Mixed reactions: Zelensky offended some Israeli lawmakers

Not all lawmakers took well to Zelensky’s equating the war in Ukraine with the Holocaust.

By Adina Katz, World Israel News

Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Zelensky appealed Sunday evening to Knesset members in a zoom address, pleading for more military assistance, sanctions on Russia and increased absorption of refugees.

“The Final Solution is now directed at us,” Zelensky declared.

“Our people are now wandering the world, searching for a place, just as you once wandered… seeking security, trying to stay alive, and in peace. Exactly what you have sought,” he said, comparing the situation of the Ukrainians under attack by Russia to that of the Jews in Europe during the Holocaust..

He went on to admonish the Jewish state.

“Why are we still urging countries to help? I’m looking at you. What is it? Indifference? Sitting on the fence? I’m leaving an open question for you to answer.

“Indifference kills. Calculations and interests kill. You can navigate interests but not between good and bad,” he stated.

“I’m sure you feel our pain, but can you explain why we’re still waiting… for your help… when other countries are giving help? Why isn’t Israeli help, or even entry permits, forthcoming?”

In an analysis by Lahav Harkov in The Jerusalem Post, the author noted that the Ukrainian leader struck “the wrong note to bring the Knesset to his side.”

“I appreciate the President of Ukraine and support the Ukrainian people in heart and deed, but it is impossible to rewrite the terrible history of the Holocaust,” Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel tweeted.

“Genocide was also committed on Ukrainian soil. The war is terrible, but the comparison to the horrors of the Holocaust and the final solution is outrageous,” he added.

‘Total distortion of history’

“If Zelensky’s speech were given “in normal times, we would have said it bordered on Holocaust denial,” said Likud MK Yuval Steinitz.

However, as difficult as the situation is now for the beleaguered Ukrainian people, comparing it to the Holocaust is a “total distortion of history.”

“The same is true for the claim that Ukrainians helped Jews in the Holocaust,” he continued. “The historic truth is that the Ukrainian people cannot be proud of its behavior in the Holocaust towards the Jews.”

Nonetheless, he added, Israel must continue its humanitarian aid to the Ukrainians during their suffering and pray for it to end.

None of that changes the fact that despite the outrageous use of the Holocaust, we must continue humanitarian aid to the citizens of Ukraine suffering from the war and pray for it to end,” he added.

“If the translation I heard is accurate, Zelensky asked us to treat the Ukrainians like they treated us 80 years ago. I’m sorry, but I think we will have to reject that request. We are, after all, a moral nation,” quipped Religious Zionist MK Simcha Rothman.

‘We will never turn our backs’

Other lawmakers, however, reacted differently.

“Zelensky’s words pierce the heart. The Ukrainian nation was attacked, Ukrainian democracy was attacked, they are in great distress. We have the human, Jewish and Israeli obligation to help them,” said Diaspora Minister Nachman Shai.

“Our assistance on Ukraine’s borders and inside the country is impressive. We must also assure asylum for the refugees. We have done and will continue to do everything in our power,” he added.

“I reiterate my condemnation of the attack on Ukraine and thank President Zelensky for sharing his feelings and the plight of the Ukrainian people with members of the Knesset and the government,” Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said in a statement.

“We will continue to assist the Ukrainian people as much as we can, and we will never turn our backs to the plight of people who know the horrors of war.”

On Monday morning, Lapid, together with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. will attend the departure ceremony for the aid delegation that will establish  the $6.4 million field hospital in Ukraine, named after Golda Meir.