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Aytzim Solidarity with Ukraine

Feb. 25, 2022; updated March 23, 2022


“Your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground! Therefore, you shall be more cursed than the ground” (Gen. 4:9-11).


Very early in the Torah, the Hebrew Bible, we are presented with a quandary — to what degree are we responsible for others? Are we our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers? Today one might ask, are we Ukraine’s keeper? The Torah provides the answer: “Do not stand by at your neighbor's blood” (Lev. 19:16).


Still, people ask: Why should we care about Ukraine? For those who care about the environment, we remind you that war is among the most damaging human activities for nature and wildlife. War poisons the air, land and water. And war is horrifically deadly for humans — we are part of the Earth for which we care, so we care for humanity just as we care for all of Creation.


Jews in particular should care about Ukraine, as it is home to an estimated 400,000 of us (according to the European Jewish Congress), giving Ukraine one of the largest Jewish populations in the world. Ukraine is also led by Volodymyr Zelenskyy (Vladimir ben Rima), one of the few Jewish heads of state in the world outside of Israel.


Anyone listening to Putin for the last few decades saw his invasion of Ukraine coming. Yet we are the ones empowering Putin’s war machine — he is powered by fossil-fuel money from the West. In essence, our fossil-fuel addiction is destroying Ukraine. And that means that Ukraine’s blood is on our hands.


Some are wary of taking further action in this fight for fear of antagonizing Putin. Do not fall for his manipulative games. His unprovoked attack of Ukraine — and his bombing of hospitals and Holocaust sites while falsely calling the Jewish president of Ukraine a Nazi — demonstrate that Putin does not need excuses. Like the 45th U.S. president who admires him dearly, Putin simply fabricates his own reality and does whatever he wants to do — if we let him. Putin does not want Ukraine in NATO or the European Union precisely because such memberships would make it more difficult for him to seize the country. Indeed, it is likely that had Ukraine already been admitted to NATO and the European Union that Putin would not have invaded in the first place. After all, Putin wants to win, and is unlikely to start a fight unless he thinks he can win it.


There already are thousands of dead civilians and millions of refugees. But allowing Putin to take Ukraine effectively tells him that the world will allow him to take any country he chooses. Who will be next? Georgia? Moldova? Poland? Putin is on a mission to reassemble the Soviet Union whether those now-independent countries want it or not — and no matter how many people will die in the process. Even if further action on the world’s part is costly, failure to act will cost exceedingly more in terms of both lives and resources. The strategy of appeasement is ineffective. We shouldn’t treat Ukraine as Putin’s Czechoslovakia.


There are many other ongoing atrocities in the world, from the civil wars in Ethiopia, Syria and Yemen to the genocide of the Uyghurs in China and the Kachin, Karen and Rohingya in Myanmar. As an all-volunteer nonprofit it is beyond our capacity to address each one at this time. The war in Ukraine, however, may be unique because of its potential to ignite conflicts elsewhere in the world. Standing by idly sends the message to other despots that they likely also can take the countries they want without opposition. If Putin is not stopped, what’s next? A Turkish re-invasion of southern Cyprus? A Chinese invasion of Taiwan?


And what of those countries who are told not to worry because the world will protect them? We tell South Korea not to worry about North Korea. We tell Israel not to worry about its hostile regional neighbors like Iran. By failing Ukraine, we effectively tell these countries that our words are just words — that when their neighbors attack, they are on their own. Iran and North Korea will be even more determined in their nuclear ambitions and missile capacities. And good luck trying to convince an Israeli prime minister that territorial concessions are safe because the world will protect them if things go poorly.


The calendar may say 2022 but it looks like 1938. We mustn’t simply stand by idly and let history repeat itself. Partial sanctions and cutting back on Russian oil and gas is only a start. Russia and its puppet state Belarus must be totally cut off from the rest of the world in every way. If Europe and the United States are serious about stopping Putin, then they should institute a no-fly zone above Ukraine, reconsider NATO and E.U. membership for Ukraine, strengthen democracy at home so that democracy remains a societal exemplar — and stop propping up petrostate autocrats elsewhere around the world. We must intensify and complete the transition to renewable energy so that Putin and other petrostate autocrats lose their power to threaten the world. Yes, we should be our siblings’ keeper, and we also need to stop abetting evil with our dollars.







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