Monday, July 7, 2014

Harper's Balancing Act : How to Accept Anti-Semitism Abroad While Making a Mockery of it at Home

Gaitana, born Gaita-Lurdes Essami, is a beautiful Ukrainian singer and songwriter, who had represented her country in the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest; Europe's answer to American Idol.

Not everyone was happy with Ukraine's choice, however.

Yuriy Syrotyuk, a high-ranking member of the ultranationalist Svoboda (Freedom) Party, claimed that “Gaitana is not an organic representative of the Ukrainian culture ... we want to be accepted to the European Union, it could be our opportunity to show the Europeans that we are also a European nation. Gaitana “will provoke an association of Ukraine as a country of a different continent." (Time, March 5, 2012). You see, Gaitana is a woman of colour.

The All-Ukrainian Union "Svoboda"

The Svoboda Party has been enjoying political victories in Ukraine, especially since the Coup that saw the overthrow of Viktor Yanukovych.

At a time when the European Union was working out a deal with Ukraine, and the International Monetary Fund was ready to finance the country's economic recovery, Yanukovych signed a deal with Russia, whereby they would pay off 15 billion in debt and lower gas prices, if Ukraine entered into their trading bloc instead.

The West went ballistic. The United States had invested five billion dollars in creating a "democratic" infrastructure, so weren't going to lose their influence so easily.

John McCain was dispatched to meet with anti-Russian rebels, including the far-right Svoboda, and a Canadian Conservative Party delegation was not far behind.

But what do we know of the Svoboda Party, that has become so important to the United States and Canada?

Gerald Caplan wrote a piece for the Globe and Mail: As a champion of Israel, Harper will face uncomfortable truths in Ukraine, in which he exposes their rampant anti-Semitism.
For his own political reasons, the Canadian PM will continue his apparently unconditional embrace of Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s unelected government. But in private, we must hope, he will tell Yatsenyuk that it is intolerable and unacceptable that Anti-Semitism, as we all know, has no more uncompromising a foe than Stephen Harper and his government. They even denounce it where it does not exist. So we can be sure they must be outraged by Svoboda, even though in public, strangely enough, they have been silent as the grave.

... Given his newfound pre-occupation with Ukraine, Mr. Harper will surely know that only 16 months ago, the European Parliament expressed concern about Svoboda’s growing support, emphasizing that “racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic views go against the European Union’s fundamental values and principles.” The EU actually appealed to “pro-democratic parties [in Ukraine] …not to associate with, endorse or form coalitions with” Svoboda, an admonition Yatsenyuk’s new government has totally ignored.

Oleh Tyahnybok Poster Child For Anti-Semitism

Oleh Tyahnybok is the leader of the Svoboda Party. While promoting the Coup (Scoboda militants shown in top photo), he became the sought after figure for Western photo-ops. John McCain, U.S. Diplomat Victoria Nuland and even John Baird, can be seen smiling with the new poster child of the revolution.

Unfortunately, he is also the poster child for anti-Semitism, a role he is trying to downplay.

When in Parliament, he proposed honouring the WWII Ukrainian Insurgent Army, who while fending off outside threats, were "engaged in the ethnic cleansing and killing of Poles from many towns and villages of western Ukraine. " (Wikipedia). In a speech at their grave sites, Tyahnybok said:
"They were not afraid and we should not be afraid. They took their automatic guns on their necks and went into the woods, and fought against the Muscovites, Germans, Jews and other scum who wanted to take away our Ukrainian state."
In April of 2005, he co-signed an open letter to President Yushchenko calling for a parliamentary investigation into the "criminal activities of organized Jewry in Ukraine" and warned of the spreading influence in the country of conspiratorial organizations like the Anti-Defamation League that ultimately wanted to commit "genocide" against the Ukrainian people.

Another Svoboda member, Yuriy Mykhalchyshyn, a parliamentary deputy, quotes from former Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, and has actually founded a think tank named the Joseph Goebbels Political Research Centre.

The Harper government has suggested that any overt criticism of Israel could be deemed anti-Semitic, but what would they call support of a Party founded in part on anti-Semitism?

I suppose in some ways Harper can relate, as his Reform Party crawled from the ashes of Canada's Social Credit Party. According to Janine Stingel in her book Social Discredit: "Social Credit was wholly dependent on an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory." They even kept copies of the Protocols of Zion in their office.

Harper also has to restrain the zealots in his party, whose views are not unlike those of some Svoboda members. Oleksandr Maksymovych Sych , Ukraine's Svoboda Deputy Prime Minister, publicly stated that women should "lead the kind of lifestyle to avoid the risk of rape, including refraining from drinking alcohol and being in controversial company."
""The establishment came down with a constitutional package which they put to a national referendum. The package included distinct society status for Quebec and some other changes, including some that would just horrify you, putting universal Medicare in our constitution, and feminist rights, and a whole bunch of other things." Stephen Harper 1997 speech to U.S. Right-wing Council for National Policy.
Early Reform Party members thought it OK for business owners to ask ethnics and gays to move to the back of the store if they thought their visibility would turn away customers, and that schools should have the right to refuse gay and lesbian teaching applicants.

This new Conservative Party of Canada may pretend to be moving to the centre, but believe me; the back benches are filled with MPs who share these views.

And not only the backbenchers, evident when James Moore, allowed the controversial neo-Nazi, Geert Wilders, to speak at the Tulip Festival of all places.

Can Harper really pull off this balancing act of being an anti-Semitic watchdog at home, while rubbing the bellies of the anti-Semitic dogs in Ukraine.

That's going to take one powerful whistle.


  1. Terrific essay, Emily. Have you sent it to The Tyee?

  2. .. yes.. exceptional work Emily Dee .. must read for any concerned.. concious Canadian with real values.

  3. Dear Emily, I've been following your blog for a long time (since 2010/2011!) but as a result of this post, I'm afraid I'm going to have to unfollow you (which is unfortunate because you really have consistently posted amazing stuff over the years!)

    I'm sorry that you've bought into all the conspiracy theories concerning the result of an organic, grassroots movement – after all, when the protests in Kyiv started in November, they were started by just a couple of university students!

    I'm not going to go on about this, since I know you always check your facts, but please do realize that in the presidential election in May, Oleh Tyahnybok received 1.16% of the popular vote, so please do feel free to show me the 'political victories' Svoboda has been enjoying since the alleged 'coup'! Yes, the Globe & Mail article you linked is just *slightly* out of date since the current president, Poroshenko, is very much elected by the Ukrainian people!

    1. Thank you Susan. I know that Ukraine has a new leader but there are member of Svoboda in government. These nationalist movements frighten me and they seem to be growing.

      Sometimes venturing into these topics can be tricky, and believe that Harper basing his foreign policy on increasing votes at home can be dangerous.

      Before we back any government it's important to know what they stand for. Hopefully the new President can keep that Party in check.

      Caplan's piece is dated but still worth noting. Most in the media shy away from this topic but he appears to be offended enough to give it the light of day.

      Hopefully, we will both be proven wrong.