Ukrainians are used to think that a neighbor has greener grass and bluer sky, but it turns out that to some extent we are in better situation that the EU, Russia and US. We are not familiar with problems of modern racism, and as for oil production, soon we may even compete with Kuwait. Why? In an interview to ForUm, famous Israel political scientist, publicist and public person Avigdor Eskin answered these and other questions.

- Mr. Eskin, different media present you differently. Some write that you are a radical, others say you are a hero. What are you?

- It is not a matter of my character or ideology. Every situation requires effective tactics. There are situations when radical approach is inevitable to stop a devastating process or to make a breakthrough. Sometimes the situation requires radical silence and withholding.

Already at the age of 13 I knew what I wanted. Since then I have not changed my views. I grew up in Moscow. When I was 13, I was arrested by KGB for public protests against the policy of USSR. From that moment I set a goal to get to Israel. At 16  I was the youngest teacher of Hebrew in USSR. Hebrew was prohibited for public, and could be learned only at special courses in Moscow State Institute of International Relations or Oriental University, which were preparing diplomats and spies. In 80s I worked in US Senate and Congress, lobbying the rights of prisoners of Zion in USSR and pro-Israeli issues. There were periods when I worked in Russia, trying to improve relations between Israel and the RF.

When they accuse me of radicalism, I remember me being a foreign policy adviser of the president of South Africa from 1987 to 1994. Back then the whole world stood up for voting right of black people. But now, white people get killed in South Africa just because they white, and nobody gives a damn. During the rule of Nelson Mandela (1994 to 1999) and his followers, about 70 thousand white people were killed, and about 200 thousand white women brutally raped. This is the racism we are talking about, but the whole world keeps mum. Thus, someone had to take the mission and start speaking loud, which I am doing now. Someone may not like it, but others may hear and do something about it.

Racism against white people is an urgent issue. Europe is losing its face and character. It is time to answer the question whether we, people grown in Europe, are ready to yield up to Asian and African people just because they are of different race. And if I say that South African Dutch, white people who actually built South Africa, have the right to existence, I am accused of fascism and racism. I am not, I am antifascist and antiracist.
- Is it true that you do not accept liberalism?

- In the beginning, liberalism and its philosophy had some good ideas, but today when we say "liberalism" we do not mean John Stuart Mill, but same-sex marriages. Tomorrow we will have marriages with animals, and after tomorrow someone will come and say 'I want to marry myself'. We have reached absolute perversion and idiocy, suicide of Europe a la Sodom and Gomorrah. We see the results of liberal ideology; demographic catastrophe, when same-sex marriages are more important than children. It is a theater of absurdity. I hope Ukraine will never follow this path.

Liberal ideology denies supremacy of the Bible, supremacy of God. There is no order of importance, everything is equal: there is nothing holy or eternal, just relative theories, invented by people. Such approach destroys the basics of human society, which has always been hierarchic, with spiritual vertical and respect to traditions.

Liberalism has outlived its usefulness. It is like with communism in Moscow, one day people woke up and communism was no longer there, and nothing bad happened. One day we will laugh at liberalism as well, but for the moment the force of habit is too strong. People still respect this phantasmagoric grotesque. People have lost the ability to think critically.

- Regular Ukrainians want to join the EU to travel without visas and not to prove every time that we are not criminals, migrants, sex-workers...

- You can become an influential European state; intellectual, labor and spiritual potentials are huge. You are very talented people and you do not have demographic problems. Many prominent minds come from Ukraine. moreover, Ukraine does not have serious problems with interethnic and interfaith relations, not like in France, Belgium or Germany. Ukraine used to feed Europe, and you can do it again. As far as I know you have gigantic fields of shale, and in 20 years you may become as big oil producers as Kuwait. 

However, Ukraine's biggest misfortune is lack of state government. For many years the country was divided in parts: one territory was control by Austro-Hungary, another by Russia. Western Ukraine is one world, Eastern Ukraine is completely another one. But it is not only yours problem. Georgia has the same problem, and Israel used to have it as well. The problem is clear and it must be solved. You must work on the culture of governing and culture of politics. 

- Can it be that our troubles come from the soviet system, which destroyed the intellects and leaders and developed inferiority complex among our people? May be several generations should pass for Ukrainians to become truly free and independent...

- Indeed, there was enslavement of human spirit. Moreover, people suffered hunger and terror. But saying the best intellects of the nation were destroyed is not correct. The number of intellects of Ukrainian origin was high, higher than in tsarist Russia, but unfortunately you failed to preserve them. The major part of best intellects escape Ukraine. However, soviet education was one of the best in the world. Israel has become the leader of high-tech only thanks to immigrants from the Soviet Union. In Silicon Valley of US you will also find many immigrants from USSR. Moreover, if not for soviet power, Lviv would not be a part of Ukraine now. Soviet system united Ukraine and gave its the borders you have now.

It is a current belief that America means freedom. But look at the modern American youth. It is corrupted by drugs, emptiness, computer and TV. What brings freedom? Spiritual formation comes through book, traditions, understanding of being a part of a nation, confession, humanity, Universe. Neither modern western system, nor Russia system provide this. In both systems a person must work like Egyptian slaves to survive.

- You said that Ukraine is free from interethnic and interfaith conflicts, but in a recent comment to ForUm you focused on negative attitude to Hasid pilgrims to Uman. You even said that bones of Rabbi Nachman should be reinterred in Israel. Why do think this?

- During the WWII people had to undergo special  tests, and every nation had its heroes and traitors. Ukrainian people, suffered terrible famine and terror, decided to fight. The nation displayed heroism. However, there were also traitors, cruel people who dishonored the history with mass killings - OUN UPA, Nachtigall, SS division.

I don't understand why some people should praise those, who must be ashamed of. The Jewish people also have their traitors, like Trotsky, Kaganovich, and if I said that Israel is proud of them, I think you would feel uneasy. Same thing concerns us, when we hear that traitors who organized mass killing of Jews in Lviv are now announced as national heroes. 

As for the bones of Rabbi Nachman, every year we hear rumors that there are the discontent with Hassids coming to Ukraine. But when I says let's organize reburial in Israel, the situation changes, everybody becomes happy with pilgrimage and denies any rumours about the discontent. Of course, it may happen that among 30 thousand pilgrims there may be 30 psychos or criminals, but one inadequate person does not mean that all of pilgrims are the same. Unfortunately, people think otherwise. We want to hear citizens of Uman, who say whether they want Hassids to come or not. I have an impression that mass pilgrimage to Uman is not much welcomed in Ukraine.

The level of real xenophobia in Ukraine is not that high. Ukraine and its people behave in civilized manner. We have visa-free regime between our countries, and Israel has never regretted the decision even for a second.  But when some political forces claim that killers of our people are heroes, we cannot agree.

- There are disputes in Ukraine about acceptability of the word "zhyd". In XX century this word was not insulting, and in other languages, Polish "żyd", Czech "žid", Lithuanian "žydas", Hungarian "zsidó", these words are literary.

- It is a question to your linguists. originally, the word "zhyd" does not bear any insult. And if it is important for Ukraine, let the Academy of the Ukrainian language to declare officially to call all Jews "zhydy". But for historical and language reasons, this word is now used as an insult, like "nigger" for American black people, or "hohol" for Ukrainians.  

However, this dispute over the word is rather strange. Why do we focus on insulting each other, while we have to deepen our relations. Ukraine is a country with ancient history. Don't forget that Russia comes from here, from Kyiv. And who do you think were first citizens of Ukraine? Do you know what the first official document from Kyiv, kept in Oxford, is? A text in Hebrew to a rabbi regarding some bible laws.  Our histories are connected, and we have great perspectives, which we should not upset under any circumstances.

- What does Jewish community of Ukraine think about the issue you speak about?

- I have never spoken on behave of  these people. I don't know the leaders of this community, but what I see is a shame and tragedy. Jewish community of Ukraine is governed by people who do not speak Hebrew, are far from Jewish traditions and moral. They have become rich as any other oligarch, using people. They do not care about the fate of Israel and its people, and I doubt they worry about problems in Ukraine.

These public figures of Jewish origin often dishonor our people. These 'leaders' should be given one-way tickets to Israel, so that Israel can finally develop relations with Ukraine as a state with a state.

- You've just come back from Georgia. Is it true that the country has taken a step back and police officers become corrupted?

- Georgia is one of the most welcoming places on Earth, but it also suffers poor governing. After the collapse of USSR  the country was involved into the civil war by then president Gamsakhurdia. Then the policy of KGB general Shevardnadze also did not do any good. The ruling of Sakashvilli brought certain victories, but at the same time the country lost Osetia and Abkhazia. The new president Ivanishvili has some good ideas, but nothing significant has been done yet.  

Georgia needs to do some serious work regarding international diplomacy and refugees. As for police corruption, officers do not take bribes yet, but the criminal situation has worsened, as some criminals have been released. The country needs proper legal system, and it can adopt the experience of America in this. However, Georgia should not refuse Russia and fully adopt US, as president Saakashvili was doing in his state policy. Georgia is a unique country and should preserve its unique features, while America also has its downsides.

- Russia often behaves like a 'big brother' - don't do this, do that or we will cut off gas. Obviously young states do not like such attitude.

- Russia, as well as USSR, is inclined to imperial acts, including aggression (invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, of Hungary in 1956). Caucasus and  Chechnya were conquered not by Russian folk music, but still, after the collapse of USSR, I have not seen some serious manifestation of Russia's aggression. In fact, I am not sure Russia has a clear and reasonable policy at all.  
Modern Russia is a country suffering the crisis of perception. It still cannot decide how to behave: as an empire or a country of Russian nation. Russia does not have basic state idea. On one hand, there is absolute freedom of speech there, when Novodvorskaya, for example, openly supports Estonian Nazis or Ukrainian nationalists "Svoboda", which is rather strange for a citizen of Russia. But on the other hand, many people get imprisoned for no reason. In fact, the number of innocent prisoners there is higher than in Stalin's times. Corruption and loss of qualification is everywhere.

And I do not see how the aggression manifests itself. On the contrary, Russian speaking population is persecuted in many places. 200 thousand Russians have been banished from Chechnya, tens of thousands of Russian women were raped, which is as grave as killing. But the authorities did nothing.

Russia can never become USSR, nor economically or military. I understand your fears that Russia, which has been ruling Ukraine for many years, may want to turn the things back. However, fencing from Russia is not the solution. Ukraine should build self-sufficient united state, and considering the fact many Ukrainian interests are tied to Russia should find a balance in Ukrainian policy. Ukraine is geographically located between East and West, but what is needed is moderation. Any sudden movements to one or another side do not meet country's interests. For a start Ukraine should decide on its self-definition: what image is closer - a western citizen of Lviv or a Russian citizen of Belgorod?

- What are current relations between US and the RF?

- They go through certain crisis. Americans try not to interfere with the situation on post-soviet territory. You can see through the example of Ukraine: financing of non-governmental organizations has reduced comparing to the times of Bush and Condoleezza Rice. Moreover, US is leaving Iraq and Afghanistan. There are reasons to believe that US will not longer be involved into manufacturing democracy in the world. As for personal relations, presidents of both countries have complete incompatibility of tempers. Putin cannot find common language with Obama. 

- How can you comment on scandals around WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden?

- They should know and expect that someone may open the tap, and things will start leaking. As the saying goes, it is like to be hoisted by own petard. For many years the authorities has made American society believe that the state carries out transparent policy. WikiLeaks is a natural result of American education. Believing that the state is open and transparent some people decided to publish the information.

As for Snowden, why should Russia extradite this young man to the States? Has America ever extradited people, suspected in acts against Russia? Never! Such American policy of double standards annoys everybody. At the same time, the other side also follow double standards: we condemn  Kosovo, but create Abkhazia and Osetia.
- Now it is time to speak about Israel. Your country has always been a cultural, religious, spiritual, medical and resort center. And now the war... How do armed people fit into this?

- Israel is a country of contrasts with strong inner conflicts. There is a social city Tel Aviv with its business and high-tech, and there is a completely opposite city - Jerusalem, the world biggest spiritual center. In Israel there are more than 200 thousand men studying theology and holy texts only. You can say that the future belongs to spiritual Jerusalem.

More than third part of the population are deeply religious people, 70% treat the traditions respectfully and follow them by the book. We have managed to form a united nation, though our people lived on different continents for two thousand years. Regardless of different cultures we have managed to build the nation on the ground of Biblical idea of returning. This experience can be useful for Ukraine, because if you want an independent state you need a united nation.

As for the war, we do not fight continuously. The war mobilizes people and makes us understand that everything we have has its value. If things come easily, people become careless and lazy. I used to serve in army myself. We are proud of our army and the weapon we hold. I always say that I did not just serve in the army, but had an honor to participate in combat operations.

- Will the war ever end?

- When the Messiah comes the war will end. However, the war is relative. We live on restless territories. In Syria, for example, for two years they have killed twice more Arabs than we have done since 1948. Wherever you look on the map of Middle East, there are bloody events happening: Egypt, Syria, Turkey. The only society existing normally and stably is Israel. Despite our troubles with Gaza sector and other Arab citizens the situation is incomparable to what is happening on neighboring territories.

- Will all Jews live in Israel?

- That's our goal and task. When the things just started in 1948, we were only 600 thousand, but nobody believed we would settle on our territory. They used to say we were building officers and resorts in Israel, but intended to stay in New York, Moscow, Paris. It turned out differently. Now there are more than six million of Jews living in Israel, half of the Jewish world population. But I hope that in my lifetime I will see all Jews of the world living in Israel. And let me wish your country a blessing from Jerusalem.

Yulia Artamoshchenko


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