In the cold light of day, in the wake of Ukraine’s successful Parliamentary elections, the world has taken note that Yulia Tymoshenko was willing to embrace neo-Nazis in her bid for power.
Abraham Foxman, of the Anti-Defamation League, in a statement released yesterday attacked Tymoshenko for the alliance: “It is of particular concern that the oppposition party of Yulia Tymoshenko has signed a cooperation agreement with Svoboda, giving great credibility to this fringe extremist political party.”
“Anti-Semitic rhetoric,” Mr. Foxman said, “has been a mainstay of Svoboda’s leaders and campaign slogans.” The Foreign Minister of Israel, Avigdor Lieberman, raised similar concerns.
I have discussed Svoboda before, but it is important to understand that Foxman is not exaggerating. This is a party that explicitly campaigns on ending Jewish influence in Ukraine; praises the fascists who fought the Nazis and Russians (and ethnically cleansed Poles and Jews); taunts schoolchildren for being Jewish, Russian, Polish, or anything other than “pure” Ukrainian; the list continues at some length. Oleh Tyahnybok, the party’s founder and head, recently described Ukraine as run by a “Muscovite-Jewish Mafia.” This was not a compliment.
800,000 Ukrainian Jews — men, women, and children — were brutally murdered during World War II, with an assist from the fascist resistance in-country. Svoboda refers to the slaughtered innocents as an invading force.
(Svoboda’s leaders, taking a page from neo-Nazi parties throughout Western Europe, insist that they are not anti-Semitic. Tyahnybok adopted the most recent variation — strong support for Israel while treating Ukrainian Jews as aliens in Ukraine — in his most recent denial: “I would like to address once again the high ranking officials of the state of Israel: we respect your patriotic feelings, the patriotic feelings of your citizens. Please do respect in return the same feelings for the citizens of Ukraine and respect the right of Ukrainians to express freely their will,” he said.)
Svoboda is most popular in the West, where Tymoshenko’s power base lies (her old base in the East was cast aside after she lost her support there in the early part of the last decade). That did not stop former President Viktor Yushchenko, whose power base was also located there and who was then engaged in a fight for his political (and as it turned out, biological) life, from casting aside the founder in 2004.
Tymoshenko’s alliance with Svoboda gave the group of neanderthals an imprimatur of acceptability they had previously lacked. The party secured about ten percent of the votes in the recent list portion of the Ukraine elections, a number well in excess of what they’d expected to gain before the alliance with the United Opposition.
It says a great deal about Tymoshenko that she was willing to reverse this decision for a greater vote in the Verkhovna Rada.
It says a great deal about Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, German Chancellor Merkel, and other Western leaders that they not only continue to embrace Tymoshenko’s Opposition, but have based their entire assessment of Ukraine’s election on the fact that she is in prison.
Tymoshenko’s maneuver has left her more unabashed admirers in the West with a quandary they have largely chosen to ignore. It is clear now that Tymoshenko is not — and indeed, never has been — some sort of demi-Goddess of Democracy. She is a brilliant, talented, ruthless, charismatic, and not terribly effective politician who sacrificed her country’s well-being and the rule of law to sign a treaty she was forbidden by law from signing; and now she has chosen to ally with the most despicable party in the country just for a better chance at power.
By lending Tymoshenko their imprimatur, they indirectly aid Svoboda. They give real support to a woman who has clutched neo-Nazis to her bosom while she decries her every loss as proof of imminent dictatorship.
Were Ukraine a third-world country or Tymoshenko not well-assisted by expensive public relations firms, her destructive tendencies would be a source of mockery, rather than tribute. Each advance she makes — and with her, the anti-Semitic fascists who aid her — is at her backers’ feet.