A good Jew or a bad doctor: how a Kharkov surgeon who was assaulted changed his testimony
A piece of alarming news for Ukrainian Jewry appeared on Israeli news sites: in Kharkov, anti-Semites beat up the head visiting children’s neurosurgeon of the Ukrainian Health Ministry, Doctor Alexander Dukhovsky. The Israeli Russian-language “Channel Nine” published an article in which the victim recounted the attack outside his home on 17 March:
“They beat me up and shouted: ‘Yid mug, get out of the city and out of the country!” This is blatant anti-Semitism. I told local journalists about it, but no one wanted to mention this aspect of the attack.
The three attackers in masks beat me purposely to disable my arms. They also damaged my kidneys and lungs. I have a skull fracture. I’ve been taken out of action for a very long time. But I have an operation schedule – what are these poor children to do now?”
The source of the report published on the morning of 23 March on the Channel 9 site, and which was subsequently spread in the media, is the journalist Shimon Briman.
Of course, such outrageous incidents of anti-Semitism should be made public, for xenophobia does not do credit to Ukrainian society. But a report which may cause a major scandal should be checked more carefully…
He was good at taking money, but not so good at providing treatment
The story of the “brilliant specialist”, as the journalist Briman calls the doctor, does not turn out to be so straightforward on closer examination. In 2014, the parents of three children (one of whom died), who were treated by Dukhovsky, the head of the center of children’s neurosurgery at the Kharkov accident and emergency hospital, took the doctor to court, claiming that he took large amounts of money from them, but barely provided the children with any treatment.
Medical circles in Kharkov are aware of Dukhovsky’s conflicts with parents of young patients: in 2010, deceived parents set fire to the doctor’s car on two occasions. Dukhovsky’s colleagues said in an interview with “Komsomolskaya Pravda in Ukraine”: “There are patients who he forced to have an operation with him, but in Kiev they were treated without any surgical intervention whatsoever. People run from Dukhovsky to the capital.”
The money for the operations did not go towards the needs of the department, but to the doctor personally. People in Kharkov say that Dukhovsky is not a bad specialist on the whole, but that he “won’t get up off the couch for free”, even if the patient’s life is at stake.
Negative comments about Dukhovsky can also be found on the Internet. Under the article on the “Channel 9” website, a commentator from Kharkov writes:
“95% of this article is lies! He didn’t get any fractures and his lungs were not injured. I just rang the Emergency Hospital. He just got punched in the nose and that was it. Dukhovsky’s connection with Jewry is highly dubious. But he is protected by the mayor of Kharkov, “Gepa” Kernes – Dukhovsky is some sort of relative of his. If there is a person who practically all of the employees of the Emergency Hospital hate, it’s Dukhovsky. The only doctor from this hospital who has had his car set on fire is Dukhovsky. When he was punched in the head, it was a reaction to beating up a medical assistant from the surgery unit.”
An anti-Semitic motive?
An article published on the website of “Komsomolskaya Pravda in Ukraine” on 20 March quotes the doctor and law-enforcement officers investigating the sensational case.
“They waited for me to park the car, and then three men wearing masks and tracksuits attacked me, punching and kicking me. They also swore at me, telling me to resign, and leave the city, and leave the country. I was a champion of the judo club, I played rugby and served in intelligence, so they didn’t knock me to the ground immediately. When I was trying to ward them off, one of the attackers broke my arm. But if people hadn’t come running, they would have killed me…
The doctor said he suspected that the attack was organized by his enemies from medical circles. At the Dzerzhinsky district police department, located very close to the scene of the crime, a criminal case was opened on the charge of “hooliganism”.
“An investigation is currently underway,” employees of the regional department said. “If it turns out that this is connected with his professional activity, as the victim himself says, then this case will be included with other cases which are already being investigated. Expert evaluations are still continuing.”
However, three days later in an interview with Briman, Dukhovsky began to insist on a Jewish motive behind the incident. “This is not everyday anti-Semitism, but real xenophobia. I cannot compare it with the attack on the synagogue in France, but everything starts with little things.”
The anti-Semitic theory was supported by the Supreme Rada deputy and head of the Ukraine-Israel parliamentary group Alexander Feldman: “I wrote appeals to the General Prosecutor’s Office of Ukraine and the Ukrainian Security Service asking them to pay attention to the anti-Semitic motives of this attack, but I have not yet received any replies. I wouldn’t like to think that these are links in the same chain,” said the deputy, who once gave Dukhovsky’s center equipment for unique neurosurgical operations.
Feldman previously published a report on his site that he had appealed to the general prosecutor’s office, and also the heads of the Ukraine Security Service and Interior Ministry to take measures in connection with possible xenophobic acts of provocation in Kharkov. He believes that the military operations in Donbass have led to an activation of “the remains of extremist, radical and nationalist movements such as ‘Oplota’” As the deputy explains, these groups and sponsored and controlled by the “neighboring country”. He notes the increase in anti-Semitic and xenophobic graffiti and comments in the city. The deputy learned about possible acts of provocation, as he says, from his own sources.
The community doesn’t believe it
The Jewish community of Kharkov does not link the attack on the doctor to his ethnicity:
“Doctor Dukhovsky has a very indirect connection to the community and Jewish life in the city. You could only call him a member of the community because of his ancestry. If people had wanted to attack Jews, they would have attacked someone from the community, so they’d get the right target, and Dukhovsky doesn’t have a typical Jewish appearance, which rules out a spontaneous anti-Semitic attack,” a source from the Jewish community of Kharkov told Jewishnews.com.ua.
Even people close to Alexander Dukhovsky rule out a “Jewish” motive, linking the incident solely to his medical activity. Among the unhappy parents of Dukhovsky’s former patients, who accuse the doctor of unprofessionalism and taking bribes, there may well be anti-Semites. But in this case the motive for the attack on the doctor would also not have been the doctor’s ancestry.
Don’t be in a hurry to cry wolf
One gets the feeling that Doctor Dukhovsky and the journalist Briman deliberately added an anti-Semitic component to a mundane crime which would otherwise not have caused a sensation, and would not have made it possible to shift the emphasis from the unpleasant “parents taking revenge on an incompetent doctor” to the scandalous “a doctor getting beaten up in Kharkov because of his ‘Yid mug’”.
However, the theory of the anti-Semitic nature of the attack may not only confuse the investigation, but also destabilize the situation in Kharkov, which is already uneasy. It is particularly surprising that the “Jewish card” is being played by Jews themselves, creating unnecessary tension in society, which is in need of consolidation, and not inter-ethnic disputes.
The editors of Jewishnews.com.ua hope that those responsible for attacking Doctor Dukhovsky will soon be found and be deservedly punished. At the same time, we hope that the Jewish ethnicity of the victim does not become a tool for manipulations, because this method of defense does not draw any sympathy…
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