THE ASSOCIATION FOR JEWISH-UKRAINIAN COOPERATION
During my stay in Israel, I had many an opportunity to meet with the members of the Association for Jewish-Ukrainian Cooperation individually; while at the end of my sojourn, I met with all the members of the Executive Board at a separate confercnce. Yakov Suslensky is the chief executive officer; he reported on the current condition and work of the Association, while I expressed my views on what the Association should do. Afterwards others who were present also took part in an informal discussion.
In the past, there were several attempts to organize a Jewish-Ukrainian association. But all failed. In the 1970's, the Committee for Jewish Ukrainian Cooperation was created with A. Feldman as president, and R. Palatnik as secretary. But in 1981, the organization split. J. Suslensky was accused of traveling to the U.S. as a representative of the Committee without authorization and refusing to account for the donations collected in the U.S., and subsequently expelled. Suslensky accused the Committee of inertia, and created his Association for Hebrew-Ukrainian Cooperation.
Presently, the membership is small. Assistance from the government or some Israeli establishment is nil. Rather, the opposite is true, and there is open hostility towards it everywhere. The Association is relying on the help of Ukrainians. First of all, Suslensky insists, the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America should offer some sort of financial support, and invite members of the Association to the U.S.A. for lectures, as it did in the case of Dr. Stern. Then also, as many Ukrainians in America as possible should join the, Association, paying 40 dollars in annual dues, in order to create a financial base for the Association in Israel. American Ukrainians should, furthermore, organize an ex hibit and sale of the paintings of Jewish artists who live in Israel; Ukrainian periodicals and scientific establishments should order various theses and scientific works from the Israeli members of the Association, etc. These plans were formed on the assumption that Ukrainians in America are a 'rich uncle' who will gladly help the Association financially.
In my remarks, I unfortunately had to shatter all these illusions and dreams. Ukrainians in America would themselves be glad to find some 'rich uncle' with bagfuls of dollars who would strengthen the half-empty coffers of the various Ukrainian organizations and establishments. Interest in Israeli lectures has failed, and there is no one to finance such deficient lectures. It could be possible to organize an exhibit of paintings by Israeli Jews in America, but if it were limited only to Ukrainians, there would be no chance of financial profit. There are already quite a few Ukrainian painters in America, who are looking for patrons, buyers, and their number is augmented by Ukrainian artists from Poland, Yugoslavia and South America who bring or send their paintings to the U.S. Such an exhibit in America could only be shown among Jews; many of them are wealthy, so they can buy all the artistic works sent from Israel even if it's only to support Israel and Israeli artists.
Of the Ukrainian institutions in America, only the Ukrainian Institute at Harvard has any real funds. The UCCA, the super-structure of all organizations and establishments in the U.S.A., collects for its annual budget three times less than the Ukrainian Institute at Harvard receives in interest from its inyested funds. Therefore, ties should be established with this Institute. To find members among Ukrainians who annually would pay forty dollars as membership dues to the Association for Hebrew-Ukrainian Cooperation is likewise not so easy. Even the Ukrainian National and Providence Life Insurance Associations have difficulty finding new members among Ukrainians who would pay a modest sum for their own security.
My view of the Association's duties was entirely different. Most Ukrainians are ready for a sincere dialogue and for cooperation with Jews, but only on terms of equality and against a mutual enemy - imperialist Red Russia. The Ukrainians need no convincing; it is the Jews who must be convinced. This is why the Association should be active among Jews: organize the appearance of Jewish and Ukrainian lecturers for Jews in Israel and America; submit articles to the Jewish press in Israel and America with explanations of the unsubstantiated and harmful (even to the Jews themselves) accusations against Ukrainians of 'traditional anti-Semitism'; enlighten the Jews in America that their abuse of the U.S. Office of Special Investigation of War Criminals for the persecution of innocent Ukrainians - and consequently for besmirching all Ukrainians - is a disservice to the Jews themselves. What is more, articles should be submitted to the Israeli press about Ukraine and Ukrainians, showing them in a positive light. Anything pertaining to Ukraine in the Israeli press and magazines should be noted, and sundry slanderous or simply erroneous information and views should be clarified. In America, the Association should enlist as many members and sympathizers as possible from among the Jews. Jews are numerous in America, they are mostly affluent, and therefore they should give a financial base to the Association, as well as influence the government of Israel to stand in defense of Ukrainians.
Israel is a member of the various international organizations, such as the UN, where Soviet Moscow very frequently attacks Israel's imperialism. Why, in these instances, doesn't Israel reply with an attack on the brutal Russian imperialism, and the savage enslavement and destruction of Ukrainians? Why doesn't the government of Israel make the world consider the tragic position of Ukraine, and indicate that it is not in Africa, but in Eastern Europe that nations must be freed from a colonial yoke - the yoke of Moscow. A Ukrainian proverb says: 'Don't kiss my lips when they're sweet, but kiss them when they're bitter!' The Jews shouldn't wait to cooperate and make friends with Ukrainians until an independent Ukrainian government arises. Rather they, and particularly Israel should assist the Ukrainians now, when they are in need.
Scepticism, disbelief and bewilderment could be seen on the faces of my audience. It was expressed somewhat pointedly later by Mr. Suslensky in his conversation with me.
"These are all fantasies! Impossible dreams! Indeed - to go among the Jews and to tell them that Khmelnytsky, the 'Hajdamaky', Petlura are all Ukrainian national heroes: that they have been maliciously and falsely accused by the Jews of being pogromists? Why, even children in Israel are being taught that those eras were periods of the most brutal destruction of the Jews. To make a frontal attack against all Jews is beyond our capabilities. And the same holds true of influences in the government of Israel to raise the matter of Moscow's brutal enslavement of Ukraine in the UN and elsewhere. Why should it be Israel that does this? Why should Israel irritate Moscow and turn its rage against itself? Such an action would undoubtedly be extremely harmful to Israel's interests. Our work must begin with something simple, noncontroversial".
"True, you can play around with non-controversial topics and activities. But if your Association is to have any long-range influence, then it must devote itself to these tasks which I have listed. Only then will Ukrainians see the sense in belonging to the Association for Jewish-Ukrainian Cooperation".