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Friday, January 31, 2014

Ukrainian Jewish leader on Svoboda

Far too many Western journalists are getting it wrong when it comes to VO Svoboda (aka Freedom or Liberty Party). I'm not a huge fan (being too "liberal" for some of its members), but the Kremlin-inspired propaganda surrounding Ukrainian anti-Semitism is getting to be too much. 

But don't take my word for it. Consider this excerpt from an interview last month with Joseph Zissels, Jewish community leader in Ukraine, dissident during Soviet times and today a leader of the #EuroMaidan: calling Svoboda and Tiahnybok as "hard-right antisemitic" is inaccurate and is a 

Q: Doesn't it bother you that there are open anti-Semites among your allies? For example, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, lists Svoboda's leaders among the top ten anti-Semites in the world.

A: I am very familiar with the activities of the Wiesenthal Centre and I know the head of the Jerusalem branch of that organization, Efraim Zuroff, who put the names Oleh#Tyahnybok and Ihor Myroshnychenko into “the top ten.” Efraim Zuroff spent a lot of time in Moscow in the past few decades and I don’t consider the portrait he has drawn to be an objective one. I think that, throughout the world, there are plenty of people who are more anti-Semitic than #Tiahnybok and parties that are far more anti-Semitic than Svoboda. I deal with this issue professionally; I was commissioned to conduct a large sociological study of this topic. In reality, there are anti-Semitic elements in Svoboda, and we have been tracking them for more than 20 years, from the time when the party was still called the Social-national Party of Ukraine. There is less and less anti-Semitic rhetoric. For example, of the 37 Svoboda party member of Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada, only six or seven have ever uttered anti-Semitic statement in the last 20 years. There is nothing directly anti-Semitic in Svoboda’s [party] program, neither anything directly xenophobic, although the seeds of xenophobic elements are there. Unlike members of parliament from the Jobbik party in Hungary and Ataka party in Bulgaria, MPs from Svoboda have not uttered anything anti-Semitic from the parliamentary podium. Not a single statement.

In the interview, Zissels calls Svoboda a "radical nationalist party."

Read Russian language original in its entirety here: