Forum Daily: The 2014 Parliamentary Elections in Ukraine: Politically Active Jews Come to Power
The following commentary by Stanislav Gluzman, head of the Jewish Business Club in Kharkiv, appeared in Forum Daily, the largest Russian-language publication in the United States. The English-language version appears with Forum Daily’s permission. The original can be found at http://www.forumdaily.com/vybory-2014-v-ukraine-aktivnye-evrei-idut-vo-vlast/.
A Jew who wants to remain a Jew in modern Ukraine can achieve something extraordinary in almost every sphere of life despite all the dramatic events in the country in recent years.
Returning from Israel to Ukraine yesterday after almost a month of absence, and seeing an abundance of election campaign banners with familiar faces on the streets of Kharkiv, I suddenly had two related thoughts:
- Perhaps nowadays in Europe there is no country more loyal to the Jews than Ukraine. This is despite all the hysteria in the Russian media about fascists and “Bandera-followers” seizing power.
- The fewer the number of Jews in Ukraine who remain, the more visible they become.
Indeed, if the Ukrainian census were conducted now, it would be unlikely to show more than 65,000 Jews in Ukraine (in reality of course the number is twice as large, but this figure means only 0.3% of the total population of the country). At the same time, Jews are seen in different spheres of national life more than ever before. They are especially visible in politics and business.
One does not need to search long for examples. I will mention the most striking:
- The candidate with the last name Rabinovich, who additionally is also the president of the Ukrainian Jewish Congress, received more votes than the two nationalist candidates together and got almost ten (!) times more votes than the estimated number of Jews who were entitled to vote during the presidential elections five months ago.
- If Akhmetov continues to lose his economic standing with the same speed as was the case during the last eight months, the three richest people of Ukraine in the Forbes 2015 list might be one hundred percent Jewish.
- One of the most likely candidates for the prime minister’s post in case of a convincing victory by the pro-presidential bloc is a Jew. Jews are visible (except perhaps in “Svoboda”) in prominent roles in almost all political parties that have a real chance to enter Parliament. Even the chief ideologist of the ultranationalist (as it was considered during the events on the Maidan) “Right Sector” movement is a Jew who also lived in Israel for quite some time, and he is not even hiding it.
- The Dnipropetrovsk Jewish community is one of the most financially powerful Jewish communities in Europe (and even in the world). This year it leveraged its economic impact (if not dominance) in the city and the region into a political direction. Kolomoysky was appointed governor and clearly has become the most influential political figure in the country. Many prominent members of the community have taken important positions in the regional and city administrations.
- Beyond Dnipropetrovsk, my native Kharkiv, which has a much weaker Jewish community, is headed by a mayor who is Jewish. (His personal qualities are not the subject of this text.) Six out of the ten richest people of the city are of Jewish origin, and even in my Parliament constituency district #169 the two main favorites are Jewish. There is a one hundred percent chance that two openly Jewish and one “hidden” Jewish candidate will win in three of the thirteen remaining districts in the Kharkiv region. (Jewish candidates also have a chance to win in two other districts.)
Even more surprising is that the dominance of Jews in the public sphere does not lead to an increase in antisemitism. On the contrary, domestic antisemitism has practically disappeared everywhere, even in the western regions of the country. Even “Svoboda” does not risk playing the Jewish card, although it would seem that they have every reason to do that.
I should mention that the forces that are implicitly or explicitly controlled by the Kremlin still try to play the Jewish card. They do so rather awkwardly however. Take for example the virtual performance of the “Jewish Rebel Army” in Odessa and the address of “the head” of even more fake “Jewish Combat Organization” in Kharkiv.
Consequently, we can say that a Jew who wants to remain a Jew in modern Ukraine can achieve something extraordinary in almost every sphere of life despite all the dramatic events in the country in recent years. His origins will not interfere, and perhaps will even help him. Hungarian, Greek, French, and even Russian Jews (if we take the political sphere into consideration), can only dream about this.
P.S. Despite the presence of two Jewish favorites in my constituency, I still plan to vote for the experienced, intelligent, successful and, as far as I know, very decent business candidate who is not Jewish. It is not the best option to vote for a candidate based on the principle of “us versus them” if you want to live in a successful and democratic country!
Translated by Olesya Kravchuk, interpreter and journalist
Edited by Peter Bejger