WASHINGTON, D.C. February 19, 2016
TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties
FROM: Daniel Rubin, Chairman;
Alexander Smukler, President;
Mark B. Levin, Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Close to 250 Lithuanians marched this Tuesday to commemorate nationalists who collaborated with the Nazis in killing Lithuanian Jews during World War II. These nationalist marches take place in Lithuania annually, but this was reportedly the first time when honoring collaborators was the main theme of the event.
In Ukraine, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk survived a no-confidence vote by parliament. On Tuesday, the Prime Minister delivered a progress report on government reform and anti-corruption efforts. Parliament deemed the progress unsatisfactory, but did not collect enough votes to force the prime minister’s resignation.
The political disarray in Ukraine continues. The Batkivschyna and Samopomich parties have exited the ruling parliamentary coalition, leaving President Poroshenko and Prime Minister Yatsenyuk’s parties scrambling to find new allies. Failure to create a new coalition will force new parliamentary elections, which some say may further destabilize Ukraine. The partnership between President Poroshenko and Prime Minister Yatsenyuk is fractured, indicated by the President’s call earlier this week for Prime Minister Yatsenyuk to resign.
President Poroshenko also called on Prosecutor-General Viktor Shokin to step down; Shokin resigned shortly afterwards. Shokin has been widely seen as impeding vital judicial and other reforms, and his resignation may help strengthen Ukraine’s reform efforts. The U.S. State Department commended this development, praising it as a signal that Ukraine is ready to implement reforms.
I am currently in Israel, participating in the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organization’s (CoP) annual overseas mission. This week, we met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, opposition leader Isaac Herzog, and other high-level officials to discuss issues of importance to the U.S.-Israel relations, Israel’s security, and the situation in the Middle East.
NCSEJ Deputy Director Lesley Weiss is in Germany this week with her mother Irene Weiss who is testifying against Reinhold Hanning, a former SS guard at the Auschwitz death camp. Hanning served as an SS guard between January 1943 to June 1944, when hundreds of thousands Hungarian Jews were killed in Auschwitz.
Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
NCSEJ WEEKLY NEWS BRIEF
Washington, D.C. February 19, 2016
Lithuanian nationalists march in memory of Nazi collaborators
JTA, February 16, 2016
Approximately 250 Lithuanians attended a march commemorating nationalists who are accused of complicity in the murder of Jews during the Holocaust.
The march Tuesday in Kaunas, a city 65 miles east of Vilnius, was organized on Lithuania’s independence day by the Union of Nationalist Youth of Lithuania under the banner “We Know Our Nation’s Heroes.”
The so-called heroes celebrated at the march were all involved in the Holocaust or in fighting alongside Nazi Germany, according to Efraim Zuroff, the head of the Israel branch of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, who monitored the march in Kaunas along with a team of observers affiliated with defendinghistory.com — a website that reports on extremism in Lithuania.
Readout of the President’s Call with President Vladimir Putin of Russia
White House, February 14, 2016
President Obama spoke by phone yesterday with President Vladimir Putin of Russia to discuss the decisions and agreements made at the February 11 meeting of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) and to stress the importance of rapidly implementing humanitarian access to besieged areas of Syria and initiating a nationwide cessation of hostilities. In particular, President Obama emphasized the importance now of Russia playing a constructive role by ceasing its air campaign against moderate opposition forces in Syria. The leaders agreed that the United States and Russia will remain in communication on the important work of the ISSG.
The President also urged combined Russian-separatist forces to fulfill their Minsk obligations, especially adhering to the cease-fire and ensuring that the Special Monitoring Mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has full access to all areas of eastern Ukraine, including the international border. The President reiterated the importance of quickly reaching agreement on the modalities for elections in eastern Ukraine that comply with OSCE standards.Read the full article here.
Moscow flatly denies Iranian claims that S-300 air defense system to be delivered Thursday
By Hana Levi Julian
Jewish Press, February 18, 2016
A Russian Defense Ministry spokesperson has flatly denied reports from Tehran that a delivery of the S-300 anti-missile defense system is due to arrive from Moscow this week.
The spokesperson told the TASS news agency that Iranian claims the first batch would arrive Thursday are “out of the question.” He said on Wednesday, “The beginning of deliveries of the first consignment of Favorit missile systems cannot take place since the Iranian side has not paid the price written in the contract as of Feb. 16.”
Last week, Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehgan told international media the first shipment of the S-300 systems would arrive within the next two months.
The S-300 is a long-range surface-to-air missile designed to intercept aircraft and cruise missiles. The most advanced versions of the system can also target ballistic missiles.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hossein Jaberi Ansari claimed earlier in the week that a shipment of the system is already on its way to Tehran.
Read the full article here.
Another faction quits Ukraine's governing coalition
By Yuras Karmanau,
Associated Press, February 18, 2016
MINSK, Belarus — Ukraine sank deeper into political turmoil Thursday as the governing coalition lost its majority in parliament after a second faction bailed out.
The move by Samopomich (Self Help), which has 26 seats in the 450-seat parliament, leaves the coalition partners with 217 votes. Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko's faction withdrew from the coalition a day earlier.
The failure to create a new majority coalition may lead to early parliamentary elections, something President Petro Poroshenko has sought to avoid, fearing it could further destabilize the nation.
The two factions remaining in the coalition are led by Poroshenko and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. They have been uneasy partners, with members of Yatsenyuk's and Poroshenko's blocs engaging in fierce spats which have strained public patience and eroded the confidence of the West.
Some respected reformers have resigned recently, citing their disenchantment with the government's cronyism and corruption.Read the full article here.
Ukraine’s government almost fell yesterday. It’s still in crisis. Here’s what happened and why it matters
By Joshua Tucker
Washington Post, February 17, 2016
Yesterday, the president of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, issued a call for the current prime minister of Ukraine, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, to resign, after which Yatsenyuk survived a vote of no confidence. To help make sense of these events – and their implication for both the short and long-term future of Ukraine – I emailed political scientist Oxana Shevel of Tufts University for her reaction. What follows is a lightly edited transcript of her answers to my questions:
Joshua Tucker: What exactly happened yesterday in Ukraine?
Oxana Shevel: The Ukrainian cabinet delivered its performance report to the Ukrainian parliament, and the parliament voted the cabinet’s performance unsatisfactory. However, the parliament failed to vote no confidence in the government and prime minister Arsenii Yatsenyuk. 194 lawmakers voted in favor of the no-confidence motion, 32 votes short of the necessary 226 for the vote to pass. The outcome of the vote was uncertain until the end, and many believed that the government might resign or be dismissed, especially after Poroshenko publicly called for the cabinet’s resignation.
Amid concerns Syrian war may widen, Russia urges Israel to resume peace process
By Herb Keinon
Jerusalem Post, February 18, 2016
Amid concerns the raging war in Syria may widen, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold on Thursday that Russia is keen on seeing the Israeli-Palestinian peace process resume.
Gold, heading a high level foreign ministry delegation for two days of talks in Moscow, responded that “regional security is a prerequisite for peace making.”
Gold and Lavrov know each other from when they worked together while serving as their respective countries ambassadors to the UN in the late 1990s.
Welcoming Gold in Moscow, Lavrov said that as a permanent member of the UN Security Council and a member of the Middle East Quartet, Russia is interested in creating conditions “for the resumption of the peace process between Israel and Palestine in order to achieve our common goal – two states that exist in peace and security with all its neighbors.”
Lavrov said that his meeting with Gold would “cover key bilateral issues and, of course, international issues, especially the situation in the Middle East.”
Read the full article here.
New book prompts soul-searching in Lithuania about Holocaust-era complicity
By Cnaan Liphshiz
JTA, February 17, 2016
As the author of a best-seller that deals with female sexuality after 50, the Lithuanian novelist Ruta Vanagaite is used to embarrassing questions from journalists about her private life.
But even she was astonished when a reporter for a popular television station demanded to see her birth certificate to ascertain the veracity of claims that she is Jewish.
The question came during an interview about Vanagaite’s latest book, “Musiskiai” (“Our People”), a travelogue about the Holocaust consisting of interviews with witnesses to the atrocities perpetrated by Lithuanians against their Jewish neighbors.
The book’s publication last month has triggered the first major public debate in Lithuania about local Lithuanians’ complicity in the genocide of the Jews. It currently tops the best-seller list of the Pegasas chain of bookstores and has prompted officials to promise to publish this year the names of 1,000 Holocaust perpetrators they have been keeping under wraps for years.
Yad Vashem may help in construction of Kiev Holocaust museum
By Sam Sokol
Jerusalem Post, February 18, 2016
Yad Vashem is considering partnering with the Kiev Municipality to build the Ukrainian capital’s first Holocaust museum at Babi Yar, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
The announcement that Israel’s state Holocaust memorial is engaged in talks regarding the site, at which more than 33,000 Jews were murdered during a two-day period in 1941, came a week after Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev met with Kiev Mayor Vitali Klitschko in Jerusalem.
The Ukrainians initially approached Yad Vashem in December regarding the project. Klitschko was later quoted as saying was intended to be completed to mark the 75th anniversary of the killings.
At the meeting, representatives of the Babi Yar Foundation explained that “the museum will tell the story of the Jews murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators at Babi Yar,” Yad Vashem said in response to a query by the Post on Wednesday.
Anti-Semitism thriving in Europe
By Michael B. Oren
CNN, February 17, 2016
Anti-Semitism is thriving in Europe, so it was no surprise to hear the news last month of record-setting Jewish migration to Israel in 2015. It is a trend that should concern European leaders, who should be asking how they have fueled this scourge. Indeed, the issue raises an extremely troubling question -- more than 70 years after the Holocaust, has Europe really changed?
Take, for example, the European Union's recent decision to label Jewish goods from Judea, Samaria (the West Bank) and the Golan Heights.
There are more than 200 territorial disputes in the world, but Europe does not label products as made in Chinese-occupied Tibet or Turkish-occupied Cyprus. The Palestinian Authority has twice -- in 2000 and 2008 -- rejected Israeli offers of statehood in Gaza, East Jerusalem, and almost all of the West Bank. Instead, Palestinian leaders have ordered or encouraged terrorist attacks that have killed more than 1,500 Israelis and maimed many thousands more.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas refuses even to negotiate with Israel. Yet Europe does not label Palestinian products, only those made by Jews. And not only by Jews in Judea and Samaria, but in east Jerusalem, home to more than half of the city's Jews. Imagine punishing Jews for living in their own ancestral capital.
Latvia Has a New Leader, as Fears of Russia and Migration Rise
By Richard Martyn-Hephill
New York Times, February 12, 2016
RIGA, Latvia — Two months after Latvia’s first female prime minister quit in frustration, this small but strategically located Baltic nation has a new government — but only after a drawn-out process in which a string of politicians declined the leader’s job.
Latvia, along with Estonia to the north and Lithuania to the south, regained independence with the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. The three Baltic states — which joined both the European Union and NATO in 2004 — have taken on renewed significance for the West as a bulwark against a resurgent Russia, particularly since the Russian seizure of Crimea in 2014.
The RAND Corporation, an American research organization, found in a recent report that if Russia were to invade, it could reach the outskirts of Riga, the capital of Latvia, and Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, in five days at most.
Read the full article here.
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Founded in 1971, NCSEJ represents the organized American Jewish community in monitoring and advocating on behalf of the estimated 1.5 million Jews in Eastern Europe and Eurasia, including the 15 successor states of the former Soviet Union.