distributed to the Jews of Ukrainian city of Donetsk* by people alleged to be Russian separatists and requesting that Donetsk Jews register with some ill-defined pro-Russian local authority, has all the telltale signs of a crude provocation. On the face of it, this is a fake intended to present the pro-Russian forces in Donetsk as a dark antisemitic power with the worst intentions.
It orders all Jews aged over 16 years old to register before the government building, which has been occupied by pro-Russian insurgents in defiance of Kiev rule.To the people with even a smidgen of knowledge of Jewish history this leaflet can't fail to remind a leaflet distributed in 1942 by occupying German army in Kiev, ordering the Jews to present themselves to "authorities" with all their valuables...
Jews would also have to pay a registration fee of $50 (£30) before 3 May and list all real estate and vehicles owned.
The registration and the fee are due because the Jewish leaders "supported the nationalist junta of [Stepan] Bandera in Kiev" and are hostile "to Orthodox Donetsk republic and its citizens.
"In case of failure to register, the perpetrators will be stripped of their citizenship and deported forcibly outside the country with confiscation of property."
Of course, the knowledge that, according to the reports, the leaflet was distributed by "three unidentified men wearing balaclavas and carrying the flag of the Russian Federation", strengthens the suggestion that this act was an intentional (and crude) provocation by the Ukrainian side of the conflict, aimed to paint the Russian separatists in the dirtiest colors.
And of course, the bloody history of the region's political upheavals frequently included Jews as bystander victims, where all sides of almost every conflict felt free to slaughter as many as their mood dictated. From Bohdan Khmelnytsky and up.
The only question is: was that specific provocation a fruit of Ukrainian inventiveness or, taking another step into conspiracy twilight, an even more complicated maneuver by the Moscow tacticians of the dirty tricks? But one can play this game forever, without getting to a firm conclusion.
Meanwhile the Jews of Donetsk will not sleep well...
(*) Donetsk, a Ukraine province with 4.3 million people - 10 percent 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.