Israel retaliates against Russia after Lavrov’s remarks about Nazism

On Monday, Israel hit out at Russia over its foreign minister’s “unforgivable” remarks on Nazism and antisemitism, including claims that Adolf Hitler was Jewish. In response, Israel summoned Russia’s envoy, claiming that the remarks condemned Jews for their own deaths during the Holocaust.

It was a sharp deterioration in relations between the two countries at a time when Israel was attempting to carve out a neutral position between Russia and Ukraine in order to remain in Russia’s good graces for its Middle East security needs.

Sergey Lavrov, when asked about Russian allegations that it invaded Ukraine to “denazify” the country, remarked that even if several figures, including the country’s president, were Jewish, Ukraine might still contain Nazi components.

“How can nazification occur if we’re Jewish?” they ask. Hitler, in my opinion, also had Jewish ancestors, so it doesn’t imply anything. For a long time, we’ve heard from Jews that the most virulent antisemites were themselves Jews “He said this while speaking to the broadcaster in Russian with an Italian translation.

Mr Lavrov’s statement was “unforgivable, shameful, and a grave historical blunder,” Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said in some of the sharpest remarks since the start of the war in Ukraine. Mr Lapid, the son of a Holocaust survivor, stated, “The Jews did not murder themselves in the Holocaust.” “The lowest degree of anti-Semitism racism is blaming antisemitism on Jews.”

Mr Lavrov’s statements were also criticised by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who has been more cautious in his criticism of Russia’s incursion.

“His remarks are false, and their motives are incorrect,” he stated. “The use of the Jewish Holocaust as a political tool must end immediately.”” The words were described as “absurd, deluded, dangerous, and deserving of condemnation” by Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial. “Lavrov is disseminating the inversion of the Holocaust,” it said in a statement, “changing the victims into the culprits on the basis of promoting the absolutely unsubstantiated idea that Hitler was of Jewish heritage.”

“Calling the Ukrainians in general, and President (Volodymyr) Zelenskyy in particular, Nazis, is equally serious. This is, among other things, a blatant distortion of history and a betrayal to Nazi victims.”

Steffen Hebstreit, a government spokesperson in Germany, said the Russian government’s “propaganda” attempts were “absurd” and unworthy of remark. As Russia fights in Ukraine, Nazism has played a key role in Russia’s war goals and narrative. President Vladimir Putin has attempted to legitimate the conflict by portraying it as a fight against Nazis in Ukraine, despite the fact that the country has a democratically elected government and a Jewish president whose ancestors were slain in the Holocaust.

Mr. Lavrov’s words were also denounced by Ukraine

“By attempting to rewrite history, Moscow is merely seeking justifications for the mass slaughter of Ukrainians,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted. Mr. Lavrov’s words, according to Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, highlighted the “deeply embedded antisemitism of the Russian elites.”

World War II, in which the Soviet Union lost an estimated 27 million people and assisted Nazi Germany in defeating it, is a defining feature of Russian national identity. The Kremlin has been able to unify Russians around the war by often referring to the historical narrative that portrays Russia as a savior against wicked forces.

Israel was established as a safe haven for Jews

Following the Holocaust, Israel was established as a safe haven for Jews. Over 70 years later, the Holocaust remains important to the country’s identity, and it has positioned itself at the forefront of international efforts to commemorate the Holocaust and combat antisemitism. Israel has a dwindling population of 165,000 Holocaust survivors, the majority of whom are in their 80s and 90s, and the country commemorated Holocaust Memorial Day last week.

However, these goals occasionally conflict with their other national interests. Russia maintains a military presence in Syria, and Israel, which conducts periodic strikes against enemy sites in the country, relies on Russia for security coordination to avoid clashes between their forces. As a result, Israel has had to be cautious in its condemnation of the Ukrainian conflict.

Israel has been restrained in its condemnation of Russia, despite sending humanitarian help to Ukraine and expressing solidarity for its people. It has not ratified international sanctions against Russia or offered Ukraine with military assistance.

As a result, Me Bennett was able to attempt to mediate between the parties, an endeavor that appears to have stopped as Israel grapples with its own internal strife.

In the past, Israel has been outraged by the Holocaust and the relentless twisting of its history during the conflict.

Mr. Zelenskyy linked Russia’s invasion of his nation to Nazi Germany’s activities in a speech to Israeli MPs in March, accusing Putin of attempting to carry out a “final solution” against Ukraine. Yad Vashem, which felt Zelenskyy was trivializing the Holocaust, was outraged by the analogies. 

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