Yotam Zimri
Yotam ZimriShlomi Yossef

Sometimes I get the feeling that the world is an annoying teenager whose greatest enemy is boredom. For two years now we have all been taken up with viruses, masks, lockdowns and vaccinations, but we have had enough, it's over, the world has viewed all the chapters of the corona series several times and is hungry for something new, different, something we haven't had in years. This nostalgia has burst out in the form of a world war. Well, not yet a full scale world war, but as the teachers used to tell me every time they handed me my report card: there is potential here.

The Israeli media has greeted the Ukraine campaign with undisguised enthusiasm. It abandoned the coronavirus a long time ago – the dead are unimportant and unrecorded, the ill are uninteresting, and everything else holds audience attention for four minutes at most. There is nothing like an all out war between two European countries to make it obvious that we are made up of delusions of grandeur that decided to surround themselves with a state. It was barely two minutes into the invasion and in Israel we were already debating the possibility of mediating between Russia and Ukraine

For heaven's sake, when for once a war breaks out for which no one can blame us, or at least doesn't find it easy to blame us, why do we have to push ourselves into the midst of it? Must we insist on being the naïve fellow who tries to separate two guys fighting over a parking space and is stabbed to death?

Jews always have to argue, so it's no surprise that the current argument is about which side we are on. Well, may I remind you all that we were in Israel before there were two sides to history; but that will not prevent our arguing, so let’s try to give a definitive answer to the debate: the right side of history is the one where Jewish lives are protected.

Sorry, that's how it is, whether you like it or not, we have more than enough graves in every corner of the world and its history, so with all due respect to Ukraine and Russia both, the only side that should be of interest to us is our own. If there is one nation that owes history nothing, but to whom history is in massive debt, it is the nation that dwells in Zion.

And if we are engaging in historical debate, the right side of history is the one that understands that Judea and Samaria are just about the only region on the globe whose ownership is not in any doubt. The Russians and Ukrainians are battling over who lived in Kyiv a millennium ago, but no one has any doubts about who received this land three millennia ago.

History and hysterics

Our tiny state is just about the only one whose land should not be up for debate, and which certainly should not be expected to bite off chunks of itself in order to allow another Arab "people" to establish another Islamic State. But those among us who righteously proclaim that we must immediately – without any thought to our own self interest – join the international front supporting Ukraine because this is the right side of history, are for the most part the same people who insist on supporting the wrong side of our present here in Israel. I am really jealous of the Ukrainians who managed to elicit so much automatic empathy from the Israeli media; suddenly territorial issues are uncomplicated, the idiotic "narrative" word is nowhere to be heard, right and wrong actually exist.

Correspondents who were sent to Ukraine told me that it is proper to say "Khrakiv" because that is how the word is pronounced in the Ukrainian language, and that makes me feel emotional until I remember that the Israeli media calls Judea and Samaria the 'West Bank' or the 'Territories' and has been telling us about the Arabs' dispute with the Jewish homeowners in Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood for months. It seems that it is harder to pronounce Shimon Hatzadik, the Hebrew name for Sheikh Jarrah, than it is to say Khrakiv…

Many people in Israel have reminded us of the anti-Semitic past of the Ukrainians. I remember my grandmother Julia telling me repeatedly about their cruelty and anyone who looks up the Lvov Pogrom on Wikipedia will find it impossible to sleep for at least two days. Can anyone explain to me how it works? Do we remember the anti-Semitic past of countries only when someone begins to bombard their residential neighborhoods? Because with all due respect to Ukraine, Israelis fly to Berlin for the weekend every year, to Austria during the skiing season, shop in Poland and spend Rosh Hashannah in Uman. We like to vacation in places filled with the ashes of our forebears.

I have never set foot in these countries. When my father wanted me to join my school's educational trip to Poland, I refused. I have never flown to Germany or Austria on vacation, and have no intention of doing so in the future. This was an independent decision I made as a child, and when I got older, I read a letter written by my grandfather Shmuel Zimri z"l, a Holocaust survivor, who wrote of his revulsion for the blood-soaked European earth. One can decide to forego the mention of historical accountings, but one cannot decide to remember them only when we want to decide whose side we are on in the event of war.

So I do not gloss over what the Ukrainians did to our grandparents, I just don't let that blur, at least for me, the simple fact that they are not the bad guys in the current story. Every story has its good guys and bad guys when one simplifies the issues: that is true for Eastern Europe as well as for Israel. I am happy to note that in this war the majority of the Israeli media know how to judge things clearly: there are good guys and bad guys. Would that they see that as clearly at home.

Not far from the Ukraine War, and not detracting from its importance, the irresponsible way the Iran talks in Vienna are being conducted is liable to have a much greater effect on us. We can realize how bad the situation is from the fact that France seems to be the comparative hardliner in the talks. Perhaps we are too busy wondering if we are on the right side of history and have forgotten that one nuclear bomb launched from Iran will put us on the other side of history.

Yotam Zimriis a popular satirist, copywriter, regular newspaper columnist and Israel radio broadcaster.

Translated by Rochel Sylvetsky with permission from Makor Rishon Hebrew weekly