Apparently, for Jews living in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, it is “deja vu all over again,” as Yogi Berra would say. The other day, as reported by both Ynet News, Israel’s largest news website, and Donbass, a Ukrainian news agency, Jews were handed a leaflet as they left Passover services, which instructed them to (1) register themselves and all family members with the pro-Russian militants who have taken control the city, (2) provide a list of any and all property they own, and (3) pay a $50 “registration fee.” Failure to do so would result in confiscation of said property, revocation of citizenship, and deportation. The leaflets were distributed by the militants. The leaflets required Jews to produce identification, such as a passport, as well as proof of ownership of all property.
As we know, throughout history rulers have sought to blame Jews for any economic, social or political problems in their country in order to deflect responsibility. Jews, not despotic rulers, would then become the common enemy of the populace. Unfortunately, generally, this strategy has worked. It worked in the Middle Ages; it worked in Nazi Germany and Europe before and during WWII; and it is working now.
Secretary of State John Kerry has condemned the action calling it “beyond unacceptable.” Michael Salberg, Director of International Affairs of the Anti-Defamation League called it yet another example of despots using Jews as the “default scapegoat.” These protests are all well and good. Any sane person would agree that these actions are outrageous, but realistically, I don’t see what the US can do about the situation. The US and NATO have ruled out military intervention. Whether or not you agree with that decision be advised that all the polls indicate that the overwhelming majority of Americans are not in favor of military action. In any event, it is doubtful that we have sufficient forces in the area to intercede in any meaningful way even we wanted. Even the half-baked sanctions we have applied have been ineffective. Basically, Putin and pro-Russian elements in the Ukraine know that they can pretty much proceed as they want without interference from the rest of the world.
CONCLUSION AND PREDICTION
Let this be a history lesson to Jews and their sympathizers, including all fair-minded individuals regardless of their race or religion. Anti-Semitism is alive and well in the world. It is both overt (e. g. Middle East and Ukraine) and covert (most of the rest of the world). It is not just being reborn now; it never died out in the first place. It has been there all the time, simmering just below the surface, like a volcano, just waiting for some provocation. It is a fact that history does repeat itself. Anyone who studies history will find innumerable examples of that.
So, what can we, as Jews, do? With respect to the Jews in eastern Ukraine, unfortunately, not much. Apparently, the world does not have the will or the means. However, American Jews should be increasingly vigilant. I know that we are busy with our own lives. Many of us are just trying to get by, especially in these tough economic times. But, American Jews are a powerful and influential political and economic force. We should not hesitate to use that power and influence. Furthermore, let us not lose sight of the lessons of history. To paraphrase George Santayana, a famous Spanish philosopher, poet, novelist and essayist, those who ignore the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it.