First They Came for Mila Kunis

February 6, 2013 1:48 am 12 comments

Actress Mila Kunis. Photo: Gage Skidmore

One of the most recognizable figures of Ukrainian Jewish descent, the beautiful and talented actress Mila Kunis, recently fell victim to the hatred of a Member of the Ukrainian Parliament from the far-right Svoboda Party – a party which is notoriously known for regularly injecting anti-Semitism into their speeches and public pronouncements. He sneeringly proclaimed that she was not “Ukrainian but a zhydovka.”  This deeply hurtful slur for a Jew was an alarming gutter effort to inject Jew-hatred into the acceptable bounds of mainstream Ukrainian discourse.

Despite the widely accepted notion that we live in an ever-more globalized world, too many people are skeptical that what happens in the halls of some far-off parliament on the other side of the world bears any impact on our way of life.  On the contrary, I fear that events now developing here in Ukraine should remind us that our world is now inextricably intertwined. Every person who dreams of a more tolerant and peaceful international community is obliged to sit bolt upright and take notice.

I speak directly to this growing trend, wherein an anti-Semitic collection of hate-mongers are abusing the democratic Parliament of Ukraine to spew messages and incite violence, in ways that we had hoped were relegated to the distant past.  In our recent elections, I was horrified to witness Svododa gain over 10 percent of the national vote.  Like all ultra-nationalist parties, they campaigned and were elected on a message intended to inject fear into society. They shrilly warn that foreigners and minorities are positioned to take over the country. Idolizing some of the most virulently anti-freedom icons of generations past, including most prominently the architect of Nazi propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, Svoboda works hard to make hatred commonplace— and acceptable — throughout Ukrainian society.

Regrettably, Svoboda Party leaders realize that they have fertile ground on which to harvest such a dangerous agenda.  While it has been on the decline in recent decades, there is no disputing that anti-Semitism, particularly among the less educated sectors of our society, remains ingrained in the minds of all too many.  Svoboda has rallied behind this recognition and exploited mistrust of Jews to gain popularity among some in the lower class who painfully welcomed the chance to be a part of campaigns of hate.

I am wholly aware of the fact that if Svoboda’s growing popularity goes unnoticed outside of my country’s borders, we may quickly reach a point of no return.  At that time, the idea of the party enjoying broad legislative powers to limit freedoms of expression amongst those who think unlike them would serve to reduce or prevent completely any immigration from nations they view as un-Ukrainian. All this could happen despite the decisive steps of the current government in Kiev to staunchly oppose inroads made by Svoboda.  One would have to be utterly ignorant of the history of this region to be unaware that campaigns born ostensibly in the guise of populism and democracy can quickly decline into mass chaos, violence and yes, even genocide.

Thankfully, we are not anywhere near that point and I don’t intend to call for panic.  I am in fact confident that the international institutions in place in the 21st century are strong enough to notice the rise of this devil at an early stage.  Once not long ago in history, the international community looked on in silence as Hitler and the Nazis deluded the world into thinking that their Jew-hatred was not worthy or “dangerous enough” to warrant global condemnation.

When the world finally did take notice, it was too late.

That is the lesson that I feel strongly IS worthy of taking notice.  Anti-Semitism and xenophobia are the most insidiously contagious social diseases humanity has ever experienced.  Civilized societies become infected with these sicknesses before they even pause and assess the damages that the illness is sure to impose.

This is an issue that cries out for the sincere attention of the international community, and most notably the leadership of the American Jewish community and the government of the United States of America.  Ukraine and the USA have developed a strong alliance defined by economic partnerships and a specific diplomatic vision that there is much that unites us in how to work together to address threats and cultivate opportunities.  Should Svoboda continue to expand, let no one deny this will harm regional and international agreements and impose instability on our mutual markets.

If history has taught us anything it is that hatred never ends with speech but will soon escalate to far more violent expressions.  Nor can hatred be contained to any national borders, particularly in today’s world of social media and instant communication.

I appeal to all peaceful and caring leaders around the world to notice this phenomenon and join me in opposing everything that Svoboda represents.  Because we all know that the stakes are far too high for the world to be able to say, “We did not know and therefore we did not act.”

Oleksandr Feldman is a member of the Parliament of Ukraine and President of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee.

This article was originally published by the Gatestone Institute.

12 Comments

  • Jeffrey Justin

    Isnt the Svoboda party the same people that this E-publication said was giving orders to the IDF Commander and his Israeli group in Ukraine?

  • TerrytheFighter

    By the way, Mr.bogshot, Oleksandr Feldman, in 2013 rejected to vote for the Verkhovna Rada resolution remembering the victims of genocide-Holodomor in Ukraine in 1932-1933.
    I wonder would an MP of Israely Knesset dared not vote for a simillar resolution aimed to remember victims of Holocaust?

  • Mr. Feldman, I have read your every word very carefully. Your honesty, sincerity, and admonition should be taken seriously, lest the past again be a prologue revisited. My main theme in my composition classes at a local community college in northern Illinois is “tolerance.” Mention of this particular instance of anti-Semitism will be cited later this spring semester in the Holocaust unit. Thank you very much for speaking up and making those living outside of Ukraine aware of those who would admire Josef Goebbels and refer to a decent Jew by the epithet “zhydovka.”

  • Mr Feldman. You conclussions are incorrect. You really need toreview the differences between Ukrainian language and Russian. The word Zhyd, as in all other slavic languages such as Polish, Czech, Slovak etc except Russian is the standard ethnonym for Jew in Ukrainian. It has a different usage as opposed to Russian cognate which uses the word Yevrey, and reserves the ethnonym Zhid exclusively as an anti-Jewish slur.

    • Dear Victor,

      Regardless of whether this term is pejorative or not, Ms Kunis has been discriminated as not being a Ukrainian BUT a Jew.

      • I disagree. I do not see any discrimination here at all. Mila identifies with her Jewish roots, and has been recognized as identifying and celebrating her ethnic Jewish roots as opposed to Ukrainian ethnic roots or association with any other of the ethnic groups that live in Ukraine today. She is an American actress, an American national, not Ukrainian, who left Ukraine at the age of 7. I doubt if she personally felt any discrimination at the age of 7. I also doubt that she speaks any Ukrainian.

        The article is a poor attempt to make a mountain out of nothing. There are more pressing things one can turns attention to.

    • Interesting. When Nicholas II had an occasion to express his contempt for the bourgeoise character of late Nineteenth-Century English society and declared “The Englishman is a Jew,” he used the word “zhid.”

  • Mr. Feldman, you really do not understand Ukrainians.

    Yes, the “First They Came For …” speech is very effective. But before anyone applies it to Mila Kunis – whether the stab at Svoboda is justified or not – let us examine the land that Mila has so much trouble understanding, let alone calling home.

    First THEY – Russians, Poles, Germans, Lithuanians, Austrians, Hungarians, Turks, Tatars, take your pick of conquerer, invader, colonizer, occupier – first THEY came for the Ukrainians, then their land, then their religion, then their culture, then their language, and so on. And let us not limit the list of “Those Who Came For” to be filled only with geo-political states and empires – let us remember that Ukrainians were targeted by identifiable Ukrainophobic groups which had foundations in aggressive economic, cultural and religious sources.

    Let us curb the anti-Svoboda, anti-nationalistic, anti-patriotic, anti-Kozak, anti-Ukrainian hysteria and regain some perspective.

  • Alex Kaganovsky

    Thank you Alexandr Borisovich!

  • Yes, the “First They Came For …” speech is very effective. But before anyone applies it to Mila Kunis – whether the stab at Svoboda is justified or not – let us examine the land that Mila has so much trouble understanding, let alone calling home.

    First THEY – Russians, Poles, Germans, Lithuanians, Austrians, Hungarians, Turks, Tatars, take your pick of conquerer, invader, colonizer, occupier – first THEY came for the Ukrainians, then their land, then their religion, then their culture, then their language, and so on. And let us not limit the list of “Those Who Came For” to be filled only with geo-political states and empires – let us remember that Ukrainians were targeted by identifiable Ukrainophobic groups which had foundations in aggressive economic, cultural and religious sources.

    Let us curb the anti-Svoboda, anti-nationalistic, anti-patriotic, anti-Kozak, anti-Ukrainian hysteria and regain some perspective.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Book Reviews Commentary In ‘America in Retreat,’ a Real-Life Risk Board

    In ‘America in Retreat,’ a Real-Life Risk Board

    JNS.org – “Risk: The Game of Strategic Conquest,” the classic Parker Brothers board game, requires imperial ambitions. Players imagine empires and are pitted against each other, vying for world domination. Amid this fictional world war, beginners learn fast that no matter the superiority of their army, every advance is a gamble determined by a roll of the dice. After a defeat, a player must retreat. Weighted reinforcement cards provide the only opportunity to reverse a player’s fortunes and resume the [...]

    Read more →
  • Beliefs and concepts Sports Does Working Out With Other Jews Keep You Jewish?

    Does Working Out With Other Jews Keep You Jewish?

    JNS.org – For Daphna Krupp, her daily workout (excluding Shabbat) at the Jewish Community Center (JCC or “J”) of Greater Baltimore has become somewhat of a ritual. She not only attends fitness classes but also engages with the instructors and plugs the J’s social programs on her personal Facebook page. “It’s the gym and the environment,” says Krupp. “It’s a great social network.” Krupp, who lives in Pikesville, Md., is one of an estimated 1 million American Jewish members of more [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Sports Illustrated Profiles Orthodox NCAA Basketball Player Aaron Liberman

    Sports Illustrated Profiles Orthodox NCAA Basketball Player Aaron Liberman

    Sports Illustrated magazine featured an extensive profile on Orthodox-Jewish college basketball player Aaron Liberman on Wednesday.  The article details Liberman’s efforts to balance faith, academics and basketball at Tulane University, a challenge the young athlete calls “a triple major.” Sports Illustrated pointed out that Liberman is the second Orthodox student to play Division I college basketball. The other was Tamir Goodman, the so-called “Jewish Jordan.” As reported in The Algemeiner, Liberman started his NCAA career at Northwestern University. According to [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Cycling the Desert: New Israel Bike Trail Connects Mitzpe Ramon to Eilat

    Cycling the Desert: New Israel Bike Trail Connects Mitzpe Ramon to Eilat

    As the popularity of cycling continues to increase across the world, Israel is working to develop cycling trails that make the country’s spectacular desert accessible to cyclists. The southern segment of the Israel Bike Trail was inaugurated on Feb. 24 and offers for the first time a unique, uninterrupted 8-day cycling experience after six years of planning and development. The southern section of the Israel Bike Trail stretches over 300 kilometers in length and is divided into eight segments for mountain biking, [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Forthcoming Major Action Movies Inspired by Jewish Comic Artist Jack Kirby

    Forthcoming Major Action Movies Inspired by Jewish Comic Artist Jack Kirby

    JNS.org – With the recent Oscars in the rearview mirror, Hollywood’s attention now shifts to the rest of this year’s big-screen lineup. Two of the major action films coming up in 2015—Avengers: Age of Ultron, which hits theaters in May, and the third film in the Fantastic Four series, slated for an August release—have Jewish roots that the average moviegoer might be unaware of. As it turns out, it took a tough Jewish kid from New York City’s Lower East [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity When Torah Teaches Life and Life Teaches Torah (REVIEW)

    When Torah Teaches Life and Life Teaches Torah (REVIEW)

    JNS.org – Rabbi Gordon Tucker spent the first 20 years of his career teaching at the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) and the next 20 years as the rabbi of Temple Israel Center in White Plains, N.Y. I confess that when I heard about the order of those events, I thought that Tucker’s move from academia to the pulpit was strange. Firstly, I could not imagine anyone filling the place of my friend, Arnold Turetsky, who was such a talented [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Oscars 2015: Reflecting on Love at First Sight

    Oscars 2015: Reflecting on Love at First Sight

    JNS.org – I’m in love, and have been for a long time. It’s a relationship filled with laughter, tears, intrigue, and surprise. It was love at first sight, back when I was a little girl—with an extra-terrestrial that longed to go home. From then on, that love has never wavered, and isn’t reserved for one, but for oh so many—Ferris Bueller, Annie Hall, Tootsie, Harry and Sally, Marty McFly, Atticus Finch, Danny Zuko, Yentl, that little dog Toto, Mrs. Doubtfire, [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Book Reviews Examining America’s First Foray into the Middle East (REVIEW)

    Examining America’s First Foray into the Middle East (REVIEW)

    At the turn of the 21st century through today, American involvement in Middle Eastern politics runs through the Central Intelligence Agency. In America’s Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East, historian Hugh Wilford shows this has always been the case. Wilford methodically traces the lives and work of the agency’s three most prominent officers in the Middle East: Kermit “Kim” Roosevelt was the grandson of president Theodore Roosevelt, and the first head of [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.