Zelensky’s Address to the Knesset

On the fifth day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Israel’s Foreign Minister and Deputy PM Yair Lapid said

Israel effectively has a security border with Syria.  Russia is the most significant military power in Syria, and our cooperation mechanism with them assists in our determined battle against Iranian entrenchment on our border.

This is why Israel, though critical of the invasion, has trod very carefully as regards overt military support for Ukraine.  But there has been masses of humanitarian support: 100 tonnes of humanitarian aid, 17 tonnes of medical equipment and medicine, water purification systems for 200,000 people, emergency water supply kits for 100,000 people, winter tents for 3,000 people, 15,000 blankets, 3,000 sleeping bags and 2,700 winter coats.

Israel has also set up a field hospital in Ukraine at a cost of $6.5 million. It has also sent a group of organ transplant coordinators.

Yesterday Zelensky spoke to the Knesset. He berated Israel for the lack of military assistance. Fair enough – But Israel has good reason. But what was not ‘fair enough’ was his Holocaust comparisons. And most outrageous was his ending:

Ukrainians have made their choice. 80 years ago. They rescued Jews. That is why the Righteous Among the Nations are among us.

This is blatantly and offensively ahistorical. It’s “borderline Holocaust denial”. And here. Although there were some Ukrainians who helped Jews during the Nazi Occupation, they were by far the exception.

Pointing this out does NOT make Putin’s crime any less! And however great the pressure on Zelensky, it doesn’t mean that blatant distortion of the Holocaust should go unremarked.

Paula Stern has penned an excellent Open Letter to Zelensky:

Dear Vlodomor Zelenskyy, So let’s clear a few things up…You’re the underdog here and Israel usually aligns itself with the underdog because the truth is that in every war we’ve fought, we were the underdog because we were out-numbered, isolated, and countries like yours chose to align themselves with our enemies. In your case, more than 35 times in recent years.

Let’s be clear, Israel doesn’t owe Ukraine ANYTHING. It is our choice to send what aid we feel is appropriate, and we have. Vast amounts of humanitarian aid, medical assistance, bullet proof ambulances and more.

You’re welcome.

Your comparison of the Holocaust to today’s fight is abhorrent and historically inaccurate. The Jews didn’t have an army, anti-aircraft missiles, 100,000 rifles to distribute to our people and no military training.No one sent aid and rescue missions and let’s not even begin to describe how the majority of the Ukrainians treated our people.

You feel that we owe you because you are Jewish…your parents are Jewish.

I guess we won’t mention that your children are not only not-Jewish, but have, with your permission, been baptized.

So let’s do this.

You stop complaining that Israel isn’t doing enough, start saying thank you and next time a vote comes up in the UN, remember how many Arab countries stood by, while Israel acted.

And if you want Israel to CONTINUE to support Ukraine, don’t you dare compare your situation, where tragically over 900 have died, to the massacre of more than six million Jews in World War II, to the victims who lie in mass graves, like Babi Yar.

We’ll help…not because you are a Jew, but because WE are Jews.”

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Update:

Melanie Phillips has a superb article in today’s Times (22 March – paywall) about Zelensky’s Knesset address and – more generally – Israel’s delicate position on Russia/Ukraine:

— Israel depends on Putin – the Patron of the Iranian regime – turning a blind eye to Israel’s sorties into Syria to destroy Iranian weapons targeting Israel.

— Israeli banks have severed links with sanctioned Russian banks

— Oligarchs have been sanctioned: their private jets and yachts must leave after 48 hours.

— The US is ‘staggeringly two-faced’: It has pressured Israel to impose sanctions but it is using Putin to broker the Iran nuclear deal. And it wants to allow Russia’s state-controlled energy company to fulfil its contract to expand an Iranian nuclear plant. The US is thus enabling Iran to make Israel the ‘potential victim of a genocidal nuclear regime’.