The Ukraine anti-semitic flyer: a case study in propaganda

Summary: The war in the Ukraine is, like many wars during the past few centuries, fought for the moral high ground as much as the physical terrain. Like many conflicts since WW2, it’s fought largely in the shadows by covert agencies of the participants and the great powers. Governments fall by mysterious means, dramatic actions make headlines, statesman make bold statements. But nothing is what it seems. The vignette of the anti-semitic flyer demonstrates these things in miniature, reminding us that journalists paint only the surface of events. We need analysis to see what lies beneath.

Ukraine anti-Semitic leaflet
Ukraine anti-Semitic leaflet



  1. The story breaks: evil in Ukraine
  2. Too good to question: US officials embrace the story
  3. The truth slowly emerges
  4. For More Information


(1)  The story breaks

Donetsk leaflet: Jews must register or face deportation“, Ynet News, 16 April 2014 — Excerpt:

A leaflet distributed in Donetsk, Ukraine calling for all Jews over 16 years old to register as Jews marred the Jewish community’s Passover festivities Monday (Passover eve), replacing them with feelings of concern. The leaflet demanded the city’s Jews supply a detailed list of all the property they own, or else have their citizenship revoked, face deportion and see their assets confiscated.

Donetsk, a Ukraine province with 4.3 million people – 10% of Ukraine’s population – and 17,000 Jews, is home to much of the country’s heavy industry, and is thus the biggest prize of the eastern regions where pro-Russian separatists have captured government buildings in the past week.

The leaflet, signed by Chairman of Donetsk’s temporary government Denis Pushilin, was distrbiuted to Jews near the Donetsk synagogue and later in other areas of the city where pro-Russians activists have declared Donetsk as an independent “people’s republic”, defying an ultimatum from Kiev to surrender.

The leaflet was written in Russian and had Russia’s national symbol on it, as well as the Donetsk People’s Republic insignia.

“Dear Ukraine citizens of Jewish nationality,” the flyer began, “due to the fact that the leaders of the Jewish community of Ukraine supported Bendery Junta,” a reference to Stepan Bandera, the leader of the Ukrainian nationalist movement which fought for Ukrainian independence at the end of World War II, “and oppose the pro-Slavic People’s Republic of Donetsk, (the interim government) has decided that all citizens of Jewish descent, over 16 years of age and residing within the republic’s territory are required to report to the Commissioner for Nationalities in the Donetsk Regional Administration building and register.”

The leaflet detailed what type of documents the Jewish citizens would need to supply: “ID and passport are required to register your Jewish religion, religious documents of family members, as well as documents establishing the rights to all real estate property that belongs to you, including vehicles.”

If the message was not made clear enough, the leaflet further stipulated the consequences that would come to those who failed to abide by the new demands: “Evasion of registration will result in citizenship revoke and you will be forced outside the country with a confiscation of property.”

To add insult to injury, the leaflet demanded the Jews pay a registration fee of $50.

(2)  Too good to question: America embraces the story

Although too absurd to believe, the usual suspects ran with the story.  Propaganda moves the American mind, sign of a weak people.

Drudge: Ukraine Jews

Ben Rhodes about Ukraine

(c) Secretary of State John Kerry enthusiastically believes, as he explains at a press conference, 17 April 2014 — Reminding us to believe nothing the government says:


Just in the last couple of days, notices were sent to Jews in one city indicating that they had to identify themselves as Jews. And obviously, the accompanying threat implied is – or threatened – or suffer the consequences, one way or the other.

In the year 2014, after all of the miles traveled and all of the journey of history, this is not just intolerable; it’s grotesque. It is beyond unacceptable. And any of the people who engage in these kinds of activities, from whatever party or whatever ideology or whatever place they crawl out of, there is no place for that. And unanimously, every party today joined in this condemnation of that kind of behavior.

(d)  Echoing the story was Geoffrey Pyatt (US ambassador to Ukraine), interviewed on “The Lead with Jake Tapper”, CNN, 17 April 2014 — Video here. Money paragraph; red emphasis added, the US clown show in action:

We’ve been in touch with a number of people both in the Jewish community leadership here in Kiev but also at the grassroots level in Donetsk. And everything that we’re hearing suggests that this is the real deal. And that it, apparently, is coming from somebody on the ground there among these radical groups, you know, either to stir fear or to create provocation justifying further violence. I would say also, I spoke today to somebody who is connected with groups on the ground in Mariupol and got a little bit of the same. The sort of atmosphere of fear is one of the major narratives right now and that’s something that, obviously, we are going to be watching closely over the next couple of days.

(e)  “Leaflet tells Jews to register in East Ukraine“, USA Today, 17 April 2014 — Uncritical reporting for the mass market. Except:

World leaders and Jewish groups condemned a leaflet handed out in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk in which Jews were told to “register” with the pro-Russian militants who have taken over a government office in an attempt to make Ukraine part of Russia, according to Ukrainian and Israeli media.

Some journalists were skeptical, with balanced reporting: “Demands That Jews Register in Eastern Ukraine Are Denounced, and Denied“, New York Times, 17 April 2017

News Globe

(3)  The truth slowly emerges

While the thousands of self-righteous tweets and posts denouncing this evil still thundered, saner voices quickly saw through this staged little melodrama

(a) Ukraine’s ‘Jew Register’ Either a Hoax or a Crude Extortion Scheme“, TIME, 17 April 2014 — Excerpt”

The news of pro-Russian thugs trying to impose a tax on Jews first appeared on Wednesday morning on a small, local news website in eastern Ukraine called Novosti Donbassa. Along with a photo of a neo-Nazi throwing the Hitler salute, the website offered the story of three masked goons hanging around a synagogue in the city of Donetsk and handing out anti-Semitic fliers to local Jews. The site even ran a photo of the flier, which demanded that Jewish residents of Donetsk show up to “register,” pay a fee of “50 American dollars,” and offer proof of any property they own in the region. It all looked like a crude joke.

But even though Novosti Donbassa is not the most reliable source even by the less than exacting standards of Ukrainian media, the story was apparently too scandalous to ignore. It ricocheted around the Internet on Wednesday before winding up in the Israeli press and, finally, on the website of USA Today. By Thursday evening, the article had reached U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry …

Denis Pushilin, however, is not the man who calls himself the “People’s Governor” of this pseudo-state. That would be Pavel Gubarev, who bestowed that title on himself in early March, during a separatist rally in the center of Donetsk. Three days later, he was arrested on charges of separatism and taken to jail in Kiev, where he remains. The alleged author of the anti-Semitic flier, Pushilin, is his ally and comrade-in-arms. But he has never gone by the title of “People’s Governor.” (His preferred title is the “co-chairman of the temporary coalition government” that he and his allies declared inside that building.)

For his part, Pushilin denied on Thursday that he or his organization had anything to do with these fliers. “In reality this is a fake, and a pretty unsuccessful one,” Pushilin told the news network Russia Today. “It was all done with Photoshop.”

(b) ‘Complete lie’: Pro-Russian official denies role in mysterious leaflets to Ukrainian Jews“, Fox News, 18 April 2014 — Excerpt:

A pro-Russian official initially thought to be behind fliers telling Ukrainian Jews to register vehemently denied any involvement on Friday, telling Fox News the leaflets were a “complete lie.”

… To back up his case, he said the notices were too sloppy to have been sent out by him. “Moreover, this provocation has been done unprofessionally — first of all, it is signed as ‘people’s governor Denis Pushilin,’ and I never referred to myself as such and nobody called me like that first,” he told Fox News. “Secondly the stamp that is there, it is bigger in size meaning simply it has been done in a Photoshop. And third, if you read the text you will see that it’s relatively badly written.”

… An Israeli official also told Fox News that the issue was brought to the attention of the Israeli embassy and foreign ministry, though they also presume the leaflets were handed out by local militia members as a kind of provocation. The official said the notices were distributed by masked men.

(c)  Interview with Ukraine prime minister on “Meet the Press”, NBCNews, 20 April 2014

DAVID GREGORY: Final question. There have been ghastly reports coming out of eastern Ukraine this week about some kind of forces forcing Jews in the eastern part of the country to register with local authorities. What do you make of this? Are these accurate? Are Jews particularly at risk?

ARSENIY YATSENYUK: We got information that these so-called peaceful protesters with light ammunition in their hands, that they sent a number of bulletins saying that everyone who is a Jew to be indicated as a Jew. And today in the morning, I made a clear statement urged Ukrainian military and security forces and Ukrainian Department of Homeland Security urgently to find these bastards and to bring them to justice.

(4)  For More Information

(a)  Posts about the Ukraine crisis, with so much happening beneath the surface:

  1. About the Ukraine-Russia conflict. First, know what we don’t know., 2 March 2014
  2. America’s hawks sing a song of national decline, 4 March 2014
  3. The Ukraine crisis gives us a peak behind the curtain into the workings of our government, 27 March 2014

(b)  Posts about propaganda, molding our minds:

  1. Successful propaganda as a characteristic of 21st century America, 1 February 2010
  2. A note about practical propaganda, 22 March 2010
  3. The similar delusions of America’s Left and Right show our common culture – and weakness, 26 March 2010
  4. Programs to reshape the American mind, run by the left and right, 2 August 2010
  5. The easy way to rule: leading a weak people by feeding them disinformation, 13 April 2011
  6. Facts are an obstacle to the reform of America, 20 October 2011
  7. Our minds are addled, the result of skillful and expensive propaganda, 28 December 2011
  8. Who lies to us the most? Left or Right?, 25 February 2013
  9. We can see our true selves in the propaganda used against us, 14 May 2013
  10. A nation lit only by propaganda, 3 June 2013
  11. The secret, simple tool that persuades Americans. That molds our opinions., 24 July 2013

(c) Posts about the importance of clear vision (neither Left or Right is “reality-based”):

  1. Does America have clear vision? Here’s an “eye chart” for our minds., 15 June 2009
  2. Facts are an obstacle to the reform of America, 20 October 2011
  3. Examples of America’s broken vision. Here’s why we cannot clearly see our world., 21 October 2012
  4. What does a “broken OODA loop” look like?, 23 October 2012
  5. Learning skepticism, an essential skill for citizenship in 21st century America, 1 December 2012
  6. Who lies to us the most? Left or Right?, 25 February 2013
  7. Learning to see beyond the American Pravda, 24 May 2013
  8. Remembering is the first step to learning. Living in the now is ignorance., 29 October 2013
  9. The achilles heel of both political parties, waiting to be exploited by reformers, 7 November 2013
  10. The missing but essential key to building a better America, 21 November 2013 — Clear sight about our condition
  11. Swear allegiance to the truth as a step to reforming America, 24 November 2013
  12. Today you can take the first step to reforming America, 6 February 2014 — Seeing the world clearly is revolutionary
  13. We live in an age of ignorance, but can decide to fix this – today, 15 April 2014



5 thoughts on “The Ukraine anti-semitic flyer: a case study in propaganda”

  1. Clumsy propaganda too (debunked in a couple of days). Looks like Brennan’s visit and advice is not paying off with any real results.

    And as for propaganda, those in the insular ‘western world elites’ don’t realise that …no one in the rest of the World believes them any longer .. on anything. RT, as an example, has thousands of times more credibility than anything the (eg) NYT has now.

    The western media ‘jumped the shark’ a long time ago.

    And, in fact even the US population doesn’t believe anything the Govt (and its media mouthpieces) says about Russia and the Ukraine (judging by the polls).

    But Putin’s performance has been amazing. If there was an election for a World President he’d win hands down. That ‘town hall meetting’ (done every year). 4 hours of questions… is there any western politician that could do that? Nope. Everyone of them tries as hard as they can to distance themselves from their own people.

    And all those leaks (like Nuland) brilliant. Posted on Youtube. Now that’s great work. Though I suspect that how it was done was by using agents with access to all the NSA intercepts who gave it to them (after all cheaper to buy one of the million who have access to it than build your own network).

    A hint to that was Putin’s very careful answer (and in some ways quite revealing) to Snowdown;s question. I think he told the truth in that Russia doesn’t have a ‘dragnet’ bugging operation and that it does have quite strict legal checks and balances. But I do believe that they have cracked people within (or with access to) the NSA bugging and have access to lots, if not everything, that it collects (note China probably does the same and Israel definitely does the same).

    Classic tradecraft your enemy does your work (and pays the money) for it.

  2. They were required to pay a $50 registration fee? Dollars? In Ukraine? Who wrote this statement – Americans?

  3. Of course. The US was worried about Israel not supporting it’s (daft neocon) actions in the Ukraine, so to try to get it onside (after the Jews in the Ukraine were terrified about the US supported nazi parties got to the top), so it did, probably Brennan recommended it.

  4. Pingback: Ukraine’s ‘Jew Register’ Either a Hoax or a Crude Extortion SchemeBig Online News | Big Online News

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