Jews “Told to Register” in Eastern Ukraine
According to reports in Ukrainian and Israeli media, leaflets were handed out to Jewish persons in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, ordering that they provide a list of property they own and pay registration fees, “or else have their citizenship revoked, face deportation and see their assets confiscated,” Ynet News, Israel’s largest news website, is reporting.
Donetsk is an important city in eastern Ukraine where pro-Russian militants have taken over government buildings in an attempt to make the city become part of Russia.
Currently Donetsk is the site of “anti-terrorist” operations of the Ukrainian government as they seek to reassert control in the restive eastern region. The Ukrainian government in Kiev, in addition to the EU and NATO, claim that Russia is orchestrating the unrest to create a pretext to invade the country, an accusation which Russia staunchly denies.
Denis Pushilin, the self identified chairman of “Donetsk’s temporary government” acknowledged that fliers were distributed using his organization’s name and insignia, but has denied any connection to them.
According to Ynet:
Emanuel Shechter, in Israel, told Ynet his friends in Donetsk sent him a copy of the leaflet through social media.
“They told me that masked men were waiting for Jewish people after the Passover eve prayer, handed them the flier and told them to obey its instructions,” he said.
The leaflet begins, “Dear Ukraine citizens of Jewish nationality,” and states that all people of Jewish descent over 16 years old must report to the Commissioner for Nationalities in the Donetsk Regional Administration building and “register.”
The leaflet lays out the documentation the temporary government is demanding Jews provide to register:
“ID and passport are required to register your Jewish religion, religious documents of family members, as well as documents establishing the rights to all real estate property that belongs to you, including vehicles.”
The penalties for non-compliance will supposedly result in citizenship being revoked, “and you will be forced outside the country with a confiscation of property.”
A registration fee of $50 would also be be required to register according to the flyer.
Secretary of State John Kerry has called the called the incident “grotesque”:
“It is beyond unacceptable,” Kerry said. “And any of the people who engage in these kinds of activities — from whatever party or whatever ideology or whatever place they crawl out of — there is no place for that.”
Kerry, who participated in a conference on Ukraine with his counterparts from Russia, Ukraine and the European Union, told reporters all parties condemned anti-Semitism and all religious intolerance.
This news is particularly important to the Jewish people at this time of year. Jews are currently celebrating the holiday Passover, a celebration marking the Jewish peoples’ escape from systematic slavery and persecution in Egypt. With such cultural memory at the front of Jewish minds around the globe, it is no wonder that these actions are of particular distaste and serious concern for Jews worldwide. Even in recent histories, we have seen political and economic instability result in severe social unrest with minority groups often taking the brunt of the windfall as communities lash out. This attempt at a “registration” of the Jewish people is an alarming and reprehensible reminder of the persecution these people as a whole have faced in very recent history. With the uncertainty of the stability of Ukraine’s eastern region, actions like these cannot, and should not, be taken lightly.