Ordinary anti-Semitism of an ordinary official
Can a person who preaches anti-Semitism be a top-rank official in a European country? In Ukraine, yes. Let's look into it in more detail.
Today, the world's attention is focused on events in Israel. Many political analysts believe that the war in Ukraine and the Hamas terrorist act against Israel, which led to the IDF operation in Gaza, are links of one chain and acts of one terrible drama.
Ukraine chose its side in this conflict from the very first day of the Hamas attack on Israel, on 7 October 2023. The President of Ukraine wrote on his Facebook page: "Terror must not be given a single chance anywhere in the world, because terror is always a crime not just against one country or its specific victims, but against humanity as a whole and our entire world. Whoever uses terror commits a crime against the world. Whoever sponsors terror commits a crime against the world. The world must stand in unity and solidarity so that terror never attempts to conquer or destroy life anywhere. Israel's right to defence is beyond question.."
Many countries have taken a similar stance. Leaders of the United States, Germany, France, and other nations personally visited Israel to express their support for the Jewish people. They called things by their names: terrorism is terrorism, inhumanity is inhumanity, fanaticism is fanaticism. But after some time, Israel began conducting barbaric bombings of Gaza, leading to a massive surge in anti-Semitism worldwide. Leaders of Iran, Turkey, Russia, and other countries effectively declared their anti-Semitic positions.
For example, R. Erdogan stated at a large rally in Istanbul on 28 October 2023: "Those who shed crocodile tears for peaceful civilians killed in the Ukrainian-Russian war silently watch the deaths of thousands of innocent children in Gaza."
Iran threatens to intervene in the war in Israel and declares the following: "The crimes of the Zionist regime have crossed red lines, which may compel everyone to take action." And one can agree with this but with one condition – the crimes of Hamas should also be recognized as crossing "red lines".
Certainly, the death of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza is a tragedy, and the international community must take all necessary measures to bring it to an end. But the death of Israelis at the hands of Hamas on October 7th is as much a tragedy, and the world community must do everything to prevent its recurrence. It was the massacre of Jews that prompted the IDF's action in Gaza, not the other way around. However, anti-Semitism prefers to ignore such obvious facts. Iran speaks of the "crimes of the Zionist regime" and Turkey accuses the West of this.
But wait a moment, we've seen this before!
Of course, it's unlikely, but it seems like the leaders of Islamic countries have carefully studied the brochure of the current head of the State Service for Ethnopolitics and Freedom of Conscience (DESS), Viktor Yelensky, which he released back in 1988.
In this brochure, V. Yelensky first praises Marxism-Leninism: "It is impossible not to be amazed by the scale and depth of Lenin's thought, his genius in foreseeing the tremendous disasters that the descending phase of capitalism development can bring to the world."
And then he articulates precisely the same ideas that are voiced by contemporary anti-Semites: the criminality of Zionism and its close connection to the West, which in V. Yelensky's terminology is referred to as imperialism.
"One of the most reactionary and militant forms of bourgeois nationalism is Zionism. At present, it represents an ideology, a political practice, a psychology of the reactionary part of the Jewish bourgeoisie, fused with the monopolistic bourgeoisie of the West, primarily the United States, as well as a branched system of organizations representing its interests."
At the same time, V. Yelensky could not have been unaware that practically all authoritative world dictionaries define "Zionism" as something entirely different: "a political movement whose goal is the unification and revival of the Jewish people in their historical homeland, Israel, and the corresponding ideological concept." But V. Yelensky chooses to keep silent about this, using the term "Zionism" in an unequivocally negative context as something self-evident. Here is what he writes next:
"Having emerged at the end of the XIX century, Zionism has consistently and steadily evolved towards outright racism, incorporating the most reactionary concepts and methods into its ideology and politics. The anti-communist and anti-Soviet content of Zionism, its orientation against the forces of peace and national liberation movements is clearly manifested."
Yelensky slides to the point of declaring Zionism the world ruler and accusing it of racism and chauvinism. He states, "Today, international Zionism becomes the coordinator of the actions of various clerical centres and formations of capitalist countries, actually leads them. The ideology and practice of the clerical-Zionist alliance, especially in its Israeli version <...> are becoming more and more aggressive and racist, and the mystification and religious apology of chauvinism and territorial expansion are increasing."
And then the DESS head even questioned the very existence of the Jewish nation. Here is what he writes, "Attempts to justify the existence of a "world Jewish nation", to prove that Jews living in different countries of the world, speaking different languages, etc., constitute a single, extraterritorial nation, are futile. <...> They (Jews, - Ed.) do not represent an ethnic community but rather break up into several ethnic groups".
This is the most blatant anti-Semitism because the very statement is absurd in its essence.
For example, no one would think of claiming that Ukrainians living in different countries of the world "do not represent an ethnic community". The same is true of other nations. However, in the view of V. Yelensky and anti-Semites, making such claims about Jews is acceptable.
By asserting the thesis that Jews are not one people, V. Yelensky claims that Jews are united by the Jewish religion. But, firstly, a significant part of Jews is not religious at all. This is proved, for example, by the recent political crisis in Israel, associated with the confrontation between religious and secular political forces. And secondly, in Judaism itself, there are many different movements and sects: Hasidim, Kabbalists, Orthodox Jews and many others. If V. Yelensky does not know this, it shows the level of his professionalism in religious studies, and if he does, it shows a conscious manipulation.
Of course, hardly representatives of Iran, Turkey or other countries hostile to Israel have read the works by V. Yelensky. But the similarity of their statements, sometimes even literal, with what V. Yelensky writes in his booklet for the "atheist student's library" cannot be overlooked. But it is even more revealing that V. Yelensky scientifically substantiates in his publication the narratives that V. Putin is promoting today.
The head of the aggressor country demonstrates his anti-Semitic stance both in words and deeds. His statements have given Ukrainian President V. Zelensky the reason to call the head of the Russian Federation the "second king of anti-Semitism after Hitler." Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov makes even more audacious anti-Semitic statements. In particular, he went so far as to make remarks about “Adolf Hitler’s Jewish roots".
V. Putin himself claims that there is no anti-Semitism in Russia and that this phenomenon is greatly exaggerated, echoing the narratives of V. Yelensky. Here is what the current head of DESS writes: "The universality of anti-Semitism is one of the most reactionary myths of Zionism. The Bolsheviks were the first to put an end to anti-Semitism by taking power, eliminating the socio-economic roots of national and religious enmity and outlawing anti-Semitism."
V. Yelensky attempts to convince his readers that the myth of anti-Semitism in the USSR is inflated by Zionists. He states: "Zionists are consistently among those who are willing to tarnish the achievements of socialism by any means, inflate the myth of the 'Soviet military threat', seek to incite nationalist sentiments and exploit religious feelings."
В. Putin blamed the West and Ukraine for the recent riots in Makhachkala, where an angry mob was looking for Israelis, saying that the command to Dagestanis to seize the airport and beat up Jews had allegedly come from our country. According to him, the anti-Semitic pogroms in Dagestan were inspired "not least from the territory of Ukraine by Western special services".
It's all exactly like what the DESS head V. Yelensky writes, "The arsenal of means used by the Zionists for subversive actions against our country is difficult to list. Here we have loud propaganda campaigns, sending emissaries loaded with subversive literature, the collection of secret information and the fabrication of forgeries, prayers for the 'oppressed Soviet Jews' and banditry against Soviet citizens abroad, radio diversions, and powerful pressure on the White House administration."
Here is a quote that vividly demonstrates that V. Yelensky hasn't changed his stance when he claims that there is no persecution of the Church in Ukraine. In his 1988 brochure, he asserted that there were no persecutions of religious believers in the USSR, despite the fact that the number of those physically killed for their faith was in the hundreds of thousands if not millions. Here is the quote: "The lie about the 'persecution' of believers under socialism, about the 'violent eradication' of religious institutions, is spreading more and more persistently."
In principle, it is almost word-for-word what he is saying today about the "absence of persecution" of the UOC in Ukraine.
In general, there is no doubt that V. Yelensky's brochure "Jewish Clericalism and Zionism" is propaganda for anti-Semitism, despite the fact that the brochure itself claims that the accusations of anti-Semitism by the USSR are a Zionist narrative. It is not surprising that V. Yelensky wrote this brochure. He was a relatively young career-oriented Soviet atheist-religious scholar, who wrote what the Communist Party ideology demanded of him.
The other thing that is surprising is how this man can hold the post of the head of a state structure that manages the sphere of religion and ethnopolitics in modern democratic Ukraine. If we had a real lustration, V. Yelensky, with his communist, atheist and anti-Semitic background, would be on the margins of history.
It is surprising how V. Zelensky, who declared his support for Israel, can keep in the civil service a man who 35 years ago openly stated all those narratives that today are heard from the leaders of Russia, which is waging war against our country, the leaders of Iran, which supplies drones to the Russian Federation, from which Ukrainians suffer literally every night, and so on.
Maybe V. Yelensky has changed his views today? Maybe, he no longer believes that "one of the most reactionary and militant varieties of bourgeois nationalism is Zionism"? However, we have not heard any statements from V. Yelensky on this issue.
It seems that Ukrainian society should demand that V. Yelensky either apologise publicly for his anti-Semitism, and at the same time for praising the Communist Party and anti-Church propaganda, or resign from public service.
In any European country, this is exactly what they would do. Will they do the same here? In general, this case of Yelensky's anti-Semitism is a kind of test of Ukraine's readiness to join the European Union.