WERE a Jewish resident of the Soviet Ukraine listening to a broadcast on America's Radio Liberty this past Jan. 13, he would have been startled. The voice on the radio, reading from memoirs of an anti-Bolshevik Ukrainian official during the civil war of 1919-20, related that the local pogroms against Jews resulted from ''the radicalism and fanaticism of part of the Jewish youth which considered it a duty to support the Bolshevik advance into the Ukraine not only passively, but actively.''
The Soviet Jewish listener would have later heard that, in one Ukrainian town , the ''terrible pogrom'' was prompted by ''the aggressiveness of volunteer Jewish detachments'' which made it difficult ''to restrain the indignation of the Cossacks,'' some of whom ''saw in every Jew his enemy.''
It is not for the first time that the Soviet Jewish resident might have been subjected to the canard that Jews themselves were responsible for pogroms. In recent years, Kremlin anti-Semitic propagandists have been promoting this view.
The Kremlin's leading peddler of hate, Lev Korneyev, contended in a recent book that ''pogroms against Jews, particularly in imperial Russia at the beginning of the 20th century, were often provoked by armed agents of the Russian and Ukrainian Zionists. . . . '' It is Korneyev's thesis that ''the main reason'' for anti-Semitism is ''the Jewish bourgeoisie's exploitation of the native population of the region where he lives.''
That key Soviet authorities welcome the Korneyev line is scarcely surprising in view of the current virulent anti-Zionist media drive. But how to explain the insensitivity of an American broadcast? Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe, funded by the Congress, are important and, at times, valuable instruments of American information policy. Broadcast guidelines specify the ''avoidance of any programming, the content of which could be legitimately construed as inflammatory. . . .''
The recent broadcast episode was by no means the first. In an investigation three years ago, the congressionally mandated Board for International Broadcasting, which supervises the radio stations, found ''a small but alarming incidence'' of ''serious policy violations,'' including anti-democratic and anti-Western ''references'' in broadcasts.
A board resolution on Jan. 3l, 1981, instructed the management of Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe to tighten policy controls on religious and historical programs. How effective the implementation of the resolution has been is open to question. It would be difficult to sanction a program last September lauding Baron Peter Wrangel, a general during whose leadership of the White Army in the Ukraine in 1920 massive pogroms against Jews had occurred.
Nor would it be easy to explain broadcasts last year that presented a sympathetic portrait of Soviet Gen. A. A. Vlasov who, after his capture by the Nazis, actively collaborated with Hitler's Wehrmacht in 1942-44.
Episodes of insensitivity extend to the question of democracy itself. A recent staff report of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee noted that some broadcasts have carried views sharply critical of Western democratic concepts and practices.
In his address to the British Parliament two years ago, President Reagan spoke eloquently of his administration's commitment to ''foster the infrastructure of democracy,'' which in turn would provide for the ''protection'' of ''diversity.'' Policy guidelines for Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe are clear enough. Broadcasts must be ''committed to the principles of democracy'' and ''consistent with the broad foreign policy objectives of the United States.'' It is essential to insist upon adherence to these guidelines.