Slepokura response to Landy

To Keith M. Landy, Chair, Ontario Region, the Canadian Jewish Congress:

In the Toronto Sun's April 9, 2001, Letter of the Day you write that in 1943 as a 19-year-old Wasyl Odynsky had a choice as to whether or not to serve the German invaders who occupied Ukraine. There you glibly and categorically declaimed: "You always have a choice."

On reading this, I was reminded of something Bernie Farber told me in June, 1998, a few months after being named the CJC's Ontario Region Executive Director. I asked Bernie for his views concerning the practice of torture in Israeli jails, the perpetrators and bystanders (to borrow your own terms of reference) being in this instance Israeli Jews and the victims Palestinians and other Arabs.

He said: "Torture is a sad albeit at times necessary part of war."

His phrase "at times necessary" runs counter to your own argument that "You always have a choice," since the word "necessary" means that at times you're precluded from being able to choose.

Bernie is not alone in acknowledging the occasional necessity of torture in the prosecution of a war. Exactly a month ago the Sunday Times had bannered this headline: "Sharon set to legalise torture" (Uzi Mahnaimi, March 11, 2001). The article that followed proclaimed with robust simplicity that a new law "would allow the [Israeli] security service to torture Arab detainees."

Will you urge your co-religionists in Israel to defy this law (holding them to the same standard you applied in this case)?

Odynsky may not be the prototype of the Righteous Gentile, but where is there any evidence he ever harmed another in the manner condoned by Ariel Sharon, the Prime Minister of Israel?

Sincerely yours,

Orest Slepokura
Strathmore, Alberta

c. Editor, Toronto Sun, et al.

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Letter of the Day | Keith M. Landy

Toronto Sun | April 9, 2001

WITH HIS April 5 column ("Ukrainian guard wasn't a Nazi"), Peter Worthington joins a short list of people who just don't get it.

Wasyl Odynsky was found by the Federal Court of Canada to have lied about his wartime activities in order to gain entry to Canada. This decision was delivered by Judge Andrew MacKay who employed the accepted standard of proof with a full understanding of the special responsibility that rests upon a judge in dealing with such matters.

This is justice, and there is nothing callous about it.

Had Odynsky told the truth regarding his service at the Trawniki and Poniatowa camps he would never have been allowed to enter this country.

Worthington finds that "the Canadian Jewish Congress' apparent relish at his (Odynsky's) deportation unbecoming."

What a terrible choice of words. Surely this is a matter of justice and we make no apologies for our passionate belief that justice has been too long denied in cases such as Odynsky's. But to characterize our actions, and the motivations of our precious Holocaust survivors, as being driven by a "vendetta" is shameful.

Finally, Worthington rhetorically wonders about the choice a 19-year-old had in 1943-44. You always have a choice.

You can choose to obey or disobey. You can choose to be a perpetrator or a bystander or a rescuer. The avenue leading up to the Yad Vashem memorial in Jerusalem is lined with more than 7000 trees. Each tree represents a Righteous Gentile who chose to save a life - who chose not to obey when every law and authority figure said they must comply.

Odynsky chose to comply. He made his decision in 1943-44. The Federal Court of Canada made its decision in 2001. It is time for Odynsky to go.

Keith M. Landy
Chair, Canadian Jewish Congress,
Ontario Region

(Without proof of atrocities, we disagree)