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The Real Story Behind Those Fliers in Ukraine

Leaflets telling Jews to register with authorities not actually from ‘authorities’

Batya Ungar-Sargon
April 17, 2014
Controversial leaflet distributed in Donetsk, Ukraine. (The Coordination Forum for Countering Antisemitism)
Controversial leaflet distributed in Donetsk, Ukraine. (The Coordination Forum for Countering Antisemitism)

It’s use the Jew day in Ukraine—again. For millennia, treatment of a country’s Jews has served as the canary in the coal mine, and now the canary is tweeting all over the American and Israeli media. According to reports, a leaflet, now basically debunked and yet still inspiring fury all over Twitter, was handed out in Donetsk, the heavily Russian-speaking town in Eastern Ukraine, instructing Jews to register with authorities.

According to Ynet, the flier read as follows:

“Dear Ukraine citizens of Jewish nationality, due to the fact that the leaders of the Jewish community of Ukraine supported Bendery Junta [Stepan Bandera] and oppose the pro-Slavic People’s Republic of Donetsk, (the interim government) has decided that all citizens of Jewish descent, over 16 years of age and residing within the republic’s territory are required to report to the Commissioner for Nationalities in the Donetsk Regional Administration building and register.”

The media response was predictable. USA Today, the Jerusalem Post, and others were quick to proclaim “Jews ordered to register in Ukraine!” cleverly omitting one important question: By whom? The word “Jews” is even trending on Twitter.

The flyer is both real, and not. It’s important to see this in the context of how the Jews have been used from the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine: as fodder for the provocation machine. Indeed, Julia Ioffe at The New Republic reached out to the Donetsk Jewish community, who dismissed the flier as an attempt by Western Ukrainians to delegitimize the pro-Russian sentiment in the Eastern part of the country, just as the Russians used accusations of anti-Semitism to delegitimize the Maidan revolutionaries.

As Ioffe puts it, “This may be just another tactic to smear the so-called anti-Maidan in the east of Ukraine: you think we’re fascists? Well, take a look at these guys.” The Jews of Ukraine are not registering.

Batya Ungar-Sargon is a freelance writer who lives in New York. Her Twitter feed is @bungarsargon.