On Sunday, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky sparked outrage when he compared the Russian invasion of Ukraine to the Holocaust during a speech to the Israeli government.
“This Russian invasion of Ukraine is not just a military operation, as Moscow claims. This is a large-scale and treacherous war aimed at destroying our people. Destroying our children, our families. Our state. Our cities. Our communities. Our culture. And everything that makes Ukrainians Ukrainians. Everything that Russian troops are now destroying. Deliberately. In front of the whole world,” Zelensky said. “That is why I have the right to this parallel and to this comparison. Our history and your history. Our war for our survival and World War II.”
“Listen to what the Kremlin says. Just listen! There are even terms that sounded then. And this is a tragedy. When the Nazi party raided Europe and wanted to destroy everything. Destroy everyone. Wanted to conquer the nations. And leave nothing from us, nothing from you. Even the name and the trace. They called it ‘the final solution to the Jewish issue.’ You remember that. And I’m sure you will never forget!” Zelensky added. “But listen to what is sounding now in Moscow. Hear how these words are said again: ‘Final solution.’ But already in relation, so to speak, to us, to the ‘Ukrainian issue.’”
“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,” Israel’s 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.”
“If Zelensky’s speech was given… in normal [non-war] times, we would have said it bordered on Holocaust denial… Every comparison between a regular war, as difficult as it may be, and the extermination of millions of Jews in gas chambers in the framework of the Final Solution, is a total distortion of history. The same is true for the claim that Ukrainians helped Jews in the Holocaust… The historic truth is that the Ukrainian people cannot be proud of its behavior in the Holocaust of the Jews,” Yuval Steinitz, a Likud MK, said. “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 its end to come soon.”
“I don’t understand Ukrainian, but 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,” said Simcha Rothman, a Religious Zionist MK, on the subject of Zelensky’s reference to Ukrainians who saved Jews during the Holocaust.
“It is sounded openly. This is a tragedy. Once again, it was said at a meeting in Moscow. It is available on official websites. This was quoted in the state media of Russia. Moscow says so: without the war against us, they would not be able to ensure a ‘final solution’ allegedly for their own security. Just like it was said 80 years ago,” Zelensky said later in his speech, before urging Israel to share its Iron Dome technology.
“Everyone in Israel knows that your missile defense is the best. It is powerful. Everyone knows that your weapon is strong. Everyone knows you’re doing great. You know how to defend your state interests, the interests of your people. And you can definitely help us protect our lives, the lives of Ukrainians, the lives of Ukrainian Jews,” Zelensky said. “One can keep asking why we can’t get weapons from you. Or why Israel has not imposed strong sanctions against Russia. Why it doesn’t put pressure on Russian business. But it is up to you, dear brothers and sisters, to choose the answer. And you will have to live with this answer, people of Israel.”
“Ukrainians have made their choice. 80 years ago. They rescued Jews. That is why the Righteous Among the Nations are among us,” Zelensky concluded. “People of Israel, now you have such a choice.”