In the time before Ukraine’s elections in October, the Opposition underwent three seismic shifts that were largely lost in the West.
Former President Viktor Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine party was frozen out by the rest of the Opposition over his continuing battle with his former Prime Minister, Yulia V. Tymoshenko (Yushchenko remains livid at the damage Tymoshenko did to his administration). This would ultimately lead to the complete annihilation of Our Ukraine at the polls.
A returning boxer formed a new party — aligned with the Opposition — composed almost entirely of politicians and grassroots upset that the Opposition had become the All Tymoshenko, All the Time Party. That party, UDAR, would go on to take up a significant part of the existing Opposition’s vote.
Finally, Svoboda, a party that could only charitably be called fascists (“racist xenophobic national socialists” is better), led by a man Yushchenko had exiled from his coalition a decade before, was welcomed into the Opposition to shore up its support in the West. Svoboda is now a fixture in Opposition politics, as is the anti-Semitism (and anti-ethnic Russian rhetoric) for which they are best known.
In all the talk of Ukraine’s elections, this fact was little noticed at the time. That is now changing.
Writing in Algemeiner.com, Rachel Ehrenfeld takes brutal notice of the fact of Svoboda’s close alliance with the Ukrainian Opposition and its implications.
Concerns about Svoboda aren’t confined to words and historical associations, however. As reported by the Jewish Telegraph Agency (JTA) in April, Svoboda thugs took part in an opposition demonstration against the government of President Viktor Yanukovych, and provoked a small riot in Cherkassy, a city some 125 miles southeast of Kyiv. Outfitted with T-shirts emblazoned with the words “Beat the zhids!,” the Svoboda goons’ provocation has, according to JTA, “raised anxieties among Ukrainian Jews fearful of rising xenophobia and racially motivated violence.” Joel Rubinfeld, co-chair of the European Jewish Parliament, is quoted saying: “Svoboda lifted the lid from the sewer of anti-Semitism in Ukraine and it’s spilling out.”
All of this would be enough cause for concern. But Svoboda is not alone. Ukraine’s “respectable” opposition parties, Batkivshchina (“Fatherland”) and UDAR are not less anti-Semitic. Batkivshchina is nominally headed by former prime-minister Yulia Tymoshenko, currently imprisoned on corruption charges, and effectively run by former parliamentary chairman Arseniy Yatsenyuk. UDAR is headed by celebrated boxer Vitaly Klitschko. Far from shunning Svoboda–as Europe’s mainstream Hungarian and Greek parties respectively have ostracized Jobbik and Golden Dawn–Batkivshchina and UDAR have embraced it and its anti-Semitism in a united opposition to the government of President Viktor Yanukovych, who isn’t Jewish.
Ehrenfeld is either too kind to Tymoshenko or naive on this count — there is no chance at all that Tymoshenko had not blessed the union with Svoboda — but her essential point stands.
Ukraine’s Opposition has embraced a group of neo-Nazis. It is time for the world to call them to account.
Image Copyright Shutterstock.com/Dariush M.