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Belarus Jews complain of rising anti-Semitism

Associated Press, USA
July 24, 2004 • Sunday July 25, 2004

MINSK – A leading Jewish group in Belarus on Saturday accused the government of turning a blind eye to a rising tide of anti-Semitism in the ex-Soviet republic.

Conditions for Jews in Belarus “differ little from the situation in the former Soviet Union,” Yakov Basin, head of the Belarusian office of the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews, said in a statement.

He urged international organizations to respond to the spread of anti-Semitism in Belarus and help protect rights of the Belarusian Jews.

Jewish groups in Belarus have repeatedly complained of anti-Semitism, manifested by the appearance of swastikas and other anti-Semitic graffiti, vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, the open sale of anti-Semitic publications, and the closing down of the sole university in Belarus that taught Jewish studies. In the capital Minsk and the city of Lida near the border with Poland vandals have defiled monuments to Jews killed during World War II.

The government of Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko has failed to respond to anti-Semitic actions, Basin said. He added that Belarus’ Orthodox Church helps encourage anti-Semitism by defaming Jews in its official publications.

Some 25,000 Jews currently live in Belarus, a mostly Slavic nation of 10 million that was home to a substantial Jewish minority before the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. Some 800,000 Jews were killed in Belarus by the Nazis, and many left the country after the 1991 Soviet collapse.

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