Yaro Bihun   Letter 01   12-Feb-1998   Merely echo rabbi Bleich's words
February 12, 1998

Yaro Bihun
The Ukrainian Weekly
2200 Route 10, P.O. Box 280
Parsippany, NJ
USA  07054

Dear Mr. Bihun:

In the present open letter, I wish to protest your article, titled Chief rabbi praises Ukraine's government for positive position on minorities, appearing in The Ukrainian Weekly of January 25, 1998, which covers Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich's participation in a roundtable discussion at the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington.

(1) You repeat the terms "anti-Semitism" and "anti-Semitic" 14 times in the article, and also fall back on synonyms such as "negative stereotypes," "inter-ethnic hatred," and "anti-Jewish discrimination."  In addition, you mention Rabbi Bleich's call to Ukrainians to "root out negative stereotypes which still exist in our society."  Thus, your article provides a platform for Rabbi Bleich to sit in judgment of Ukraine.
Good reporting, however, would have asked Rabbi Bleich about the corresponding Jewish attitudes toward Gentiles in general, and toward Ukrainians in particular, and for every mention of "anti-Semitism" would have included a parallel mention of "Ukrainophobia" or "anti-Ukrainianism."
Better reporting would have zeroed in on the Khmelnytsky prayer which rabbi Bleich insists that he recites in synagogue every Saturday.
Best reporting would have provided a translation of the text of rabbi Bleich's Khmelnytsky prayer so that readers of The Ukrainian Weekly could decide for themselves whether or not that prayer should more accurately be renamed as the "Khmelnytsky curse":

(2) Rabbi Bleich talks of the "positive position on minorities taken at the outset of Ukraine's independence by its government."
Good reporting would have asked Rabbi Bleich about the position of minorities in Israel, which is relevant on account of the large number of Ukrainians living in Israel, some of whom are not Jewish.
Better reporting would have gone on to query Rabbi Bleich on accusations that Israel is a racist, Apartheid state that has the worst record in the treatment of minorities of any state that is conventionally accepted as following the Western tradition.  On this topic, please consult the writings of Israel Shahak, Akiva Orr, and Norman Finkelstein, which you will find listed at:  www.ukar.org/readfram.html

(3) You identify Rabbi Bleich simply as "chief rabbi" which invites readers to arrive at the conclusion that he is in some sense chief rabbi of Ukraine.
Good reporting would have identified Rabbi Bleich as a Hassidic Jew who may have no standing to speak for non-Hassidic Jews, and would have reported the proportion of Ukrainian Jews who identify themselves with Hassidism, and as well the proportion of American Jews who do the same.
Better reporting would have listed some of the racist and Nazi-like characteristics of Hassidism, and would have sounded Rabbi Bleich's opinions on the matter:  www.ukar.org/bleich04.html

(4) You mention that a new memorial is being built at Babyn Yar, presumably a Jewish one.
Good reporting would have added that estimates of the number of Jews buried at Babyn Yar wildly and irresponsibly shoot as high as 175,000.
Better reporting would have mentioned that the Ukrainian view of Babyn Yar is that its victims are predominantly Ukrainian:  www.ukar.org/babyn.htm

(5) You mention that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides aid to Jewish social welfare programs in Ukraine, and add that "Some of the assistance, especially USDA food aid ... is distributed to non-Jewish needy groups as well."
Good reporting would have specified what proportion of USDA assistance goes to Jews and what proportion to non-Jews.
Better reporting would have estimated the proportion of all aid that the US credits as going to Ukraine, which in reality goes only to Jews within Ukraine, or only toward the emigration of Jews from Ukraine.

(6) You quote Rabbi Bleich as saying "When you talk about the difficulties and the low standard of living [in Ukraine] ..., Jews aren't suffering more than any other segment of the population."
Good reporting would have asked Rabbi Bleich whether Jews are suffering less than other segments of the population.
Better reporting would have followed up Rabbi Bleich's answer with independent statistics on the question.

(7) Rabbi Bleich's views are given more than a page and a half of Ukrainian Weekly space.
Good reporting would have asked Rabbi Bleich whether he knows of any Jewish newspaper that gives Ukrainian views the same bountiful coverage as the Ukrainian Weekly gives Jewish views generally, and his own views in particular.
Better reporting would have detailed failed attempts by Ukrainians to publish Ukrainian views in Jewish newspapers.
Best reporting would have detailed failed attempts by Ukrainians to publish Ukrainian views in The Ukrainian Weekly.

(8) Rabbi Bleich states that "I haven't heard of any cases of major anti-Semitism in the military.  Then again, I'm sure not too many Jews serve in the military."
Good reporting would have found out what was the representation of Jews in the Ukrainian military.
Better reporting would have gone on to compare the proportion of Jews in the Ukrainian military and in Ukrainian society, and would have commented on any discrepancy.
Best reporting would have provided the same statistics for the US, Canada, and Russia.

(9) You point out that Rabbi Bleich mentioned that among the prominent Jewish politicians in Ukraine was "the very popular mayor of Odesa."
Good reporting would have pointed out that mayor Eduard Hurvits has been accused of corruption.
Better reporting would have pointed out that when Ukrainian editor Boris Derevyanko wrote about Mayor Hurvits's corruption, he (Boris Derevyanko) was murdered in a contract killing:  www.ukar.org/97090001.html

(10) You report Rabbi Bleich saying of the Ukrainian Justice system that "It's even a joke to call it a justice system."
Good reporting would have added the Ukrainian perspective that one of the greatest travesties of justice in the civilized world during this century has been the trial of John Demjanjuk in Israel:  www.ukar.org/demlinks.html
Better reporting would have added that all non-Jews receive discriminatory treatment before Israeli courts, and that the Israeli courts have upheld the use of torture in the interrogation of non-Jewish prisoners.
Best reporting would have pointed out the impossibility of a Ukrainian speaking at the Israeli Embassy saying of the Israeli Justice system that "It's a joke to call it a justice system," and for his words to be reported without rebuttal in a Jewish newspaper.

(11) Rabbi Bleich points out that Ukrainian Jews in Israel have ties to Ukraine, and "when they want to do business, they'll go to Ukraine to do business before they go to Russia."
Good reporting would have pointed out that a Ukrainian who wants to do business in Israel will be faced with the obstacle that 92% of the land in Israel is exempt from ownership by non-Jews, and will also be faced with the obstacle of other laws that discriminate against non-Jews:  www.ukar.org/98020127.html
Better reporting would have pointed out that some of the more lucrative business that goes on between Israel and Ukraine is the white slave trade in Ukrainian women:  www.ukar.org/women.html

(12) It would appear from your account that the presentation of rabbi Bleich's anti-Ukrainian views during the roundtable discussions at the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington was countered by no balanced or opposing views.
Good reporting would have brought to the attention of the Ukrainian Weekly reader the observation that representatives of Ukraine had hosted Rabbi Bleich's anti-Ukrainian presentation, and failed to balance it.
Better reporting would have asked the Ukrainian Embassy staff to justify its passivity.

Conclusion.  In sum, your article is little better than a further platform for Rabbi Bleich's anti-Ukrainian views, and shows no awareness of what might be the Ukrainian counterparts of each of those views.  If you were going to merely echo Rabbi Bleich's words, then I don't understand why you didn't simply allocate a page and a half to a Bleich press release.

Yours truly,

Lubomyr Prytulak

cc: Yaakov Dov Bleich, Roma Hadzewycz