News Digest — 2/25/22

Jews In Ukraine City Of Uman Aiding Ukrainian Armed Forces Against Russian Invasion

The Jewish community in the historic Ukrainian city of Uman – site of the tomb of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, the revered founder of the Breslov Hasidim – is actively providing medical and logistical assistance to Ukraine’s armed forces in the face of the ongoing Russian military invasion.

“We love Ukraine and we will defend it,” Haim Hazin, a representative of the community, told the Ukrainian news outlet Telegraf on Wednesday (23rd), as Russian forces attacked targets around the country.

The community has already provided practical assistance to the Ukrainian armed forces.  “At the beginning of hostilities, we handed over dozens of bags with Israeli first-aid kits to the army,” Hazin said while partner organizations in Israel also sent specialists who conducted tactical medical courses, and shared Israeli technologies on how to stop wounds from bleeding.”

On Wednesday (23rd), Hazin announced that the community was donating an ambulance that would be deployed with Ukrainian troops in the Donbass region.  “It’s equipped with modern Israeli medical supplies and bags with Israeli medicines,” he said.  

Hazin added that Jews in Uman, which is located in central Ukraine, “are determined to help in any way we can.”

He continued: “it hurts us, we fear for Ukraine.  This is sacred land for us here in Uman, where Rabbi Nachman is buried.”

Uman was once home to a thriving Jewish community that was decimated during the Nazi Holocaust.  Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, several Orthodox  families have moved to the city, mainly concentrated near the Rabbi’s tomb, which attracts thousands of worshipers from Israel, the US and other countries during Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

In Israel, meanwhile, Jewish immigrants from Ukraine expressed support for the country of their birth on social media after an impassioned message from a Ukrainian citizen to the Israeli people went viral.

“Citizens of Israel!  Please support us!  We, unlike Russia, do not welcome Hamas delegations,” Sasha Marynich wrote in a message to readers of Vesty, a Russian-language newspaper in Israel.

A resident of the Podil neighborhood in the capital Kiev, Marynich said a section of the Jewish community lived nearby.  “Never, never have we had any conflicts or misunderstandings,” he wrote.  “Every morning we greet the Jewish children with a smile as they board their school buses.”  Tuesday (22nd), however, “was a hard day, no one in town had a smile or a greeting.”  He ended his message pledging to “defend ourselves, defend our Kiev, defend Podil, and the church, and the synagogue.”

Several Israeli readers reacted warmly to Marynich’s plea.  “Israel is for an independent and free Ukraine!  Israel and the entire civilized world is with you! wrote reader Alexander Linsky, while Berta Pinhasov declared, “Hold on, Israel is with you!”

Another reader, Irina Tsybulya, said she would visit the Western Wall in Jerusalem and place a note in its cracks praying for Ukraine’s welfare.

“God take care of Ukraine,”  she wrote.



Nuclear Talks Put On Hold Amid Ukraine Incursion

Several days after superpowers said they were close to signing a new Iranian nuclear deal, negotiators announced Thursday (24th) the talks would be put on hold due to the Russian incursion in Ukraine.

A few hours before Russian troops invaded Ukraine early Thursday morning (24th), Iran’s top negotiator Ali Bakri Kani took off from Vienna to Tehran for consultations after various sides indicated the new deal was close although some disagreements remained.

Shortly before takeoff, Kani said, “being close to the finish is not a guarantee that it will be crossed.  It requires caution, perseverance and creativity to take the last step.  There are certain decisions that our Western interlocutors have to make.”

However, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine has pushed the nuclear negotiations off the global stage, forcing Iran to reassess the situation and perhaps even reconsider its position in the negotiations.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi told Putin in a telephone call on Thursday (24th) that “NATO expansion is a serious threat to the stability and security of independent countries in different regions.”

Raisi expressed hope that “what was happening” would benefit “the nations and the region,” he said according to a statement.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry said Iran was working to evacuate its citizens from Ukraine which closed its airspace early Thursday (24th).



Russia Denounces Israel’s Sovereignty In The Golan Heights

Russia denounced Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights at a meeting at the UN Security Council on Wednesday (23rd), hours before it launched its invasion of Ukraine.

“We are concerned over Tel Aviv’s announced plans for expanding settlement activity in the occupied Golan Heights, which directly contradicts the provisions of the 1949 Geneva Convention,” said Russian United Nations envoy Dmitry Polyansky in a statement.

“Russia doesn’t recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights that are part of Syria,” he said.

These were Russia’s first comments about Israel in the hours after the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement voicing support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity on Wednesday (23rd).  The statement did not mention Russia by name, apparently in an effort to not anger Moscow, which has allowed Israel to operate with a large degree of freedom in its attacks on Iranian targets in Syria.

Addressing the UN Security Council’s monthly briefing on the Middle East Wednesday (23rd), Polyansky said, “Russia’s unchanging position is that we do not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights as they are an inalienable part of Syria.”

The Security Council meeting was held despite the fact that most of the international community’s attention was focused on the opposite end of the building, as the body’s General Assembly took up the Ukraine/Russia crisis.

Meanwhile, at the Security Council meeting, the Palestinian Authority ambassador to the UN, Riyad Mansour, used the occasion to slam Israel, notably wearing a mask printed with the words “End Apartheid.”



The Ukrainians Are Learning A Lesson That Israel Has Already Learned – Dr. Dan Schueftan

→ The founders of Israel made the strategic choice to build and maintain a defense force capable of dealing independently with even the most dangerous threats.  The Ukrainians are learning today what the Czechs learned in 1938, and what the Jews vowed never to forget: Western democracies can not be relied upon in the face of a threat from an authoritarian regime willing to turn to military measures to enforce its will.  A country that cannot defend itself will be left to its own devices at a time it needs support the most.

→ Israel’s War of Independence victory was achieved only thanks to the mobilization of full human potential and the massive arms smuggling that took place despite the US embargo.  Amid the pan-Arab threat, shaped under Egyptian President Nasser’s leadership, Israel was left to its fate for almost 20 years.

→ In the 1950s, Israel faced a critical threat when the USSR supplied Egypt (and later other Arab countries) with massive quantities of frontline weapons, while Washington refused to supply Jerusalem with defensive weapons.  France, which had helped Israel deal with these dangers, betrayed Jerusalem after the Six-Day War and supported its enemies.

→ When Arab countries declared war on Israel again in 1973, the rest of Europe turned its back on Jerusalem by refusing to allow American planes that carried supplies for the IDF to refuel in its territories.  Europe continues to support efforts to delegitimize the Jewish state in international organizations, and generously funds groups that undermine it.

→ Israel became a success story not only because of its freedom and innovation, but also because it chose to base its national security on self-defense.  Its survival, progress, and prosperity were made possible by its strong military and determination to defend itself on its own.

→ Israel receives assistance due to its determination to survive without it.  It prevents war through deterrence, for it has learned that what triggers the aggression of authoritarian regimes is democracies’ hesitance to use their power even if the avenues of diplomacy and economic means have been exhausted.   

The writer is head of the International Graduate Program in National Security at the University of Haifa.



Report: UK Poised To Outlaw BDS Movement

The British government on Tuesday (22nd) moved to ban the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, the Jewish Chronicle reported.

London’s Parliament passed an amendment stopping local authority pension funds from backing BDS sanctions against British companies doing business with Israel, despite protest from some Labor MPs.

Conservative MP Rob Jenrick introduced the amendment that gives the government new powers to direct local pension funds to not make decisions that conflict with London’s foreign and defense policy.

“BDS against Israel is all too often connected to anti-Semitism here in the UK and does nothing to promote peace and is increasingly out of step with the mood in the Middle East following the Abraham Accords, whereby a number of Gulf states are forging productive links with Israel,” Jenrick told the Chronicle after the vote.

Jenrick continued: “It is unacceptable for local councils to be making divisive foreign policy interventions contrary to the position of the UK government.  I am delighted that my amendment has passed and will be the first step in legislation outlawing BDS in the UK.  I hope it presages a wider bill in the forthcoming Queen’s Speech tackling BDS throughout the public sector.”

The amendment passed on the same day that the Hertfordshire County Council rejected a bid to divest from Israel-linked companies, saying that it was out of their purview.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews, Hertfordshire Jewish Forum and the Jewish Leadership Council issued a joint statement thanking the Hertfordshire County Council for dismissing the petition.

“We thank Hertfordshire County Council for continuing to focus on the priorities of local government and rejecting the self-indulgent grandstanding of BDS,” the statement said.  “The authority has sent a clear signal that the county’s Jewish residents do not have to worry about divisive politics stirring up trouble locally.”