KHARKOV, Ukraine, Feb.10 (JTA) — Ukrainian Jews have filed a lawsuit against a state-financed publication for children for its recent publication of anti-Semitic slurs.
The articles have shocked Jews here because this city in eastern Ukraine has been stable and relatively free of anti-Semitism in recent years.
One article printed in the newspaper, which is run by a cultural group calling itself Enlightenment, said Jews have greatly exaggerated the number of Holocaust victims. The author also asks, “Is it possible to compare the nearly instant death in gas chambers to death from starvation?” a reference to the millions of Ukrainians who died in Soviet-induced famines in the 1930s.
In a series of articles in the same newspaper, Jews are also accused of “working to destroy the morality and the economy of the Ukrainian people,” of a 300-year-long craving for “taking vengeance on the Ukrainians,” of starving millions of Ukrainian peasants to death during the Stalinist era and of conspiring to control contemporary political life in Ukraine.
“We consider this case to be not only Jewishly important, but internationally important as well because all citizens have to fight against ethnic hatred,” said Alexander Feldman, a local Jewish leader who serves as president of the Jewish Foundation of Ukraine.
Since Enlightenment is financed by the state, Ukrainian taxpayers, including Jews, paid for the publication of the articles. As a result, the Jewish community, which generally keeps a low profile, is reacting vocally.
The lawsuit by the Jewish Foundation asks a Kharkov district court to close Enlightenment and fine them $200,000 to be given to the Jewish community.
Leaders of Ukraine’s Jewish community, which numbers nearly 500,000, have also sent a letter protesting the articles to Ukraine’s president, Leonid Kuchma. Kuchma’s office responded that they would take unspecified measures against the group, according to Feldman.
The court is expected to consider the case at the beginning of March.