‘Welcome to Palestine’: Ukrainian cell provider sparks anger in Israel

It’s like telling someone who lands in Ukraine, ‘Welcome to Russia,’ said one angry tourist.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

One of the biggest Ukrainian cell phone providers welcomes its customers to “Palestine” when they land in Israel, reported Israel Hayom on Wednesday.

An Israeli tourist who had purchased a Kyivstar-operated SIM card to use while in the Ukraine told the Hebrew daily that she still had the card in her phone when she recently returned to Israel.

“The day after [I arrived] I turned on the phone and saw the message,” Anna Pozinsky said.

The cellular company had written in Ukrainian to all its clients who landed in the Jewish state, “Welcome to Palestine,” without even mentioning the name “Israel.”

Her first reaction was surprise, but it quickly turned into anger.

“It’s exactly like telling Ukrainians ‘Welcome to Russia,’” she said. “Two hundred people got this message. That’s what they’re putting into their heads.”

Moscow has armed and financially supported two separatist regions in eastern Ukraine which have fought Kiev on and off since 2014 in an attempt to make them part of Russia. In April, Moscow offered to give Russian passports to the residents of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions as part of its ongoing integration efforts.

Pozinsky didn’t know whether responsibility for the message lay with new owners who took over the company last year, or if it was old content, but in any case wondered, “They don’t know that this isn’t Palestine?”

She turned to the Im Tirtzu organization, which works to strengthen Zionism and combat anti-Israel efforts. The group’s public relations head, Ilana Valdman-Eshkol, told the paper that the Ukrainian ambassador to Israel should be summoned for clarification and to act to fix matters.

“It is very serious that leading Ukrainian media companies take such blatant steps by which they choose to establish an unacceptable political position,” she said. “Israel is a leading, independent, sovereign state, and Im Tirtzu will make sure to remind those who forget this.”

According to the organization, “Anti-Semitism in the Ukraine has been rising in recent years, and it seems that such cases only add fuel to the fire.”

Ukraine, however, did elect a Jewish president last month, Volodymyr Zelensky, a neophyte politician who had gained fame as a comedian on national television. Anti-Semitism reportedly played no role during the campaign.