In Knesset address, Zelensky takes heat for Holocaust comparisons; Israelis protest for aid to Ukraine

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The plenum hall of the Israeli parliament on the opening of the 22nd Knesset, Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem, on October 03, 2019. Photo by Hadas Parush/Flash90 *** Local Caption *** פתיחת הכנסת מליאה

Zelensky’s tone—defiant, emotional, reproving—was consistent with his addresses to other national bodies, each speech tailored to strike a national nerve …

In his video address to the Israeli Knesset on Sunday evening, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked Israel for its support but criticized Israel for not taking a tougher stance against Russia. However, it was his comparison of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to the Holocaust that roused the ire of Israeli lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

The Kremlin is “using the terminology of the Nazi Party,” said Zelensky. “In Russia, they’re using these same words—‘final solution’—only now it’s directed at us, the Ukrainian problem.”

A pro-Ukraine protest in Tel Aviv on March 20, 2022. Photo by David Isaac.

While some, including Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, praised Zelensky’s 10-minute speech, others, including Knesset members Yoaz Hendel, Michal Woldiger, Efrat Rayten, Yuval Steinitz and Simcha Rothman, publicly expressed their dissatisfaction.

Hendel of the New Hope Party, who serves as communications minister, said that while he admires Zelensky, “It’s impossible to rewrite the terrible history of the Holocaust.” If the speech had been made in more normal times, said Steinitz of Likud, people “would say that it borders on Holocaust denial.”

Rothman of the Religious Zionism party took issue with Zelensky’s claim that Ukrainians had helped Jews during the Holocaust.

“The Ukrainians made their choice 80 years ago. We saved Jews and therefore there are among us ‘Righteous Among the Nations,’ ” Zelensky said in his speech.

Referring to the 1.5 million Jews killed by the Nazis in Ukraine, often with the help of local collaborators, Rothman tweeted: “Zelensky asked us to behave toward the Ukrainians as they behaved toward us 80 years ago. Sorry, it seems to me we’ll be forced to reject his request.”

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