Valerie Sobel
Valerie Sobel Courtesy

Beginning 19th century, large-scale, targeted, and repeated anti-Jewish rioting began throughout Eastern Europe. Pogroms in Ukraine and other Pale of Settlement territories began to occur en masse right after Imperial Russia acquired territories with large Jewish populations from the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Ottoman Empire, circa 1772-1882. These designated "Pale of Settlement" territories by the Imperial Russian government, within which Jews were reluctantly permitted to exist, were the very regions where they were terrorized and slaughtered.

Russia's May Laws of 1882 stripped Jews of their rural landholdings and forbade Jews from moving to other parts of the empire (including Finland), unless they converted from Judaism. Hence, no significant Jewish population existed in the immediate geography of Russia prior to the Bolshevik revolution of 1917.

The absence of spilt Jewish blood in the streets of Moscow and St. Petersburg is the very testament to Russia's vile anti-Semitic laws that herded Jews into non-Russian, restricted, and congregated regions of conquered Poland and Ukraine. The latter, forced to have a huge concentration of Jews, made acute Russian anti-Semitism much less visible.

On the whole, Russia preferred to keep itself largely sterilized of Jewry. Consequently, these exclusionary policies created and enabled the Jewish tragedy in Ukraine and other conquered republics.

Since 1917, Russia's rulers have adopted a system of repression, quotas and refusals towards its Jewish citizenry. In post-war years, under Stalin's rule, Jews were routinely accused of crimes, hunted and killed. Tens of thousands were sent to the Siberian gulag never to be heard from again. With the quota system in place, scant few were allowed entry to universities or influential/visible professions, well into the 1990s. Almost none were permitted to travel outside of Russian borders for professional or personal reasons.

Thousands were labelled traitors, beaten, and sent away as agents of American government by the very KGB Mr. Putin worked for. Jewish students were routinely denied participation in fair competition for college entry. Synagogues throughout the country - closed or repossessed. Jews who practiced Judaism did so under the threat of incarceration or worse.

Consequently, upwards of 3,000,000 Jews fled Russia from 1969-2000. Official, state-sponsored anti-Semitism, was cited as the overwhelmingly predominant reason.


To suggest that a revenge war is being launched today for past Ukrainian anti-Semitic crimes by "valiant" Nazi-defeating Russians…is to sink into clinical delusion and denial of all reality, past and present. It is, also, willfully dismissive of generational Russian Jew-hatred highlighted ever-so-brazenly by the 5th column of a Russian passport, which read "Jew" as if it was the plague.

It is cognitively dissonant and most indulgent to conjure up a narrative that Putin cares about past Jewish suffering to the degree that he was compelled to launch an expensive war on his next door neighbour. A war reality compounded by dire economic consequences on his own people. This type of nonsense supersedes all blather offered by Joe Biden's mental faculties.

To praise Russia for the absence of Babi Yar on its soil is akin to praising Eskimos for not conducting polar bear hunts in the Sonoran Desert.

To find heroism in Putin, a self-appointed dictator in perpetuity who hands out 15-year prison terms to anyone straying from party lines on Ukraine or utters the word “war”, all while he bombs and massacres, requires a suspension of every ethical line and abandonment of all evidentiary reality.

As for Auschwitz, the Russians simply stumbled upon the camp, by then abandoned by the retreating Germans. A happenstance for which they’re rightfully and eternally thanked and celebrated.

“DENAZIFYING UKRAINE"

A land-grabbing agenda could not be more clandestinely nor brilliantly packaged than by these two words, “Denazification of Ukraine”.

First and foremost, the utility of those words serve to delegitimize Volodymyr Zelenskyy as the President of Ukraine. The presumption being is that he and his government nazified Ukraine and need immediate removal. Leave it to Putin, of course, to “purposefully” seek government change in Ukraine. To date, Putin’s Wagner mercenaries have been unable to capture “the clown”, as some refer to him.

The “Denazification” claim, aside from drudging up painful memories of Ukraine in the 1940s, also launched an effective smear of the President. Some took offense that Zelenskyy is a Jewish president of a Nazi nation and therefore required an immediate expulsion from Judaism. His Jewish birthright became nil and void as many cited he wasn’t Jewish enough.True, his wife is not Jewish so his kids aren't, don’t attend Jewish school and his parents, as Soviet citizens, hardly attended synagogue. This, from Jewish and non-Jewish emotionally-charged voices, utterly ignorant of Russian/Ukrainian realities and void of all reason.

The rejection or dismissal of Zelensky as Jew, yet a leader of a Nazi state, is the mirror-image libel of one we all know too well: President Donald J. Trump, courtesy of a sea of left-wing haters. He was Hitler, he was an anti-Semite, his followers were Nazis and his Jewish grandkids mattered none.

In reality, Jewish leadership from Ukraine is not entirely a novelty. The legendary Golda Meir, fourth Prime Minister of Israel in the early 1970s, hailed from Kiev, Ukraine. Mr. Zelenskyy is not the first Jewish PM of Ukraine. He is the third. The first was Yukhym Zvyahilsky (1993 -1994). The second was Volodymyr Groysman. Aside from the Jewish State, in what other country, especially full of Nazis, does a population vote for three Jewish Presidents in less than 30 years? How about in 2000 years…?

To her credit, Ukraine produced the largest amount of Jewish Presidents/Prime Ministers in the world to date.

As for Zelenskyy, 70% of Ukrainians overwhelmingly voted for a Jew, a descendent of a Holocaust survivor. The Defence Minister of Ukraine, Oleksiy Reznikov, is also Jewish.

Today, the Ukrainian population remains solidly behind its Jewish leadership as it spearheads with resolute courage and exemplary military skills while navigating the befallen tragedy. All rather odd for a country sporting a Nazi regime. Unless, of course, you buy into the Putin “denazification” fairytale.

In May of 2017, Ukraine,under the leadership of its second Jewish President, Volodymyr Groysman, rejected UNESCO’s resolution disavowing Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem. Ukraine was one of a minority of 10 countries that tried to quash the resolution. Not Canada, not Australia.

Has Ukraine voted for anti-Israel resolutions at the UN in the past? Most certainly. So has France, repeatedly. So has the United Kingdom and Australia and most of the free word. When are we set to bomb those countries?

The suggestion that Ukrainians today are just as anti-Semitic as they were 80 years ago, when they murdered Jews without compunction, has no logical application nor evidentiary back-up. Just as the argument that the Hungarians for The Jobbik, Brits for Jeremy Corbyn and Americans for Omar, AOC and the rest of the vile anti-Semitic squad are representative of mainstream society.

Where Putin hyperbolized truth, rather than completely invented it, is with regards to his considerable challenge in taking Mariupol. A city largely defended by the Azov Battalion, a unit of the National Guard of Ukraine, based in Mariupol in the coastal region of the Sea of Azov from where it derives its name.

Azov began as a volunteer paramilitary militia in 2014, and has since been fighting Russian forces in the Donbas War. A spokesman for the Battalion told USA Today that 10% to 20% of the group's members are Nazis. Prior to human loss in 2022, the group was estimated to have consisted of 900 people, making 180 of them neo-Nazis, according to their own admission. With a healthy dose of skepticism, let’s make all 900 of them, dead or alive, neo-Nazis. But remember, that’s 900 out of a population of 44 Million, with no representation in official capacity anywhere.

With the Azov or without, there is no evidentiary basis for Putin’s famous claim; the necessity to denazify Ukraine. As a brilliant KGB operative who studied and used psychology, first and foremost, Mr. Putin knew exactly how to package and sell his unsellable war. Injecting a single potent word, “denazification”, into his oration, sealed not only his unquestioned heroism in the eyes of his own people, but the gullible and misguided support of many conservatives. He should look in the Russian mirror.