19 January 2018, Friday, 18:54

Zmitser Bandarenka: Israel's MFA works with those who Natan Sharansky fought against in USSR

A coordinator of the civil campaign European Belarus comments on Yosef Shagal's statement.

Zmitser Bandarenka thinks lack of principles of the Israeli ambassador may have sad consequences.

Yosef Shagal refused to apologise to the Belarusian political prisoners because his words were allegedly misinterpreted by journalists. I saw his interview with RTVI with my own eyes. I can say that Shagal's words insulted and aggrieved me as a former political prisoner.

I had to spent 18 months in Belarusian prisons. I, as well as other political prisoners, faced beating, torture and ill treatment. I was convicted under article 342 of the Criminal Code of Belarus for the events on December 19, 2010. I was accused of moving on the carriageway of Independence Avenue in the column of people and of causing 'significant damage” to the municipal property as demonstrators were walking from Kastrychnitskaya Square to Independence Square. My wife compensated for the 'damage', which was 45 dollars.

I wasn't presented any charges relating to the events near the House of Government. My defence was based on the facts that the brutal crackdown, or to be more precise, mass beating of peaceful demonstrators in Independence Square, began after presidential candidates Mikalai Statkevich and Andrei Sannikov had been invited for talks with police senior officials.

I have a book by famous Jewish dissident Natan Sharansky “Fear No Evil” with the author's autograph. I re-read it from time to time. He signed the book for the Belarusian political prisoners. The book helped me to survive. The methods of the Belarusian KGB don't differ much from those of the Soviet KGB described by Sharansky. The only thing is that confinement conditions in the KGB jail are more severe than those in Lefortovo prison, where the author was held. Natan Sharansky's merit is not only that he looked into the essence of dictatorial regime, but also that he prepared recommendations for democratic countries how to effectively oppose tyrannies.

I have the impression that the Israeli MFA works with those who Sharansky fought against in the USSR. We know that after the victory in the election in Israel, the country's foreign minister Lieberman made a secret visit to Minsk to meet with Lukashenka. Journalists met him by accident at a Belarusian hotel. The Israeli MFA was the only foreign ministry of democratic countries that didn't condemn Lukashenka. Moreover, it in fact used ambassador Shagal to support the crackdown on the democratic opposition. The irony is that a significant part of interrogations in the KGB related to the version that Sannikov and I were 'Israeli spies' and that protests in Minsk were organised by Israel. These ridiculous accusations were not included in the criminal case.

The cynicism of Shagal's approach is that he thinks one can cooperate with the devil for economic gain. What can surprise us is that Israel regards dictator Lukashenka as its partner, though he repeatedly made antisemitic remarks. He is thought by international media to have delivered weapons to Hamas and Hezbollah. Israel's main enemies Saddam Hussein, Khaddafi and Ahmadinejad were his personal friends.

The lack of principles in politics can lead to sad results,” Zmitser Bandarenka told charter97.org.

The coordinator of European Belarus is surprised to see no reaction from official Israel.

“The information that Shagal's position in the interview with RTVI doesn't reflect Israel's point of view appeared only on the website of the country's embassy in Poland. No statements have been made for the Belarusian community for unknown reasons.

I think the clumsy attempts to save Israel's image won't be successful. As a former political prisoner, I'd like to repeat that the ambassador insulted me personally, my family and fellows held in prisons. He should be recalled immediately. In any case, I urge the Israeli leadership to do it,” Zmitser Bandarenka says.

We remind that Yosef Shagal said in an interview with RTVI that the Belarusian political prisoners were criminals from Israel's point of view and compared them with Palestinian terrorists.

Officially, there are four persons who are considered to be political prisoners. Four persons are in prison. Lukashenka offers them to apply for clemency, as in the case of Khodorkovsky. Apply for clemency and you will be freed. But they don't want. They prefer to remain heroes in prison,” the ambassador said.

The statement was criticised by relatives of the political prisoners and opposition. Well-known Belarusian politicians demanded to recall ambassador Shagal from Minsk.