Ominous military actions and loss of life are projecting Ukraine into a civil war situation. Pro-Russian militias, including heavily armed men with no insignias, but thought to be Russian paratroopers, are taking over and guarding many State buildings in the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine. In Slavyansk near the border with Russia the pro-Russians have occupied the City Hall and all other important buildings, as in a coup d’etat, and have established a mini-independent state. An attack on one of their road-blocks by newly activated Ukrainian army units caused three deaths and the burning of several cars.
Then a group of pro-Russians took over the Trade Unions Building in Odessa, and during the fighting it was set ablaze and ca. 40 or the occupiers were killed. Then there was a large demonstration calling the pro-Ukrainians “Fascists” etc. The Jewish Mayor of Kharkhiv was shot in an attempted assassination and was flown to Israel for safety where he is being treated. The center of the fighting is Donetsk, where a Ukrainian helicopter was supposedly shot down by a missile from the pro-Russians and several people on both sides have been shot. This is in effect a civil; war, and the Russian army is poised on the borders of Ukraine ready to invade.
In this unstable and dangerous situation, anti-Semitic elements are taking advantage of the instability to attack Jewish sites, including cemeteries and synagogues. Both sides blame the other for these attacks, although no-one knows who is actually perpetrating them. However, there is no doubt that the whole Jewish community, that has kept out of the actual conflict so far, is in danger. Some 70 Jews have been transported from Ukraine to Israel, with financial support from the US Fellowship of Christians and Jews. The Chabad have supposedly arranged a plan to remove the rest of the community, especially from Odessa and the eastern cities, by a convoy of buses. But, the Jewish community leaders in Kiev have denied any such plan for leaving. I think we can predict that things in Ukraine will get considerably worse before they get better, and the situation is trending towards just the kind of instability that Pres. Putin needs in order to justify an invasion in order to protect the pro-Russian elements and “restore order.” We’ve heard it all before.
In this situation Israel must remain neutral. The Ukrainians are among the most anti-Semitic peoples on earth. Remember the Ukrainian leaders Chmielnicki and Petlyura, who each in their time committed terrible massacres of Jews, and during WWII the Germans used Ukrainians as concentration camp guards, they were pitiless. So we Jews should not shed a tear over the civil war and suffering of the Ukrainians. Pres. Putin of Russia has so far been quite positively disposed towards Jews, he even visited Netanya and publicly opened the monument here to the Russian soldiers killed in WWII. While Russia is hardly a friend of Israel, there are many Jews still in Russia and we don’t want to anger Putin. So PM Netanyahu is playing it safe, it may be that taking over Crimea and supporting the pro-Russians in Eastern Ukraine is an un-diplomatic thing to do, but it’s not in our backyard and Israel should take no side in this dispute.