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...

  • Sports Israeli Soccer Team Faces Prospect of International Ban

    Israeli Soccer Team Faces Prospect of International Ban

    The Israel National soccer team could be facing a World Cup ban, and other soccer sanctions, unless it alleviates travel restrictions and increases field access for Palestinian players and coaches. The head of the Palestinian Football Association is pushing for international soccer’s governing body, the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA), to issue a ban on Israel competing internationally, claiming Israel’s restrictive travel for Palestinians is equivalent to a form of oppression. “It’s not only the athletes,” Jibril Rajoub explains. [...]

    Read more →
  • Beliefs and concepts Book Reviews Jewish Author of ‘Eat to Live’ Dishes on Health Care, Nutrition, Disease Prevention

    Jewish Author of ‘Eat to Live’ Dishes on Health Care, Nutrition, Disease Prevention

    JNS.org – While the national debate on “Obamacare” rages on past the recent March 31 sign-up deadline, bestselling Jewish author Dr. Joel Fuhrman says the “current disease care model of what we call ‘health care’ cannot possibly be sustained.” “There is simply not enough money available to support a system in which the lion’s share of expenditures is devoted to acute care, with virtually nothing being spent on preventive medicine, i.e. health care,” Fuhrman says in an interview. “To make [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity ‘Tears of Color’ Art Exhibit Shows Struggles of Israelis With Eating Disorders

    ‘Tears of Color’ Art Exhibit Shows Struggles of Israelis With Eating Disorders

    JNS.org – “This is how I want to be—without fear. Independent. I want to be like a bird. I want to spread my wings.” So reads part of the description beneath one of the 30 paintings on display until the end of May at the ZOA House in Tel Aviv. The collection represents the first-ever art exhibit of its kind: an exhibit created entirely by Israelis in treatment for eating disorders. Dubbed “Tears of Color,” based on one of the [...]

    Read more →
  • Beliefs and concepts Book Reviews Overprotective or Loving? Daughters Reflect on Jewish Mothers in New Anthology

    Overprotective or Loving? Daughters Reflect on Jewish Mothers in New Anthology

    JNS.org – Rachel Ament noticed that she and her friends often shared humorous anecdotes that were typically variations on a theme: overprotective, worrying Jewish moms who smothered them with love. That included Ament’s own mother. “My mom is probably every Jewish stereotype scrunched into one,” the Washington, DC, resident tells JNS.org. “At the root of all these stereotypical, worrying, overprotective moms, is love.” A social media writer for Capital One, as well as a freelance writer, Ament decided about three years [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Commentary ‎Kosher Lust: Love is Not the Answer (REVIEW)

    ‎Kosher Lust: Love is Not the Answer (REVIEW)

    Kosher Lust, by Shmuley Boteach (Gefen Publishing House, 2014). You really do want to find something positive to say about Shmuley Boteach. He is a phenomenon; very bright, an articulate bundle of energy and self-promotion. Anyone who has the chutzpah to describe himself as “America’s Rabbi” deserves ten out of ten for effort. I believe that along with most Chabad alumni, official and unofficial, he does a lot of good and is a sort of national treasure. In this world [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Hollywood’s Revisiting of Passover’s Exodus Story a Part of Throwback ‘Year of the Bible’

    Hollywood’s Revisiting of Passover’s Exodus Story a Part of Throwback ‘Year of the Bible’

    JNS.org – In a throwback to the golden age of cinema, Hollywood has declared 2014 the “Year of the Bible.” From Ridley Scott’s Exodus starring Christian Bale as Moses, to Russell Crowe playing Noah, Hollywood is gambling on new innovations in technology and star power to revisit some of the most popular stories ever told. “It’s definitely a throwback to the 1950s and early ’60s,” Dr. Stephen J. Whitfield, an American Studies professor at Brandeis University, told JNS.org. Starting with The [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada ‘Jewish Giant’ Headlines New York Jewish Museum Exhibit

    ‘Jewish Giant’ Headlines New York Jewish Museum Exhibit

    Eddie Carmel, dubbed “The Jewish Giant” by American photographer Diane Arbus, is the centerpiece of a new exhibit opening April 11 at The Jewish Museum in New York. Arbus met Carmel, who was billed “The World’s Tallest Man,” at Hubert’s Dime Museum and Flea Circus in 1959 but waited until 1970 to photograph him at his parents’ home in the Bronx, according to the museum. The son of immigrants from Tel Aviv, Carmel posed for Arbus with his head bowed to [...]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Disney Hit ‘Frozen’ Gets Passover Themed Makeover With ‘Chozen’ (VIDEO)

    Disney Hit ‘Frozen’ Gets Passover Themed Makeover With ‘Chozen’ (VIDEO)

    A Passover themed cover of hit songs Let It Go and Do You Want to Build a Snowman? from Disney’s Frozen has attracted tons of media buzz and a cool 65,ooo views on YouTube within days of going online. The work of Jewish a capella group Six13, the track is aptly named Chozen. We are celebrating “our freedom, our favorite festival, our fabulous fans, and aspiring Disney princesses everywhere” the group said. The Chozen music video tells the story of [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.