Zelensky Urges Greater Support for Ukraine in Speech to Israel’s Knesset, Invoking Holocaust
In a virtual address to Israeli lawmakers, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday pleaded for help to defend his country and people from Russia’s invasion, which he compared to the “final solution.”
Speaking to more than 120 Israeli ministers and members of Knesset via Zoom, Zelensky noted that February 24, the date of the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, was also the date in which the National Socialist Workers’ Party of Germany (NSDAP) was founded in 1920.
“This day has twice gone down in history. And both times — as a tragedy. A tragedy for Ukrainians, for Jews, for Europe, for the world,” Zelensky stated. “This Russian invasion is a large-scale and treacherous war aimed at destroying our people. Destroying our children, our families. Our state.”
The Ukrainian premier drew analogies between the Russian operation and Nazi Germany’s “final solution,” the plan to eradicate Jews, saying, “When the Nazi party raided Europe and wanted to destroy everything. Destroy everyone and leave nothing from us, nothing from you. They called it ‘the final solution to the Jewish issue,'” said Zelensky, Ukraine’s first Jewish president.
“You remember that. And I’m sure you will never forget! 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,'” he exclaimed.
Zelensky’s comparison of Russia’s invasion to the Holocaust drew some criticism from Israeli lawmakers.
“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,” tweeted Israeli Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel. “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.”
In the past days and weeks, Zelensky has addressed multiple foreign lawmakers, including the US Congress, Britain’s House of Commons, and Germany’s Bundestag.
In his speech to the Knesset, Zelensky also criticized Israel for not doing enough to help defend his country against Russia. Although Israel has sent medical and humanitarian aid to Ukraine and is setting up a field hospital in the country, while also letting in Jewish and non-Jewish Ukrainian refugees, it has not agreed to supply Kyiv with military aid.
“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,” Zelensky lamented. “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.”
He also questioned Israel’s reluctance to supply Ukraine with the Iron Dome aerial defense system, which is designed to shoot down short-range rockets.
“Everyone in Israel knows that your missile defense is the best. It is powerful. Everyone knows that your weapon is strong,” he asserted. “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 went further to take aim at the Israeli government for not taking a stronger stance to defend Ukraine’s position, while trying to mediate between Kyiv and Moscow — an effort that has been backed by Ukraine.
“Can you explain why we still turn to the whole world, to many countries for help? We ask you for your help?” he questioned. “What is it? Indifference? Premeditation? Or mediation without choosing a party? I will leave you a choice of answer to this question. And I will note only one thing — indifference kills. Premeditation is often erroneous. Mediation between states is possible, but not between good and evil.”
Following the speech, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid reiterated Israel’s condemnation of the attack on Ukraine and thanked Zelensky for sharing his feelings and the plight of the Ukrainian people with the Knesset.
“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 stated.