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Times of Israel | 19Dec2012 | Stuart Winer

Ukraine okays 'Zhyd' slur [?] for Jews

The Ukrainian Justice Ministry has ruled that using the derogatory [?] term “zhyd” to describe a Jew is legal, turning back a petition demanding that the word be banned from the public sphere for being offensive to the country’s Jewish population.

According to reports Wednesday in the Ukrainian media, Eleanor Grossman, the editor of the “Jewish Kiev” website, had appealed to the ministry to block right-wing nationalists from using the term, whose equivalent is pronounced “yid” [zhyd] in English.

The ministry wrote in its response that, after looking into the matter, it had found no prohibition against using the word, or its feminine derivative “zhydovka,” [zhydivka] although it did point out that in official government communications, the word “Jew” should be used.

The decision cited a Ukrainian academic dictionary to the effect that the term “zhyd” is an archaic [?] term for Jew, and isn’t necessarily a slur.

In November 2011, Grossman asked representatives of Ukraine’s nationalist Svoboda party to stop using the phrase. Grossman made her appeal after Svoboda deputy leader and parliament member Igor [Ihor] Miroshnichenko launched a tirade against Mila Kunis in which he wrote that the Ukraine-born Jewish American actress ”is not Ukrainian but a zhydovka.” [zhydivka]

Svoboda has repeatedly said it will not stop using terms that, it claims, are legitimate Ukrainian parlance.

[W.Z. The correct Ukrainian term "zhydivka" refers to a female of Jewish ethnic origin. It is not a "slur", nor is it "derogatory", nor is it "archaic". Why would Mr. Winer bastardize the easily pronounceable-in-English word "zhyd" into "yid"? And why imply that "yid" is derogatory? Is the Yiddish language derogatory? Secondly, why does Mr. Winer use the Russian words "zhydovka" instead of "zhydivka" and "Igor" instead of "Ihor"? And why does Mr. Winer refer to Ms. Kunis as "Ukraine-born" rather than "Ukrainian-born" as so many Ukrainophobes did when referring to John Demjanjuk? Thirdly, why does Mr. Winer refer to Ms. Kunis as "Jewish American"? Does she hold Israeli and American citizenship? Has she renounced her Ukrainian citizenship? Lastly, instead of demonizing Mr. Miroshnichenko for speaking the Ukrainian language, why does not Mr. Winer reproduce what Mr. Miroschenko wrote so that readers can judge the comments themselves?

The terms "zhyd" and "yevrei" have been discussed at length in the comments to a 05Dec2012 article in the Kyiv Post by Yulia McGuffie . Roman Serbyn continues his discussion in the comments below. You will note, however, that the majority of the comments in the Times of Israel are pure unadulterated Ukrainophobia.]


*** Roman Serbyn ***  2012.12.19 at 12:35 pm
There are several basic problems with this report. First, the Ukrainian Ministry did not call the term "zhyd" derogatory and so the wording of the first sentence, which implies that it did, is misleading, at best. Second, unlike the Russian term, the Ukrainian term "zhyd" is not equivalent to "yid" as the author claims. Third, both Mr. Miroshnychenko who's private comment on his blog became the subject of criticism and discussion, and the Min. of Justice letter, were written in Ukrainian, and the term used to refer to Ms. Kunis is "zhydivka", and not the Russian "zhydovka" The disrespect of the linguistic rules of transliteration gave the text a tendentious meaning. Last, Mr. Miroshnychenko wrote a short paragraph on his personal blog and did not launch a tirade, as Stuart Winer writes. This type of irresponsible reporting stokes the embers of the mutual distrust that the Soviet propaganda cultivated for the sake of the Communist regime's policy of divide and rule over the national minorities.

I have given a detailed explanation of this question elsewhere and would like to invite those interested in having more detailed information to look up my comments following the article "Why the word ‘zhyd’ stirs fighting in Ukraine," published in Kyiv Post on 5 Dec. 2012 (http://www.kyivpost.com/opinion/op-ed/why-the-word-zhyd-stirs-fighting-in-ukraine-317182.html)



*** Roman Serbyn ***  2012.12.19 at 6:39 pm
The Ukrainian Justice Ministry's response to Ms. Groisman's request is published in Киев Еврейский, in the article "Министерство юстиции Украины дало разъяснения относительно слов "еврей" и "жид"," (http://evreiskiy.kiev.ua/razjasnenija-ministerstva-justicii-11893.html). The first paragraph, the only one relevant to this story states the following:

″Проведений Міністерством юстиції аналіз не виявив вживання в актах законодавства України термінів жиди, жид жидівка, а також норм якими б заборонялось вживання зазначених слів․″ (An analysis conducted by the Ministry of Justice found no [instances] of the use in the acts of legislation of Ukraine of the terms “zhydy”, “zhyd” “zhydivka”, nor [did it find] any provisions that would forbid the use of these terms.)

It should be noted that in the Ministry's answer, there is no qualification of these three terms as "derogatory", as the statement in Kyiv Post suggests. Furthermore, it is incorrect to state that the "equivalent" of the Ukrainian term "zhyd" is pronounced "yid" in English. The discussion on the use of the term "zhyd" started over a century and a half ago, and there is much well informed literature that can be consulted.

I suggest that Kyiv Post invite professor Oleksandr Ponomariv, a Ukrainian linguist, who recently gave an interview on the question of the term "zhyd" in the Kyiv Russian-language paper "2000" - ″В украинском языке слово жид не имеет негативной окраски, - профессор КНУ″ (http://news2000.com.ua/news/sobytija/v-ukraine/218112)․ Professor Ponomariv stated: В украинском языке лингвистических причин считать это слово негативным, нет. Негативную окраску слово жид набрало из-за социальных причин под влиянием русского языка. ("There are no linguistic reasons to consider that word negative in the Ukrainian language. The word “zhyd” acquired a negative connotation for social reasons, under the influence of the Russian language.").

I also suggest that Kyiv Post be more circumspect in the way it examines and treats such sensitive and controversial subjects.