Oleksandr Feldman: “If people do not join their efforts against national and religious intolerance, this disease will continue spreading all over the world”


October 21, 2013

Oleksandr Feldman: “If people do not join their efforts against national and religious intolerance, this disease will continue spreading all over the world”

The International conference on the problems of anti-Semitism in Kyiv was devoted to the events of long standing, i.e. Beilis case that demonstrated the real scales of national intolerance in the Russian Empire to the world.

“Those who do not know their history and do not learn lessons from it have no future.” 

It should be reminded than in March 2011, a 12 years old student of the Kievo-Sofia spiritual school Andrei Yushchinsky. The boy’s body was found bloodless. On this ground, the Russian authorities accused a Jew Mendel Beilis of a commitment of ritual murder, also called as “blood libel”. Despite the fact that the investigators did not manage to provide proofs of Mendel’s complicity in the murder during two years, the trial took place in autumn 1913. The investigation and the trial were accompanied by a vast anti-Semitic campaign all over the territory of the Russian Empire. The attacks on Jews were stirred up by many officials, while monarchic and Black-Hundred organizations urged to massacre. 

However, on the other side, the anti-Semitic campaign caused a wave of protests from the representatives of progressive community both in Russia and abroad. The known scientists and cultural figures supported Mendel Beilis, and, as the result, the jury trial acquitted him. The International conference on the problems of anti-Semitism was devoted to the centenary of this historical event. The Conference was organized under the support of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee and the range of international institutions. It gathered politicians, diplomats and representatives of public structures from forty countries of the world in Kyiv. 

Immediately after the opening of the conference, the Vice Prime Minister Oleksandr Vilkul read the welcoming speech of the President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych: “The struggle against anti-Semitism and other displays of national intolerance is very important. An I am sure that the participants of this Conference will make a contribution to it. As a President of Ukraine, I will support all the initiatives of the public organizations on this way.” 

Jay Beilis, the grandson of Mendel Beilis, arrived to the Conference from the United State. He thanked the organizers and the participants of the conference for honouring the memory of his grandfather. “He did not consider that he was a martyr, though many thought that he was one. When people hear the history of my grandfather, they cannot hold back a tear. A person was made guilty only because somebody did not like his nationality. Unfortunately, the world still did not eradicate this disgraceful phenomenon. Anti-Semites still try to accuse Jews of all possible sins: from the participation in the world conspiracy to economic and social problems. I remember by aunt Rachel, who lived for more than a hundred years, asked with tears: ‘Why do they act like this? We have made nothing.’ That is why I am very grateful to the organizers of the Conference, who make the efforts to eradicate such awful phenomenon as national intolerance and anti-Semitism in the world,” Jay Beilis said. 

The organizer of the event, the President of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, Oleksandr Feldman, emphasized that Beilis case is one of the important pages both in the history of anti-Semitism, and in the history of establishment of civil freedoms. “We devoted this International conference to Beilis case because a century has passed, but national intolerance, xenophobia are still present in the modern world. Those who do not know their history and do not learn lessons from it have no future. If people do not join their efforts against this evil, this disease of national intolerance will continue spreading all over the world. The example is the recent events in Moscow, when people from Caucasian region became subject to attacks. That is why our conference is a reminder and an example of how it is necessary to combat this threat. For if we forget Beilis case, the evil will return again,” Oleksandr Feldman said. 

“Anti-Semitism must be illegal in each country” 

The Ambassador of Israel to Ukraine, Reuven Din El, offered to develop the mechanism for the displays anti-Semitism and national hostility to be outside modern society. “Beilis case became a significant event for the world history. The anti-Semites among the authority and the progressive community of Russia opposed then. That process was successful only because Mendel Beilis was supported by public forces that were able to protect an innocent person,” the diplomat noted. Reuven Din El emphasized that now, when national intolerance and anti-Semitism starts to develop again, the task of the international community is not to admit the repetition of the events of long standing. According to the Ambassador, such phenomenon as anti-Semitism must be eradicated in the international society, and it is necessary to involve educational programmes directed at the education of intolerance to any kind of xenophobia in society for this purpose.  

The Ambassador of Germany to Ukraine Christof Weil agreed with him. “Anti-Semitism must be illegal in each country, and the law-enforcement authorities must have all the powers to struggle against it. Besides, it is necessary to carry out the explanatory work in the society about the unacceptability of even the smallest displays of this evil,” the German diplomat considers. 

The former President of Ukraine (1991-1994) Leonid Kravchuk emphasized during his speech at the Conference: “The state’s policy in the issues of international and interconfessional relations must be open and flat. Any signs of national intolerance and anti-Semitism must be stopped decidedly.”