by Judy Haiven
On Monday, Dec. 17, Toronto’s Beth Tzedek synagogue, other Jewish institutions plus Holy Blossom Temple where I attended religious school, will host a talk by Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Chrystia Freeland.
She is being feted because she is a friend of Israel and the Jewish community – but it is herfriends we need to be worried about. She supports Ukraine and its government wholeheartedly. However, less than nine months ago, 40 Israeli human rights activists filed a petition to Israel’s High Court of Justice which demanded an end to Israeli arms sales to Ukraine.
Azov brigade marching in Kiev
Israeli human rights community argued that the weapons go to forces that openly espouse a neo-Nazi ideology. Part of Ukraine’s armed forces, the right-wing Azov militia, formed in 2014, uses these weapons. Human rights groups claim that militia members are suspected of war crimes, torture and sexual violence.
The Azov militia boasts more than 3,000 members who use the Nazi salute, carry swastikas and SS insignias according to Israel’s daily newspaper Ha’aretz. Many members have neo-Nazi sympathies and deny the Holocaust. The militia grew out of the now defunct openly neo-Nazi group Patriot of Ukraine. Azaov’s founder, Andriy Biletsky, once a leader of Patriot of Ukraine, is now a member of the Ukrainian Parliament.
Biletsky has said, “Our nation’s historic mission at this critical juncture is to lead the final march of the white race towards its survival. This is a march against sub-humans who are led by the Semite race.”
Another member of Ukrainian Parliament, responded to Ukraine’s “Jewish problem,” by publicly stating “in the government there is non-Ukrainian blood—this must be addressed.”
In May 2018, right-wing groups, including Azov, marched through Odessa. Their leaders claimed that Odessa belonged to Ukrainians, not Jews, and they promised to rid the city of Jews. This happened while the Ukrainian administration tried to deny Ukraine’s role in the Holocaust. Polish graffiti
Poland’s role in the Holocaust has been played down or denied with the support of Israel’s government. In Ukraine the rise in anti-Semitic incidents such as attacks on Jews and Jewish memorial sites, attacks on journalists, Roma and members of the LGBTQ community can be attributed to the rise of Azov.
As a Jew, my question is: Did Freeland deliver a stern rebuke (similar to the one she delivered to Russian President Vladimir Putin after the “severe repression of human rights” by Russian forces which occupied and annexed Crimea) to Ukraine or Poland? Some Canadian political pundits call Freeland the Honourable Minister for Ukraine. That fits.