Extremism, xenophobia and political strategies: how it’s done

02.03.2014

Translation of the article by Vyacheslav Likhachev, source on Russian

Real and imaginary anti-Semitism

Political crisis caused by the confrontation of authorities based on violence and repressive apparatus, and the active part of society, which appeared on the streets by the end of January, reached its climax. Today collision that occurred on December 1 in Bankova Str. is remembered almost as entertaining walk.

Despite the global nature of the events and processes with the hundreds of thousands of people involved, “Jewish theme” we are interested in  is not lost on the background of more important events related to the country and society. The theme “Jews and EuroMaidan” is strongly exaggerated not only in the Jewish media. It has become quite noticeable, for reasons which I will discuss below. But first of all, I think it is important to give the right place for this topic in a broader context.

Hundreds of thousands of people have appeared in the streets of Ukrainian cities. Hundreds, perhaps even thousands of them, are the radical nationalists, but they do not constitute even 1% of the protesters and not determine the overall profile of the protest movement. The geography of the protests is stretching from the western regions to Kharkov, Dnepropetrovsk, Zaporozhye, and Odessa. Nevertheless, the government is trying to play on the familiar notes and represent the opposition as so-called “national extremists against stability”. In May last year authorities formed a non-sophisticated political technology paradigm of media coverage of the confrontation with opposition forces being portrayed  as Nazis, Bandera’s followers, bullies, and conspirators.

It is not very convincing, though, but there is a certain segment of the society in which it operates, to mobilize supporters authorities are appealing to the Soviet and post-Soviet Russian symbolism associated with the “victory over fascism.” Hence we may see St. George’s ribbons worn by so-called volunteers of “Berkut” holding batons and traumatic guns. Once they are enemies – the Nazis and Bandera’s followers, according to the stereotype of Soviet propaganda, it means that they must be anti-Semitic also. Especially if anti-Semitism of the opposition can be convincingly introduced to the world community, then perhaps it will not be too critical of Ukrainian authorities for using force against protesters – but how else to treat those Nazis?

The only problem is that neither formal political opposition nor broad public protest movement don’t give any real grounds for accusations of anti-Semitism. Conversely! On the stage of Maidan there were a rabbi, the chairman of the Association of Jewish Communities and Organizations (Vaad) of Ukraine Joseph Zissels, praying and addressing speeches to protesters, as well as Klezmer Ensemble, performing songs in Yiddish. All the mentioned above did not only cause any adverse reaction of the audience, but on the contrary – support and keen interest of protesters, including nationalists. During their spare time from the protection of barricades protesters listened to the whole lecture about the historical and cultural heritage of the Jewish community in Ukraine with pleasure, and the demand for such classes is pretty big. Finally, several actions took place in front of the Ukrainian Embassy in Tel Aviv. Israelis expressed their solidarity with the Ukrainian people, protesting against police terror and mourning the dead. These actions had a wide resonance in Ukraine, and they were appreciated by members of the civil protest campaign.

The anti-Semitic speech has sounded from the scene only once in the early days (even more precisely – the night) of  EuroMaidan when everyone was allowed to use a microphone, the racist poetess Diana Kamlyuk addressed her speech. Well, we may remember the episode of the derogatory word “Zhid” used in the specific context of the nativity scene, which, however, may be slightly interpreted as anti-Semitic. And these cases are in thousands, if not tens of thousands of performances. Of course, for propaganda purposes, to discredit Maidan Kamlyuk’s performance can be quoted endlessly, and it will be enough for someone, but it already seems unconvincing to the people with any critical thinking.

Furthermore, after another round of escalation, which began on January 19 in Grushevskogo Str., especially on January 22 when it was reliably known that some protesters have died, and the number of the wounded and injured increased to thousands. It is already ridiculous to remember who was saying what from the podium in November – December. As propaganda explanation of killings, kidnappings and torture of EuroMaidan’s activists, Kamlyuk Diana with her poems has not seemed convincing at all.

However, even for a few days before the collision in Grushevskogo Str., it was clear that the situation was unfolding towards escalation. On January 16 the package of repressive laws was approved by the Verkhovna Rada, the laws were openly aimed at putting protesters beyond the legal field. On the legislative level the emphasis was placed on the “anti-fascist” nature of the laws designed ostensibly to toughen penalties for crimes motivated by racial and national hatred and neo-fascism for propaganda purposes.

It can be stressed unambiguously that initiators of the adoption of the laws were not guided by the legal or advocacy logic but propaganda, in particular, as smoothly on January 16 a new phase of the system and scale -oriented, primarily towards the West media campaign was launched to discredit the protest movement by forming his fascist image. The first stage of the campaign took place in the spring – early summer last year. It happened so that I can quite confidently say it is a purposeful campaign of political technology, and even I may declare the date it was started. The fact that the mediators who are not very familiar with my political sympathies, but know me as an authoritative expert on the ultra-right and xenophobia, offered me to participate. The charges of anti-Semitism had to play a special role in this campaign, which is supposed to be broadcasted in the West massively.

What was the point of this if no anti-Semitic actions have not been allowed by the protesters for two (incomplete at that  time) months of protests, despite the panic sayings repeatedly expressed by some members of Jewish community who are hysterical or just deliberately playing up to the authorities from the early days of EuroMaidan?

If the subject matter was not so serious, we might recall the famous quote from the Soviet comedy: “Have you ever had accidents at the construction site? So, you will have”.

Game is over – blood is shed

The first incident occurred on January 11, right after Shabbat (after sundown on Saturday). After Saturday’s evening pray two couples of young people, waiting for something, were recorded by the surveillance camera on both sides of the synagogue. Unfortunately, it was impossible to see their faces – they were hidden with highly raised scarves or gauze medical masks and low omitted hoods. Except for this feature, their appearance did not evidence about their ideological preferences or organizational affiliation – common semi-sport, semi-demi casual youth clothing.

Hillel Verhtaymer, 26 -year-old Israeli , teaching Hebrew and Jewish tradition, came out in the street from the synagogue about six o’clock in the evening. Teacher had all the distinctive attributes of an orthodox Jew . Young people, united in one group, followed Hillel Vertheimer. At some distance they kept following him to his home located at Yurkovskaya Str. When he came to the entrance, they rushed inside and attacked him there around 18.10 o’clock. After hearing cries, a neighbor of the teacher looked out . Then the attackers stopped beating and fled. Fortunately, they did not have time to cause serious injuries.

The victim filed a complaint and submitted it to the police. Criminal proceedings were opened and pre-qualified in accordance with Part 1 of Art. 125 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (“intentional minor injury”).

This incident did no lead to the wide resonance. There were separate publications on foreign Jewish websites, but Ukrainian media did not find out about the incident.

About a week later, on January 17, a more serious incident took place.

Approximately at 23.15 o’clock after Shabbat (upcoming on Friday night according to Jewish tradition) and after almost everyone was already gone, a Russian citizen Dov Ber Glickman , 33-year-old parishioner studying in yeshiva (religious school), came out of the synagogue. He turned left out of the building and walked toward Schekavitskaya Str. and Voloshskaya Str.

However, for 50 meters before crossing the street, he saw three suspicious young men in the corner. They wore high ankle boots, and their faces were hidden with the hoods. Of course, the whole community knew about the incident happened a week earlier to the teacher, and everyone was on the alert. Before reaching the intersection of the streets Dov Ber Glickman turned into the driveway, and passed across the yard, then he went a little far from the intersection of Voloshskaya Str. with Schekavitskaya Str. But the criminals, waiting for a suitable victim, saw his maneuver and followed him fast. After hearing that the pursuers broke into a run, the student turned to Vvedenskaya Str., but he was caught in a few meters.

One of the pursuers came to the roadway to observe the situation on the street from the intersection of Voloshskaya Str. and Vvedenskaya Str., other two pursuers attacked the victim silently. They beat him with their hands and feet, and, apparently, blades fixed somehow in their shoes left deep cuts (it sounds very strange, but most of the media, describing the incident, stressed that attackers used knives, but, nevertheless, it was so according to the victim). The attack occurred near the facade of an apartment, the victim managed to stay on his feet. Because of the student’s cries people rushed to the balconies, and one of them yelled out of the window. Then the attackers stopped beating, ran up to their accomplice staying “on the alert”, and three of them sat in the car with the headlights parked at the junction.

After feeling that he was wounded, Dov-Ber Glickman managed to come back to the synagogue, where he asked the guard to call an ambulance. The abundant traces of his blood remained on the floor in a room of the mikvah (ritual bath basin). After that Glickman was taken to the hospital where doctors stitched up three stab wounds on his hips.

Precisely that there are no CCTV cameras either in the corner of  Schekavitskaya Str. and  Voloshskaya Str. or at the intersection of Voloshskaya Str. and Vvedenskaya Str. And the criminals obviously expected a potential victim away from the synagogue, equipped with cameras – perhaps they took into account errors after the first attack.

Information about opening of criminal proceedings is still unavailable.

After the night attack, on Saturday yeshiva students organized something like patrol, controlling streets surrounding the synagogue, meeting and seeing off the faithful coming for a pray. After a day pray, they noticed a suspicious young man, who followed one of the parishioners, according to him. According to yeshiva students, he was a young man about 19 years old and looked like a skinhead – he had short hair, high ankle boots and a short jacket. Three activists of the “patrol” detained a young man. He did not resist, behaved confidently and even shamelessly. He had a notebook where he sketched a detailed plan of the building and quarters adjoined to the synagogue with some arrows. According to the version of activists, the young man was a spy, so-called “scout” in the slang of youth subcultures, who was noting itineraries of the parishioners from the synagogue to their home.

“Patrol” took the detained to the police, whom he also treated quite provocatively. After identification, the detainee was released from the police custody. However, members of the community complain that the police are not too eager to investigate the occurred attacks. Immediately after these incidents EuroMaidan officially proposed to protect Kiev synagogues. The protesters knew very well who would be accused by the state propaganda machine in committing these crimes.

instigators undercover

Neo-Nazi gangs, particularly chasing down Jews and attacking them with a cold steel is not a crazy poetry, it is quite a real threat to the Jewish community, quite a significant newsworthy threat even on the background of on-going street fighting.

Once again, let us pay attention to chronology. The first attack happened prior to the adoption of laws and caused no significant publicity (as those speculative clients behind the instigators might have counted on) because the community kept quiet. On January 16th allegedly “anti-fascist” repressive laws were adopted and a public awareness campaign began. Just before this came court decision banning all mass actions in the center of Kiev up to March 8th. These days Euromaidan is preparing for dispersal; even the radical nationalists among the protesters are not quite up to attacking the Jews. However, in this context another – more cruel – attack happened two days later that finally drew widespread media attention.

I am a researcher. I’m not inclined to conspiracy and do not look for manipulators behind the scene of every social process. Unlike political strategists and provocateurs, I’m not used to throwing blame around.  Having not enough proven facts I can not say for sure who is behind the anti-Semitic attacks of the last two weeks in Kiev. However, indirect evidence is present in synchronizing the attacks, adopting repressive laws, starting a new round of political campaigning, and how authorities are encouraging neonazist activists (from Kharkiv and Donetsk regions) to physically assault protesters. Analyzing these data I am inclined to believe in a provocation organized by the government.

Literally immediately, without any reason, many mass media began to categorically associate the attacks with the campaign of civil protest (like if the protesters, all are entirely fascists and anti-Semites, waited for two months particularly for laws to get adopted so they would begin assaulting Jews – right at the time when Maidan was reinforcing its fortifications expecting to get under attack any day). Unfortunately, some Jewish organizations, both existing and invented specially for this purpose by political strategists, have joined this campaign. Due to providing information targeted funding those panicking dummy voices have clearly been heard in Israel, USA, Europe.

 One particular example I’d like to discuss in detail. Its analysis reveals the mechanism of the propaganda campaign as well as how easily the media – partly due to the false, but deep-rooted stereotypes, partly due to the lack of critical analysis and verification of information “tossed” through purposeful misinformation campaigns  – fall for completely ridiculous dummy.

Right after the attacks in Kiev had been reported the Internet flooded with panic calls for “mobilization” written on behalf of “Jewish Fighting Organization”, which appeared out of nowhere. Messages of those “militants” had a scent of a sickly nonsense: “Our units should be stocking medicines, food, daily necessities and be equipping shelters in case of total destabilization of the situation.” It got worse as it went on: “militant organization”, referring to unknown cases of “the murder of an entire Jewish family motivated by ethnic hatred”, broke out with a panic call upon Israel, demanding to organize the evacuation of the Ukrainian Jewish community. This statement was spread around by all the Jewish media, including Israel, and by not only Jewish. “Komsomolskaya Pravda” sent the special correspondent to Kiev to find out whether the Ukrainian Jews were afraid of going outside frightened by “Bandera followers” (What a fortune trouvaille for Russian propaganda!)

I must have been the first person who got the idea of figuring out who these “Jewish militants” were and where they came from. Quite simply it turned out that the person signing himself up as “Meir Landau” and distributing – on behalf of the Staff of the mock “Jewish Fighting Organization” – panic calls to save Ukrainian Jewry from “Bandera-followers thugs”, was identical to pro-Russian Cossack activist Nickolay Tselitskii, who lived in a small Malinovka town of Chuguevsky district of Kharkov region. All the creative biography of this man with luxuriant imagination has been associated with Russian nationalist organizations, including neo-Nazi. Just a couple years ago he called himself the “Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Joint National Alliance” (RJNA) and was a “Colonel of Cossack troops” under the name Nicholay Ganja (as far as I can tell, this is his real name). This nice organization proclaimed itself (in a document signed by himself) the “sole successor of the Russian National Socialist Party and the Russian Liberation National Army, and the Armed Forces Committee of Liberation of the Nations of Russia”. What kind of a party is that, the bewildered reader may ask, and what kind of army? But I continue quoting:

“The RJNA traces its history back to the time of the Tambov peasant rebellion in 1920-21 headed by the Volunteer Army officers Konstantin Voskoboynik and Antonov. During the rebellion, despite its defeat, the Russian National Socialist Party was founded, which laid the foundation for the forthcoming Russian Liberation Movement in 1941-1945. In June 1941 a SS gruppenführer Bronislaw Kaminski and the Chairman of RNSP Konstantin Voskoboynik organized the first groups of volunteers to fight the Bolshevists for the future of a new free Russia. With the help of these groups the “Respublik Lokot” was established as the first Russian state after the exodus of the Russian Army from the Crimea. That was when the Russian Army had been revived and named the Russian Liberation National Army, which was later (along with the Russian Liberation Army created in 1943 and Cossack units of the Wehrmacht and SS) combined with the Armed Forces Committee of Liberation of the Nations of Russia”.

The RJNA founded the International Charity Foundation named after General Alexander Kutepov, whose leadership Ganja/Tselitsky/Landau is proud of in all his guises. The RJNA also established the Brotherhood in the name of the Martyr Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev and Galich; its Kharkiv regional branch is headed by our hero.

Under his real name Nickolay Ganja makes up organizations, which continuity he proudly traces back to the “units of the Wehrmacht and the SS.” Under the pseudonym of “Meir Landau” he invented an organization with continuity supposedly dated back to the Polish Jewish Fighting Organization and with the help of which he denounces Bandera-follower by accusing them of being collaborators, and glorifies the exploits of “Berkut”.

For the conclusion: “The society of healthy people”

All this would be funny if this man’s statements were not brought up by the world media anytime it comes to description of the situation with anti-Semitism in Ukraine.

The problem, however, is that in a public awareness campaign, which is unfolded under the “anti-fascist” slogans and aimed to discredit the protest movement, the rubbish of lunatic provocateurs like that is not the only tool applied.

Today, on February 3rd, the panel discussion “The democratic process and the threat of radicalism in Ukraine” has taken place in the building of the Verkhovna Rada in Kiev. Among the participants there were prominent anti-fascists from the former Soviet Union area such as Kremlin political technologists of the “World without Nazism” project Valeriy Engel and Boris Spiegel, as well as leaders of Jewish organizations from Europe. It’s been quite obvious who embodies the “threat of radicalism” in those people’s minds and who enforces (with a truncheon and a rubber bullet) “democratic processes”, especially when on the eve of the panel discussion V.Engel gave his talk ​​in the Russian Duma about his initiative of penal sanction for “fascist rehabilitation” not only in Russia but also abroad. To make the event look valuable two former ukrainian presidents – Leonid Kravchuk and Viktor Yushchenko – were invited. To demonstrate at what level “anti-fascist” propaganda campaign has been developing and implementing yet the current President Viktor Yanukovych showed up at the discussion. Surely, he said a solid “no” to “extremism, radicalism and incitement to hostility in the society”.

The organizers of the event have received a high, although somewhat inarticulately expressed, evaluation from the person, formally functioning as the guarantor of the Constitution: “I am grateful that you have united into this organization and have been doing a great job, which I’m sure brings people into the healthy society devoid of Nazism, racism, xenophobia”.

And which – I am adding myself – has been so effectively promoting the Bankova street propaganda campaign unfolding before our eyes.

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Translation of the article by Vyacheslav Likhachev, source on Russian

Real and imaginary anti-Semitism

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