Bozhena Olshaniwsky    Ukrainian Weekly  11-Jan-1987   Bleeding at the knees
The following incident centers around Israeli Knesset deputy speaker Ben Meir.  But who is Ben Meir?  The only reference that I have come across concerning him is in Israel Shahak's Israel's Global Role: Weapons for Repression, Association of Arab-American Univerisity Graduates (AAUG), Belmont Massachusetts, 1982, ISBN 0-937694-51-7, p. 17.  Israel Shahak is speaking of international arms merchant Marcus Katz:

He is known for his close connection with Minister [Zebulon] Hammer and Knesset Member Ben Meir (leaders of the fanatic religious nationalist group, Gush Emunim) and for his contribution to religious funds.

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For the record: correspondence between AHRU and Knesset

Following is the complete and unedited correspondence between Americans for Human Rights in Ukraine and Dov B. Ben-Meir, deputy speaker of the Knesset, and AHRU's two letters to all members of the Knesset.

Text of AHRU letter, dated September 18, 1986, to all members of the Knesset.

The Honorable__________
Jerusalem, Israel

Dear Mr.______________:

We are grateful to have had the opportunity to visit your most interesting country in July and for having been granted an audience with members of your government.  We commend you on the democratic nature of Israel and the spirit upon which it was built and defended.

The primary concern during our visit was to learn more about the case of John Demjanjuk accused of Nazi war crimes and crimes against humanity.  He is now being detained in Ayalon prison in Ramle awaiting charges by the prosecution for his alleged crimes.  His trial has been postponed for the past six months because the prosecutors and the police say they are looking for further evidence and witnesses.

Meanwhile, in light of the extensive pre-trial publicity about John Demjanjuk in the Israeli press we voiced our concerns to representatives of your government regarding these reports and how they could prejudice Demjanjuk's case.  They assured us that Demjanjuk's trial will be just and fair, and that the judges will not be influenced by the statements quoted from government sources in the Israeli news media.

We have been monitoring Israeli newspapers and have noted an intensification of accusatory statements made by representatives of your government regarding John Demjanjuk's guilt.  We find this condition disquieting and conducive to highly volatile situations.  We are also concerned about the Israeli Justice Department continuing to detain Demjanjuk since February without any formal criminal charges being brought against him. We believe this situation to be contrary to your laws and in violation of John Demjanjuk's human rights.

Enclosed is an article written by Hans Rullman, a correspondent from "Ost-Dienst," about the case of John Demjanjuk.  This article is being translated into several different languages.  We though the information in it might be useful to you.

Looking forward to your comments, cooperation, and friendship I remain

Sincerely yours,
Bozhena Olshaniwsky

Text of letter, dated October 1986, sent by Dov B. Ben-Meir, deputy speaker of the Knesset, to AHRU's president.

To the President,
Americans for Human Rights in Ukraine,
I have received your letter of 18 September, 1986 concerning John Demjanjuk.

At first, I did not want at all to reply, because since the days of Bogdan Chelmenitzky, the Jewish people has a long score to settle with the Ukrainian people.

Now too we can point to focuses of antisemitism in the USSR, most of them being concentrated in the Ukraine.

However on second thought, I reached the conclusion that an application such as yours, coming from an American citizen (even though of Ukrainian origin) must not remain without a response.

All along the years of the Nazi occupation of the Ukraine, uncounted numbers of your compatriots collaborated with the Nazi regime, especially in the annihilation of hundreds of thousands of Jews.

After the German defeat, part of these collaborators fled to the West and also escaped to the U.S.A.

During more than four decades, not a single word was heard from your organization in favor of the human rights of Ukrainians of the Jewish faith who were shot, burned, gassed by your fellow countrymen.  All it is only the "worry" whether the Israeli press will by its publicity prejudice the objectivity of Israeli justice, that keeps you awake at nights.

I can reassure you: Israeli justice will hold fair judgement!

To you and your friends, I suggest that you go to church not only on Sunday but also every day of the week, and that you kneel there until bleeding at the knees in asking forgiveness for what your people has done to ours.

Dov Ben-Meir, M.K.

Text of open letter, dated December 15, 1986, sent to Mr. Ben-Meir by AHRU.

An Open Letter to Dov B. Ben-Meir
Deputy Speaker of the Knesset
Jerusalem, Israel

Dear Sir:

It is with profound sadness and pain that we read your letter to us dated October 1986, which we received at the end of November.  It is simply astonishing that a person who holds such a high office as yourself Deputy Speaker of the Knesset subscribes to the odious intellectual position of a belief in collective guilt.  And, the troubling question that naturally arises is, are the views expressed in your letter merely your own or do they represent the views of a portion or of the entire Knesset?

In your letter you refer to Bohdan Khmelnytsky and World War II.  It is beyond the scope of any communication such as this to treat your specific historical allegations in any detail, but at least a brief reply is in order.  It is a well-established fact that Jews, Poles and Ukrainian Uniates suffered greatly during the Khmelnytsky uprising.  But it is also equally well established that this suffering was brought about because, due to the tragic vagaries of history, Jews held positions of leaseholders, tax collectors and the agents of the Polish nobles and had become enmeshed in the system of social, economic, religious and national oppression imposed upon Ukraine by the Polish regime.  The key issue here is the right of each people to seek liberty and freedom from oppression.  If the glory of the establishment of Israel consists precisely in that, then how can you or any other Jew condemn the Ukrainians of Khmelnytsky's era for striving to achieve the same?

In your letter you state that the Jewish people have a long score to settle with the Ukrainian people.  This is utter nonsense.  Do you, really, hold the entire Ukrainian nation collectively responsible for the crimes of certain individuals?  If so, then you are merely repeating the old Hitlerite canard that was used against your people with such disastrous consequences.  In your letter you underscore this thesis by saying that: "you go to church ... and that you kneel there until bleeding at the knees in asking forgiveness for what your people has done to ours."  This is nothing other than crude and blatant racism and Ukrainophobia.  Let us imagine that a Ukrainian were to write a similar letter stating that the Jewish people are responsible for the crimes of Lazar Kaganovich or Leon Trotsky and their Jewish cadres in the GPU in Ukraine.  Your indignation would be justified.  But Ukrainians have not said this and have not accused the Jews, as a nation, of collective responsibility for the contribution of individual Jews to Bolshevism or the famine in Ukraine in 1932-33 although, as you know, there was a disproportionate number of Jews in high positions in the Communist Party, the NKVD and the GPU in Ukraine at that time.

No nation is made up of only saints or only villains.  This applies equally to Ukrainians and Jews: there were Ukrainian peasants who were members of the jury in the famous Beilis case that acquitted the accused; and there were Ukrainians in the German police; there were Jews in the NKVD, and there were the helpless Jewish victims of the Nazi Holocaust.

You write about the alleged "uncounted numbers of your compatriots" who collaborated with the Nazi regime and who, you further allege, participated "in the annihilation of hundreds of thousands of Jews."  As a strictly factual matter, it is nowhere near being well established that persons of Ukrainian nationality did anything like kill "hundreds of thousands of Jews" during World War II.  It is certainly true that there were some Ukrainian individuals who collaborated.  The Israeli War Crimes Investigations Office estimates that they numbered about 11,000, a figure that needs to be compared to a total population of 36 million.  As regards collaborators, they were to be found in all of Europe, including France, the Netherlands, Poland and Russia.  But of far greater significance is your failure to mention the fact that the number of Ukrainian collaborators is positively dwarfed by the size of Ukraine's catastrophic losses resulting from the German invasion: over 7 million Ukrainians were killed in the war against fascism.  Why, then, do you attempt to portray Ukrainians chiefly as victimizers when in fact they were principally victims?  And not only during World War II.  In 1932-33 we lost 6 to 7 million in the genocidal man-made famine created by Stalin.

Is there anti-Semitism in Ukraine today?  Yes, there is, as there is in the United States, or France, or Russia.  However it is a serious error to uncritically equate anti-Semitism in Ukraine with Ukrainian anti-Semitism.  To cite a historical example: Was the murderous cry of the Black Hundreds "Kill the Jews and Save Russia," which was heard during czarist times in Ukraine, insofar as that is where the Jews had been forced to live because of Pale of Settlement restriction, an example of Ukrainian anti-Semitism?  Of course not, for although the Black Hundreds operated in Ukraine, they were composed of Russians and supported by the Russian czarist regime.

You imply that contemporary anti-Semitism in Ukraine is somehow the fault of the Ukrainians themselves.  Some of it may be, but how can you ignore the fact that anti-Semitism is an official policy of the Soviet government directed from Moscow.  Are you not, for example, aware of books such as "Zionism Counts on Terror" that was published in Moscow in 1984 by Novosti Press?  Is this to be blamed upon Ukrainians as well?  The point we are trying to impress upon you is that since Ukrainians do not govern their own land, and since it is not they who dictate policy in Moscow, it is unfair to ascribe the sole or principal responsibility to them for what is official Soviet policy.

In conclusion, we find that your letter degrades your office, and, no doubt, is also offensive to the Jewish people whom you represent, whose ancestors have suffered for centuries because of thinking similar to yours.  By reviving the buried myth of collective responsibility, you have placed yourself on the side of the barricade of ideas that has decisively been rejected by all civilized people.

Bozhena Olshaniwsky

Text of letter, dated December 22, 1986, sent by AHRU to all members of the Knesset.

The Honorable___________
Jerusalem, Israel

Dear Mr.______________

In a letter responding to an earlier communication that our organization sent to all members of the Knesset, Dov B. Ben-Meir, your Deputy Speaker, has expressed a position that is so profoundly prejudicial toward Ukrainians that we respectfully request that the Knesset censure Mr. Ben-Meir for attempting at this point in history to exhume the discredited spectre of collective guilt and for openly espousing Ukrainophobia a disease that we find as pernicious as anti-Semitism.

In addition to whatever action you may take within the Knesset, we think it is imperative that you publicly repudiate the statements expressed in Mr. Ben-Meir's letter.  Furthermore, we urge you to state this repudiation to the Ukrainian community in terms that are clear and unequivocal.

Enclosed is a copy of our original letter sent to Mr. Ben-Meir and to all members of the Knesset, and also his letter of response to us.

Bozhena Olshaniwsky