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Joseph Zisels: The Level of Anti-Semitism in Ukraine is Low and Gradually Decreasing

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Kyiv, 20 May 2014 – During a press briefing at the Ukraine Crisis Media Center, the Head of the Association of Jewish Organizations and Communities of Ukraine, Joseph Zisels spoke about the decrease in the manifestations of anti-Semitism in Ukraine over the recent years and Russia’s groundless propaganda which puts an emphasis on such manifestations.

“We have encountered the model of Russian propaganda that existed several years ago. Moreover, in 2004, before the presidential election, Mr. Medvedchuk also used this model and this myth about growing anti-Semitism in Ukraine. This is not something new, it is not a new myth, but a very persistent one,” said Mr. Joseph Zisels.

Mr. Zisels said that 13 anti-Semitic incidents were reported in 2013 throughout Ukraine, which included four minor assaults and nine cases of vandalism. “We have made multiple statements on behalf of the Jewish community in Ukraine – and these statements have been very consistent after the change of the Government – that there is no anti-Semitism in Ukraine. In fact, since 2007 we have been seeing a gradual decrease in the number of anti-Semitic incidents in Ukraine,” said the human rights activist. He stated that in 2012 there were 1300 of such incidents in Germany, approximately 600 in France, also about 600 in England and 27 anti-Semitism incidents in Ukraine. “In other words, there is a very low level of anti-Semitic incidents in Ukraine compared to the Western European countries.” He added that emigration to Israel from Ukraine was down by 20% in 2013 compared to 2012.

Mr. Zisels explained that this is due, among other reasons, to the fact that there is a very big radical potential of the Muslim diaspora in the Western Europe.

He said that unfortunately Ukraine’s state statistics authorities maintain no records of these incidents. “This is why we have to use only our experts who assess these manifestations of anti-Semitism in Ukraine,” he said.

The human rights activist stressed again that over the last eight years the number of anti-Semitic manifestations in Ukraine has been consistently falling. “Nevertheless, Russian propaganda and the propaganda of former President Yanukovych have been reporting a significant increase in anti-Semitism in Ukraine without providing any facts to prove it,” he said. Joseph Zisels noted that because these statements are not supported by any facts, the propagandists resort to provocations. “Starting this year, we will divide the monitoring of anti-Semitic incidents into two categories: the ‘natural manifestations’ that actually take place and are not so numerous, and the ‘acts of provocation’ that are forced on us from outside,” he said.

Joseph Zisels also said that several days ago a study was published by the Anti-Defamation League, which is the organization whose main objective is to fight anti-Semitism and all forms of intolerance to Jews. However, according to the Head of Association of Jewish Organizations and Communities of Ukraine, these studies should be understood properly. They should not be viewed as showing the level of anti-Semitism in countries. The study focuses only on the dissemination of anti-Semitic stereotypes in the world. The study put Ukraine in the middle of the list with the score of 38. Sweden received the lowest score of 12.

Joseph Zisels made some comments on the methods of the study. In particular, he noted that the questionnaire used for the study was not adapted to the Eastern European and Eurasian identities, but one and the same question may be perceived differently by people from various parts of the world. The questionnaire should have been adapted to the psychological characteristics and features of the population. In addition, only 500 respondents were interviewed in Ukraine which led to the error of at least 5 – 10%. “This is why one should not rely too much on this study as a proof of anti-Semitic stereotypes being widespread in Ukraine,” said Mr. Zisels.

Joseph Zisels is a dissident, human rights activist, the Head of the Association of Jewish Organization and Communities of Ukraine, the Head of the General Council of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress.


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