Jews in Odesa “beaten up by Right Sector people.” All fights started by Right Sector “almost always involve Jews.” These are a couple of samples of the information being spread by the Russian media to provoke discord between members of Ukrainian batallions on the subject of anti-Semitism. Individuals from the Jewish community have intervened to defend the reputation of the men and women in Right Sector.
News disseminated by the Russian media that Right Sector has purportedly declared war on Jews in Odesa has gained popularity this week. The news appeared on the internet site of the Russian newspaper Izvestia, as well as on the sites of LifeNews and Zvezda TV stations.
These media outlets published information about an individual named Mykhailo Maiman, who supposedly described the severe beatings of more than twenty Jewish men by members of Right Sector that took place last month. It is noted in the article that the victims of the beatings were mainly members of the Jewish diaspora.
Berl Kapulkin, an official representative of the Jewish community, said this about the story: “Nothing of the sort has happened. Take the person mentioned, Mykhailo Maiman: there is no such individual, not among the leadership in the Jewish community nor in the city of Odesa. Let me repeat, we do not know of any individual named Maiman in the city of Odesa. In the last year we do not recall a single incident of violence against any Jews, in the last five years we don’t recall anything happening either. This last year, definitely nothing. Yesterday, in fact, representatives of Right Sector called us to ask ‘Who did we beat up, we’re curious to know…?’ There are Jews among members of Right Sector, that’s why it doesn’t make any sense to suspect them of something like that,” stated Kapulkin on the Russian TV station “Informatsionnaya sluzhba mir-24.”
A notice has appeared on the official site of the Jewish community in Odesa, calling the assertion made by Russian media outlets a lie. Right Sector has denied the claims as well, and a statement posted on their VKontakte page: “The Russian media have once again launched a massive disinformation campaign against Right Sector. The media is spreading lies that Right Sector has ‘declared war on the Jewish community.’ The truth is that there have been zero conflicts on the topic of national identity with any ethnic minority since the formation of Right Sector in the city of Odesa. We call on everyone not to give in to provocations of disinformation and to ignore any and all information disseminated by Russian and pro-Russian media,” the notice states.
Jozef Zisels, head of the Eurasian Jewish Congress, said that fake news manufactured by the Russian media is nothing new: it is common practice for the Russian propaganda machine. According to Zisels, myths that anti-Semitism is increasing in Ukraine have been spun since 2004. The activist claims that the manipulation of information regarding anti-Semitism is generally successful, because Europeans tend to react to anti-Semitism and fascism in the same way, meaning on a subconscious level.
“Thinking is not required. Once someone has been labeled a fascist, people accept the label. And that’s it! So that once you have been perceived as a fascist you are treated badly, because it means that you are involved in the devil knows what and certain steps need to be taken. This image of Ukraine had been selected long ago to be used to sabotage Ukraine and to stigmatize those individuals who stand up for Ukraine. Nationalists and non-nationalists alike, as well as all those people who participated in the Maidan in the role of fascists,” Ziesels stated in his remarks to Radio Svoboda.
In summary Josef Ziesels concluded that if the majority of Russians support Putin, that means that “they blindly believe all the propaganda they see and hear.”