, educators, statesmen, parliamentary leaders and army generals among the 150 Ukrainian Jews invited to his residence in Jerusalem.

Mr. Ben-Zvi stressed again and again that the contribution of Ukrainian Jewry to Israel's growth and development cannot be overestimated. The Ukrainian Jewry, the President declared, was the spearhead of modern Zionism which redeemed the Holy Land from twenty centuries of neglect and oppression and gave the dispersed and persecuted Jews firm soil under their feet". (Ukrainian Quarterly, v. XVII, No.2, 1961 p. 107).

It would seem that if those 150 leading Jewish intellectuals, who were born and raised in Ukraine, couldn't have freely nurtured and developed their culture and preserved their traditions in any other country in the world, then out of gratitude for the hospitality of Ukraine they would defend the good honor of the Ukrainian nation against the malicious and hostile blame for "traditional anti-Semitism" and pogroms.

But - vain expectations! With the exception of an exemplary few, who initiated joint relations with Ukrainians in the free world, this new wave of Jews from the Ukraine continued to fanatically blame Ukrainians for traditional anti-Semitism, and were still preoccupied with Jewish pogroms.

Within the past two years, Ukrainian-Jewish relations have been evolving in two oposite directions. On the one hand, Ukrainian-Jewish and Jewish-Ukrainian associations such as the Jewish-Ukrainian cooperation societies in Israel and in the U.S. have been established. On the other hand, Jewish anti-Ukrainian activities have proliferated especially in the U.S. Hostile Jewish authors in their articles, pamphlets and books represent Ukrainians as "historical and unrelenting" anti-Semites. The United States Special Investigation Commission of the Department of Justice, created for uncovering and prosecuting "war criminals", has under pressure of Jewish extremists groups taken on a character of a Jewish "Holy Inquisition" bent on a witch hunt among the Ukrainian immigrants in the United States.

Ukrainians, especially those with a higher education, who settled in the United States after World War II accepted Jewish-Ukrainian cooperation with enthusiasm. Dr. Stern, who came from Israel to visit and lecture within Ukrainian communities in the U.S., was better received than, for example, the Ukrainian political prisoner Karavansky and his wife. Dr. Stern, however, had lived in the USSR, but had in no way associated himself with the Ukrainian national struggle and national rights movement. One of the Ukrainian insurance organizations immediately assigned him several thousand dollars as a gift. He was paid for each lecture appearance and, in addition, a book about him was published and sold for him. Almost all Ukrainian ethnic "centers" try for the most part to establish contact with Jewish-Ukrainian societies. There was even no lack of Ukrainian "politicians" and "scholars" who were ready to publicly accept as truth the Jewish accusations of the Ukrainian nation's "traditional anti-Semitism", to publicly beat their breast and to beg forgiveness...

What was the Jewish response? Did at least one Jewish-Ukrainian society in the U.S.A., or at least one Jewish intellectual or political activist, dare to publicly come forward in the media against Jewish attacks on Ukrainians? In light of the judicial proceedings against Ukrainians for "war crimes" (because, supposedly, they were antisemitic and forty years ago were in the Ukrainian police), the largely Jewish-dominated American media was frenzied by the attacks on Ukrainians. Young Jewish Nazis noisily demonstrated against suspected (not convicted, merely suspected!) forty-year-old wrongs inflicted on any of the Jews, stressed that the accused was Ukrainian! Even the first in a series of trials for "war crimes", that of Fedorenko, was incessantly designated as Ukrainian, even though he is a "Soviet" man, and has never revealed anywhere that he was Ukrainian. He was taken prisoner as a soldier of the Soviet army, volunteered for service in the German police at the appeal of Russian General Vlasov, came to the U.S. as a Russian through the efforts of the Tolstoy Foundation, belonged to the Russian Orthodox Church, and, finally, after the conviction, volunteered to return to the U.S.S.R., since earlier he had traveled from the U.S.A. to the U.S.S.R. But for anti-Ukrainian propaganda he was Ukrainian.

The Jewish journalist, Davidovich, moreover, published an anti-Ukrainian diatribe in the New York Times, in the same, exact style as the Hitlerian Schturmer once wrote against the Jews. Yet there was not one public voice on the part of the Jews in defense of Ukrainians, against the unprovoked Jewish attacks. Nonetheless, an old-country mocking Jewish proverb unintentionally comes to mind: "Ivan is mad for Sally, And at her feet he'll lay, But Sally will not deign to give him a "Good Day"...

Surprised by this state of Jewish-Ukrainian relations, Ukrainians are attempting to explain that this is an implacable anti-Ukrainian tendency of the Jews in the U.S. In Israel, however, the Jews have sobered up in their treatment of Ukrainians, and are seeking contact with Ukrainians for collaboration against a mutual enemy - Moscow. Proof of this, so to speak appearance of societies for Jewish-Ukrainian team-work. As proof of this resolution, the Ukrainian press stated as fact, that "this is the first time in the history of modem Ukrainian-Jewish mutual relations that the government of Israel invited three Ukrainians from Chicago as guests of Israel, and they were met there with a very warm reception".

Is this actually so? The right answer could be given only by a private trip to Israel in order to verify this in person, through meetings and conversations with various people.