JERUSALEM (AP) – The President of Ukraine on Sunday called on Israel to take a more resolute stance against Russia, speaking out in an emotional call comparing Russia’s invasion of his country with the actions of Nazi Germany.
Speaking to Israeli lawmakers, President Vladimir Zelensky said it was time for Israel, which has become a key mediator between Ukraine and Russia, to finally take sides. He said Israel must adhere to its Western allies by imposing sanctions and supplying arms to Ukraine.
“One has to ask for a long time why we cannot accept weapons from you or why Israel has not imposed sanctions against Russia, why you are not putting pressure on Russian business,” he said. “It’s your choice, dear brothers and sisters.”
Zelensky, who carefully organized a series of similar parliamentary speeches in front of his audience, often mentioned the Holocaust when trying to gain support. The comparisons provoked angry condemnation from the Israeli National Holocaust Memorial, which said Zelensky was trivializing the Holocaust.
Zelensky accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of trying to implement a “final solution” against Ukraine – to use the Nazi term for the planned genocide of 6 million Jews during World War II. Zelensky, who is himself a Jew, also noted that a Russian rocket crashed into Babin Yar, the site of a notorious Nazi massacre in 1941, which now houses the main Holocaust memorial in Ukraine.
“People of Israel, you have seen how Russian missiles hit Babi Yar. You know what this place where Holocaust victims are buried means, ”he said.
The use of such gentle language was an obvious attempt by Zelensky to connect with his audience. Israel was founded in 1948 as a refugee for Jews after the Holocaust. The country is home to tens of thousands of elderly survivors, and many of its leaders are the children of survivors.
Putin also sought to paint his enemies in Ukraine as neo-Nazis, trying to legitimize his war in Ukraine. But historians, noting that Ukraine is a democracy led by a Jewish president, condemn his use of terminology such as disinformation and cynical moves to achieve the Russian leader’s goals.
Israeli Foreign Minister Jair Lapid, whose late father survived the Holocaust, thanked Zelensky for his speech.
“We will continue to help the Ukrainian people as much as we can, and we will never turn our backs on the plight of people who know the horrors of war,” Lapid said.
But Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust memorial, who had previously condemned Putin’s Nazi exiles, also harshly criticized Zelensky without naming him.
“The propaganda discourse that accompanies the current military action is full of irresponsible statements and completely inaccurate comparisons with Nazi ideology and actions before and during the Holocaust,” the statement said. “Yad Vashem condemns this trivialization and distortion of the historical facts of the Holocaust.”
The Israeli public has largely supported Ukraine since Russia invaded its western neighbor on February 24. Several thousand people, many with Ukrainian flags, gathered in the central square of Tel Aviv to watch his performance on the big screen.
But the Israeli government was much more cautious, as it acted as a mediator in the war. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett paid a surprise visit to Moscow to meet with Putin on March 5. Since then, he has spoken to the Russian leader at least twice and to Zelensky at least six times, his office said.
While the Israeli foreign minister strongly condemned the invasion, Bennett used cooler expressions to maintain neutrality.
With a large Jewish population in both Ukraine and Russia, Israel fears confronting both sides. Israel also has good working relations with the Russian military in neighboring Syria, where both sides maintain a special hotline to make sure their air force does not come into conflict.
Israel has delivered tons of humanitarian aid to Ukraine and plans to open a special field hospital in western Ukraine later this week. But she rejected requests to lay down arms or impose sanctions on Russia or its oligarchs, some of whom are Jews and have strong ties to Israel.
Zelensky said it was time to change that.
“Everyone in Israel knows that your missile defense is the best, everyone knows that your weapons are strong, everyone knows that you are excellent and know how to defend your national interests, the interests of your people, and you can certainly help protect ours,” he said. .