KIEV (Dec. 6)
Iran’s president, who wants to see a world without Israel, has a vociferous ally in Ukraine. A Kiev-based university that already has gained international notoriety for its anti-Zionist propaganda and anti-Semitic publications now wants the United Nations to “close” Israel.
The call came in November from the Interregional Academy for Personnel Management, known by its Russian acronym MAUP, whose leadership said the United Nations should revoke its 1947 resolution on the creation of a Jewish state.
“Mankind lived without the State of Israel exactly 2,670 years, but after the second of its creation all the world feels a constant aggression of the old ‘sons of the devil,’ ” according to a university statement, published last month in the school newspaper, supporting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s recent call to destroy Israel.
MAUP in recent months has become a major purveyor of anti-Semitism in Ukraine. But the silence until recently of Ukrainian authorities — many of whom have ties to the university — has led to criticism from the local Jewish community, international Jewish organizations and Israeli officials.
Critics say the issue could seriously compromise Ukraine’s hard-earned reputation as a new democracy seeking full acceptance by the international community, including the European Union and NATO.
Stung by growing criticism, Ukrainian officials may finally be taking the issue seriously. President Viktor Yuschenko this week urged his country’s elites to condemn anti-Semitism and xenophobia.
“There can be no ethnicity issue in a European country,” Yuschenko was quoted as saying Monday by the Interfax-Ukraine news agency. In his remarks, directed toward artists, journalists and academics, Yuschenko specifically condemned MAUP for the first time.
The anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism of MAUP’s leaders run against Ukraine’s official policy line, but the school appears to have close ties to leading policymakers, including Foreign Minister Boris Tarasyuk, an expert on Arab countries who only recently gave up his job at MAUP, reportedly under pressure from Yuschenko.
Many of Ukraine’s top politicians — including Yuschenko, Tarasyuk, former president Leonid Kravchuk and several members of Parliament — have received honorary degrees or titles from MAUP. Many lesser-known politicians and bureaucrats also call MAUP their alma mater.
These leaders find themselves in good company: The school has bestowed honorary titles and degrees on some internationally renowned hate-mongers, including U.S. white supremacist David Duke, who has a doctorate in history from MAUP and has participated in a number of MAUP-organized anti-Zionist conferences in Kiev.
Zoya Borisova, head of the school’s Department of Russian and Ukrainian as Foreign Languages, dismissed accusations of anti-Semitism.
“This is a fight against Zionism, but not against Jews,” she said.
MAUP is the country’s largest private university. With a dozen branches throughout Ukraine, MAUP has about 35,000 students, including hundreds of foreigners, mostly from Arab and developing countries.
The university offers degrees in law, economics, business administration, accounting, political science, practical medicine and psychology and claims to have a network of alumni and supporters in 60 countries.
Formerly a state-owned college system that offered post-graduate education for the public sector, MAUP went private after the fall of communism in 1991.
“MAUP was created by prominent representatives of the Ukrainian ruling elite,” said Josef Zissels, leader of the Ukrainian Va’ad, a leading Jewish group, and one of MAUP’s most vocal critics.
Such influence over government disturbs Ukrainian Jews, especially when the school’s name has become synonymous with Ukrainian anti-Semitism today.
The school has found itself in hot water in recent weeks, but its leaders appear unrepentant. Neighboring Poland said it may not recognize MAUP degrees because of the school’s controversial stand on international issues. The Israeli Foreign Ministry and the Simon Wiesenthal Center have urged Ukraine to open a probe into the school’s anti-Semitic activities.
Yet the criticism seems to have had little effect on the school and its president, Georgy Schokin. Schokin earlier this year founded a political party, the Conservative Party of Ukraine, that’s preparing for parliamentary elections in the spring.
Besides his friendship with figures such as Duke, Schokin and his school are said to maintain close ties to a number of Muslim countries, particularly Saudi Arabia and Iran. According to some press reports, a substantial portion of the school’s funding comes from these two countries, as well as a number of public groups in the Arab world.
University officials would not confirm these reports, but said the school did have good ties with the Arab world.
In fact, the school’s reputation is precisely what appeals to some of MAUP’s foreign students. In an interview with JTA, a first-year student from Iran acknowledged that it was the university’s anti-Zionism that attracted her and many Arab students.
The student, who gave her name as Ilda, said she had wanted to study medicine in Ukraine but instead studied Russian at MAUP because the school “struggles against the evil of world Zionism.”
Other students who don’t agree seem afraid to speak openly about the situation.
Liana Musatova, who graduated from MAUP last year with a master’s degree in political science, said the school is permeated with the political views of its leadership, which she said could be “dangerous for the students.”
Like other current and former students, Musatova receives a free copy of MAUP’s newspaper, Personal Plus. Almost every issue of the newspaper carries anti-Semitic and anti-Israel articles.
According to Zissels, 70 percent of all anti-Semitic publications today in Ukraine are published by MAUP, including “Mein Kampf” and “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”
Ukraine’s Education Ministry recently demanded that the school change its name to indicate that it is privately run. MAUP’s rector responded to the request by accusing the ministry of political persecution.
The ministry “wants to close MAUP because of our political activities,” rector Nikolay Golovaty told JTA.
But Ukraine’s science and education minister, Stanislav Nikolayenko, told JTA that his agency was going to close several MAUP branches because they did not meet ministry criteria.