The Simon Wiesenthal Center said that they asked the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who is behind the fliers ordering Jews to register with regional pro-Russia authorities in Donetsk, and received a succinct answer: “We don’t know who.”
The fliers, which were handed out by masked, armed men as eastern Ukrainian Jews left a Passover synagogue service, demanded that all Jews register and list their property, paying a $50 fee to do so, or else face deportation and revocation of citizenship. Some people who received the fliers sent images to relatives in Israel, where the story spread quickly in the media.
In response to an email query, Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt told the Wiesenthal Center that the fliers were “clearly part of a general effort to sow fear among Ukrainian Jews.” Beyond that, the U.S. doesn’t know much.
“The Wiesenthal Center denounces this grotesque action that is clearly designed to spread more fear among the Jewish community, already reeling from the increased instability that has racked the region for the past few months, “said Rabbis Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper in a statement released in Los Angeles. “We urge authorities to take all necessary measures to ensure the safety of Jewish communal institutions.”
The Anti-Defamation League noted that the leader of the Donetsk People’s Republic, whose name appeared in the document’s signature, has publicly disavowed the flier.
“We are skeptical about the flier’s authenticity, but the instructions clearly recall the Nazi era and have the effect of intimidating the local Jewish community,” said ADL national director Abraham H. Foxman. “We have seen a series of cynical and politically manipulative uses and accusations of anti-Semitism in Ukraine over the past year. The perpetrators and their targets are opposing politicians and political movements, but the true victims are the Jewish communities. We strongly condemn the anti-Semitic content, but also all attempts to use anti-Semitism for political purposes.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said it’s critical that the international monitors from the Organization for the Security and Co-operation in Europe deploying to Ukraine as part of yesterday’s Geneva agreement “examine this issue closely to ensure that religious and ethnic minorities do not become targets.”
“This sort of intimidation and persecution is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated in the 21st century,” he said.
Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) stressed that “the world has seen this before and it cannot be tolerated.”
“This act of hate is atrocious and must be brought to a halt immediately,” the congressman said. “I call on President Obama to ensure that this movement is dismantled without delay.”
Secretary of State John Kerry called the fliers “grotesque.” A State Department spokeswoman said they were investigating the pamphlets’ origin but felt that Russia opposes anti-Semitism.