Apart from the obvious difference (not so obvious for the respected Rabbi Lerner) of US and Russian military ventures, where Russia (as the former USSR) conquers and annexes territories by force, the question about human rights advocacy is not so hypocritical indeed as he tries to demonstrate, arguing that both countries violate them. While Russia and Russian friends violate human rights with impunity keeping a firm leash on the judiciary and on the press, victims of human rights violations in the United States have many tools available for their defense and to punish violators.
The Ukrainian crisis and the invasion and annexation of Crimea cannot be taken lightly either. Russian military intervention in the affairs of Eastern Ukraine and the horrible event of the shoot-down of the civilian Malaysian airplane cannot be condoned. Time has shown that Russia under Putin is a real threat to World peace and security. The lenient view of Rabbi Lerner is quite skewed in favor of authoritarian Russia and other Russian friends such as Maduro's Venezuela.
While the tragic invasion of Crimea was taking place and people were killed in the streets of Venezuela, President Maduro was celebrating a Carnival and people in Cologne, Germany, were madly celebrating another one.
Venezuela and Russia were blatantly violating international law and human rights and using military force and repression for their ambitious goals. While some diplomatic concerns were shown regarding the Russian invasion of Ukraine, practically none was visible on the other hemisphere, with the sole exception of Panama asking for an urgent OAS meeting, while the OAS's Secretary General, Insulza, proclaimed that the OAS had nothing to do in the Venezuelan tragedy.
In Cologne, people were dancing on the streets and pubs disguised in many colorful ways. Cora Pfafferott, spokesperson of Democracy International (DI), reported on Ash Wednesday (March 2014) that she spotted a young man a few days before who looked like a Maidan protester (like those who had just promoted the fall of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych in Kiev), walking among the festivity crowds while wrapping a Ukrainian flag around his shoulders and having his face marked with blood and scratches. He was raising with his hands a placard saying "For Freedom and Democracy".
Cora further reports in their DI blog (www.democracy-international.org/) that she approached, questioned him and found that he was a native German: "His concern about the ongoing, dreadful developments around Kiev’s main square had motivated him to choose his costume. Impressive!! A political sign of solidarity during Carnival season when most people live for the moment".
What matter most are the people of Ukraine. Despite horrific events of the 20th century that claimed millions of lives, Ukraine survived both Hitler and Stalin. Its leaders found themselves free of Moscow's domination and in possession of nuclear warheads upon the collapse of the oppressive Soviet Union in 1991. However, it peacefully and voluntarily eliminated those warheads from Ukrainian soil in exchange for full national sovereignty and peace. Twenty years later, hundred's died confronting repressive forces in Ukraine during the Maidan square uprising and the people finally got rid of a government prone on turning again their country into a Moscow's satellite. But Russia would not allow Ukrainian independence and Putin has emulated former Soviet dictators in using military force to promote his expansionist goals and keep neighboring countries as vassals. It did not matter that treaties were in force guaranteeing Ukraine's sovereignty.
Military aggression keeps going in Ukraine up to this date while the democratic world keeps talking about appeasement. We are witnessing a new Munich. It is only reasonable to realize that Putin will not stop at Crimea. As with Czechoslovakia in 1938, Ukraine will soon fall under Russian hegemony. If not outright invasion, its fate is forceful submission into the Russian "sphere of influence". Will then the Baltic countries be next?
That question is quite a safe prediction to make, unless the democratic countries show the aggressors their determination to use military force in support of Ukraine if Russian aggression does not stop. In 1938 democracies wasted a good chance to stop Hitler before it was too late. Nowadays Russia cannot face militarily the United States and its European allies. They'll have no choice but to turn back as Khrushchev did when Western determination was clear to him in 1962.
But, do democracies have the required political will? Or, are they instead infected with Chamberlain's virus?
If Ukraine is abandoned, Venezuelans will have very little foreign support to expect in their lopsided struggle against a cruel dictatorship. And Israel as a free country might be doomed under Middle Eastern extremism.
Democracy will then be in full retreat all over the World.
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Some readers have objected by presenting critiques of the coup that overthrew Ukraine’s democratically elected government, which had tilted away from the European Union and toward Russia. We were not seeking to affirm that choice in particular—rather, we were seeking to present a more complex picture of the situation by pointing to the one-sidedness in the media, which made it seem as if the West were obviously innocently interested in promoting human rights and democracy and therefore siding with the coup from the streets.
We at Tikkun do not have a position on the Ukraine, but we do have a commitment to nonviolence, peace, and democratic processes. We also have a deep skepticism about the role of global capitalism and its relentless pursuit of new markets, a capitalism which is just as powerful in Russia as it is in the European Union.
So below we print a letter from one of our readers and an article he recommends on the issues, another backgrounder countering some of what we sent out before, and some other articles that argue against the construal of the situation that has emerged in the American media.
We share all this partially to counter the sanctimonious outrage from the United States about Russia’s military intervention in its neighboring state (hypocritical indeed coming from our country, which has been involved in far more murderous and destructive interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan and is now setting groundwork for such an intervention in Iraq and Venezuela).
Saying this in no way implies support for Putin’s Russia. But it does ask us to be real about who the U.S. really is—not the supposed “good intentions” of President Obama, but the actual behavior of our government: its drone warfare and its continued violence around the world, some of it covert, much of it overt. And it asks us to be real about the United States’ refusal to use its power to stop Israel’s violent domination of the West Bank as it expands its settlements while talking peace.
Letter to Tikkun from Aaron Goldberg
I have been to Ukraine recently and have some close friends on the ground there.
The popular movement to oust Yanukovich’s corrupt government and move Ukraine into a European orbit is highly inspiring.
We Americans should humbly try to learn from it.
It is a people’s movement, in my opinion the likes of which has not been seen in the United States since the 1960′s.
Hundreds of thousands of courageous civilians risked their lives and livelihoods, against all odds and day in and day out in extreme cold, to protest their own government and the venality of their political leaders more generally.
Opposition leaders and Western leaders alike arrived late to the game.
Calling this grassroots movement ‘proto-Nazi’ or ‘fascistic’ is Putinesque propaganda that bears zero resemblance to any reality that I am aware of.
Your professed political and social values align with those of the protestors, who generally aim for nothing more (but also nothing less) than a democratic, social-welfare state under the rule of law, including protection against historically-rampant government corruption.
Anti-Semitism is widespread in Eastern Europe (of course in Russia as well). But it is a non-factor in the protests.
I am aware that Tikkun makes an effort to present a balanced perspective on complex issues, which again I appreciate.
In this spirit, at the very least I would suggest that you should solicit a contribution from a member of the protest movement or one of its many international supporters, in order to ‘balance’ these two articles (which in my opinion did much to mislead and little to balance).
You could just start with one of the many Ukrainian voices that have already been publishing in the western press, such as Riabchuk in today’s NY Times. You can read the New York Times article by clicking HERE
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One thing I'm sure of is that media accounts available in the United States are so tainted by anti-Russia and U.S. nationalist and capitalist interests that we have no idea of what is really happening in Ukraine.
It is clear that the U.S. involvement is not "out of the blue," but part of an ongoing campaign to increase NATO power and Western economic penetration of the countries surrounding Russia, stimulating for some Russians reminders of the previous trauma of being attacked by the Nazis and others through the Ukraine, where pro-fascist, anti-communist and anti-Semitic sentiments ran strong and welcomed foreign interventions. While we at Tikkun have some doubts about parts of the analyses by Robert Parry and Norman Solomon, I am sharing them because they have the advantage of momentarily challenging the dominant discourse, though in ways that represent its own peculiar perspective. And they do have some plausibility—we know that much of the neo-con perspective on the world is based on an amalgam to two somewhat different commitments that have been welded together:
a. the neo-cons whose primary goal is to maintain and expand the U.S. economic and political empire and
b. the neo-cons whose primary goal is to protect Israel and destroy all of its potential enemies--a list that grows longer and longer as long as Israel retains its dominance over the Palestinian people and denies them fundamental human rights.
These two goals come together as long as the United States is perceived by the neo-cons as the primary and sole reliable ally of Israel, and all others are suspected of being willing to see Israel destroyed. Russia's backing of Iran and Syria are seen as threatening to Israel and threatening to the domination-interests of American political and economic interests, so renewing the Cold War with Russia is from the neo-con standpoint an important goal.
Ironically, however, the neocons seem all too willing to ignore the fascistic and proto-Nazi elements in the coalition that last week overthrew the democratically elected and pro-Russian government. But for those of us Jews who have not drunk the neo-con cool-aid, it's not hard to see that the one thing that might reunite all elements of both sides is anti-Semitism, which has a long and disgusting history in both Russian and Ukrainian nationalism, and very little has been done in either society to root out the teachings and the aspects of popular culture that retain that undercurrent of hatred against Jews.
For us, neither side looks particularly appealing, and a U.S. crusade on one or the other side of this conflict seems deeply misguided. So it is particularly distressing to watch the U.S. news media frame this whole issue as one in which President Obama is being called upon to prove his "toughness" (read: manliness) by standing up to the Russians.
We'd prefer if he would stand up to Israel's Netanyahu and do the one thing that would best help the Jewish people, namely using American economic and political power to push Israel toward an accommodation with the Palestinian people, thereby actually enhancing Israel's long-term survivability. But that, of course, would be portrayed by the neo-con dominated media as capitulation to Arabs and lack of backbone. Yet even a much smaller gesture—articulating to Israelis a vision of what a fair-minded and sustainable agreement would contain, Tikkun, could make a huge impact in moving the whole discourse toward peace. Well, I'm not holding my breath, because Obama is in fact without backbone to stand up to the neo-cons and their powerful media friends, and that means without the backbone to do this one thing an American president could do to create the preconditions for a lasting Middle East peace. That will not be facilitated by a renewed Cold War. It remains to be seen if Obama has the backbone to stand up to those who are cheerleading for this new Cold War with Russia.
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