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Ukraine, Nazism and Zionism: How deeply are they intertwined

By David Miller

Zionism, it has been widely established, has deep roots in Ukraine.  Jews were a significant element in the settler colony of Odessa, which is today the third-most populous Ukrainian city.

Along with a range of non-Jewish colonisers, they settled on land from which the Ottoman Empire had been expelled in the settlement around Khadjibey in 1794.

As the Historian Olivia Durand writes: “Russia’s conquest of the northern shores of the Black Sea in the late eighteenth century and their renaming as ‘New Russia’ contributed to a wider movement of colonisation, settlement, and re-signification of territories worldwide under the aegis of imperial ideology.”

He further states that the “adoption of the new name was also a way to erase the memory of the former inhabitants of the region—in the case of Southern Ukraine, its Tatar and Cossack populations.”

The Tatars adopted Islam in the 14th century, while the Cossacks were Orthodox Christians.

Ukraine, especially Odessa, was a key locus of the rise of the Zionist movement in the twentieth century.  Ukraine “was arguably the most important cradle for early Zionists” according to My Jewish Learning.

First, it produced a very large number of important Zionists. Among the small handful of men who, in the early 1880s, founded the Hibbat Zion (Love of Zion) movement to settle Jews in the land of Israel — the precursor to the Zionist movement Theodor Herzl founded at the end of the century — there were two Ukrainian Jews. A little later Ber Borochov, who was born in a small Ukrainian town and died in Kiev, would create the synthesis of Marxism and Zionism that became the ideology of Israel’s Labor party. Vladimir Jabotinsky, who played a parallel role for the Likud party, was born and raised in Odessa. Ahad Ha’am, considered the founder of “cultural Zionism,” was born and lived most of his life in Ukraine. Three of Israel’s early prime ministers were born in Ukraine, as were two of its presidents.

Zionism and Ukrainian Nationalism in history

The apparent elective affinity between Zionism and Ukrainian nationalism is seen in the relationship between Jabotinsky and Symon Petliura, the leader of the Ukrainian National Army (UNA).

Petliura was a proto-fascist and his UNA was responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Jewish civilians in 1919.

Petliura was famously assassinated by Sholem Schwarzbard in 1926 while walking on the Rue Racine in Paris. Schwarzbard had lost family in the pogroms and is usually described as an "anarchist" or "communist."

"I have killed a great assassin”, he is reported to have said after being apprehended by the police. He was eventually acquitted of the murder.

in 1921, Jabotinsky had “signed an agreement” with Petliura to supply Jewish soldiers to his army.  This was, according to Haaretz,  a “complicated and embarrassing episode ” for the Zionist movement.

A famous Soviet cartoon at the time depicted Jabotinsky weeping at Petliura’s grave.

Zionism and Ukrainian nationalism today

Zionist ambivalence about Ukrainian nationalism continues to this day.

On the one hand, a few Ukrainian Zionists have warned of the rise of Nazi movements in Ukraine. They have pointed to the adoration of Stepan Bandera, the heir of Petliura, as the leader of the Ukrainian nationalists. 

One is Eduard Dolinsky, director of Kiev-based Ukrainian Jewish Committee. He has been “intensely critical of Ukrainian efforts to rehabilitate nationalist Holocaust-era Nazi collaborators”.

As a result, he has faced “threats from nationalists”. Dolinsky has though been a lonely voice. 

On the other hand, leading Zionists in Ukraine such as the oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky funded Zelensky’s TV career and his election campaign and the extremist orthodox Jewish Chabad movement.

After the 2014 US-backed coup, he created his own far-right militias when he was given the job of governor of Dnipro Oblast. He provided funds to the Nazi Aidar and Azov battalions too. 

In April 2014, Kolomoiky posed “proudly wearing” a T-shirt combining, as Haaretz reported, “the Jewish emblem of the menorah along with the Ukrainian ultranationalist symbol of a trident, all in red and black. Beneath it said “Zhidobandera” – Zhido in Russian and Ukrainian is a pejorative word similar to “Yid” in English.

It’s no surprise, therefore, that some Ukrainian Jews joined the Ukrainian military including members of the extremist Chabad sect, others signed up for Nazi battalions and up to 40 fought with it in Mariupol in 2022, according to the Ukrainian president’s advisor David Arakhamia. 

In December 2022, one of the Azov leaders, Illia Samoilenko, was welcomed as a guest of the Israeli regime.

In the Zionist movement, more broadly there has been a concerted turning away from the approach of Dolinsky to minimize the presence and political influence of Nazis in Ukraine.

Zionists are engaging, in other words, in Nazi apologism. In 2019, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) was still condemning the “extremist” Azov battalion. 

But by April 2022 they published an interview on their site saying “There are neo-Nazis in Ukraine, just as there are in the US and in Russia for that matter”, adding that “they are a very marginal group with no political influence and who don’t attack Jews or Jewish institutions in Ukraine.” 

In reality, Nazis infest the governing apparatus, the military, the police and the intelligence services. The infamous Ukrainian kill list and a wide range of Ukrainian government propaganda outlets are run directly under the aegis of Ukraine’s defense ministry and the government.

The ADL, however, does not care. It is totally focused on bashing the Palestinian resistance fighters and their defenders worldwide.

Failure of “counteroffensive” and the arms industry

The much-vaunted Ukrainian “counter-offensive” first mooted for the spring of 2023 has thrown up many and varied images and videos of wrecked Western military equipment.

The Russian military has made short shrift of even the supposed superior German Leopard tanks.

Western military stocks are running perilously low -  even Jens Stoltenberg of NATO has sounded the alarm, saying that “Our weapons and ammunition stocks are depleted and need to be replenished, not just in Germany, but in many countries across NATO.” 

Obviously, the merchants of death – otherwise known as the arms industry - are eager to step into the breach to provide new weaponry. Amongst the keen contenders is a firm that boasts that its weapons are battle tested on the Palestinians. 

US propaganda channels have trumpeted the soaring sales of Israeli arms as a result of the conflict in Ukraine. Figures show that arms exports have markedly increased. Recent contracts with NATO, Romania and two other undisclosed NATO members have been reported.

In May, a £305 million pound deal with the Netherlands was publicised. Other contracts with Finland, Sweden, Germany, and Estonia have also been announced

Haaretz salivates over the massive sums to be earned for Israel from its contributions to the Ukrainian meatgrinder. "If it wasn’t for the war, this deal wouldn’t have happened now," according to a Haaretz diplomatic source.

The Israeli arms industry is one way in which the regime is directly intervening in Ukraine. 

Another is former IDF personnel fighting in Ukraine and Israeli military equipment previously spotted on the battlefield in the former Soviet republic.

But recent reports of offensive Israeli military equipment being sent were quashed by Russian officials.  It was also announced that Russia would be given cost-free land stolen from the Palestinians for a new consulate in the occupied Jerusalem al-Quds.

In response, Ukraine launched a verbal attack on the Zionist entity saying the “so-called ‘neutrality’ of the Israeli regime is considered as a clear pro-Russian position.”

The Zionist Foreign Minister Eli Cohen called the Ukrainian embassy's statement “unacceptable”.

The spat reminded us also that Ukraine has previously urged Israel to supply it with the Iron Dome system, but the request was refused. 

The Zionists have pointed to the risk of Western military equipment ending up in the hands of Iran and this is a clue to their reluctance. 

The so-called Iron Dome is not very effective – even against the low-tech missiles predominantly fired by the resistance factions in Palestine.

How ineffective it is would be revealed in Ukraine at the hands of hypersonic Russian missiles and the defense system would stand exposed as the “paper dome” it clearly is.

David Miller is a UK-based academic and co-host of Press TV’s weekly Palestine Declassified show. He was sacked from Bristol University in October 2021 for his pro-Palestine advocacy.

(The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Press TV)

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