As If On Cue
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
Passover season is a time when, historically, various and varied ugly forms of anti-Semitism have arisen. Sadly, therefore, there is nothing strange about the real or fabricated reports from Donetsk in East Ukraine. To be clear this is not physical attack against Jews that has been reported, but it is precisely the ugly signs of anti-Jewish behavior which was so pervasive in this region for hundreds of years. Listing of Jews, identification of Jews, recording of Jewish owned property, paying a fee, etc. are all historical manifestations of how anti-Semitism was practiced in the “hey-days” of Mother Russia. All of these practices frequently led to the Cossacks riding through towns and villages beating and frequently killing Jews as governmental authorities stood idly by.
In the aftermath of the Sochi Olympics and the Russian take-over of Crimea, Israel noticed a quick uptick in new immigrants arriving from the Ukraine. It would seem to be crystal clear today, in light of the real or fictitious report that the Jews in Donetsk—at a minimum—and in all likelihood throughout the Ukraine, should take the opportunity to leave the Ukraine before any of these seemingly mere bureaucratic governmental orders revert to eventual round-ups and forced emigration of Jews.
In support of this logical decision rests all of Jewish history; yet contemporary realities—also throughout Jewish history—have generally dictated a different response. Jews never had any options when things got bad in Russia, in the Pale of Settlement, or in the Ukraine. Some people could leave, but most suffered barely escaping pogroms. Today they could leave their homes to Israel, for sure. While this may not be optimal for many of these Jews, it is a clear, safe, and realistic alternative that many Jews throughout history would have wished to have possessed.
At the same time the world community—certainly in the West—is far more sensitive to attacks against Jews; but to be realistic, the current geopolitical situation between the West and Russia is focused on far larger matters than some signs and verbal attacks against Jews which allegedly were circulated in Donetsk on the first night of Passover. Secretary Kerry and many western leaders have expressed alarm and protested these anti-Semitic manifestation re-emerging in the Ukraine; but they are far more concerned about Russian troop movements and expansionist tendencies of the Putin Government than they are about attacks against a small community of Jews in the Ukraine.