Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed Israeli lawmakers in an online speech via Zoom Sunday evening.
Days after his address to the US Congress, Zelensky gave a speech online to Israeli Knesset Members and government ministers, emphasizing his Jewish heritage and the unity between Israel and Diaspora Jewish communities.
Zelensky opened his address with a quote from Golda Meir, a native of Kyiv, and claimed that Ukrainians and Jews worldwide share a connection “in the past and the present.”
“I don’t have to convince you that our peoples are connected, the Jews and the Ukrainians in the past and the present, terrible times.”
The Ukrainian president drew parallels between Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which began on February 24th, and the German Nazi Party’s rise to power, noting that the party presented its 25-Point Program calling for the total segregation of Jews in Germany and the ending of their legal rights as citizens.
“The 24th of February will go down in history as being a day of tragedy in Ukraine twice over – for Ukraine, for the Jews, for Europe, and for the world as a whole.”
“On the 24th of February, 1920, the National Socialist German Workers' Party - the Nazi Party – the party which murdered millions and destroyed entire countries” revealed its plan against German Jews.
“My people are now searching for support around the world, just as you once did. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is not just another military operation, as Moscow has tried to portray it. It is a wide-scale, unjustified war which is intended to destroy our people, our country, our cities, our culture, and our children – everything that makes us Ukrainians.”
“That is why I can make the comparison between what is happening to us to your history.”
Pushing back on the Kremlin’s claims its invasion of Ukraine is part of a program of “denazification”, Zelensky accused Moscow of using “Nazi-like” rhetoric to support its war effort.
“During World War II, [the Nazis] tried to get rid of [all the Jews], not to leave any. They called it ‘The Final Solution.” I’m sure you haven’t forgotten and never will. But what is Moscow saying now? Listen to what they’re saying: they’re using the words ‘a final solution’. Now it is targeting us with regards to Ukraine.”
“The Jewish people witnessed missiles falling in Kyiv and Babyn Yar. You know what place that is, a memorial to Holocaust victims. Russian missiles hit a Jewish cemetery.”
“And the city of Uman was hit, a city which draws tens of thousands of Israelis every year to the tomb of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov.”
“What will remain of our cities in Ukraine after this terrible war?”
Zelensky chided the international community, with thinly veiled criticism of Israel, for not adopting open-door policies towards Ukrainian refugees.
“I’m sure you feel our pain, but can you explain why we still have to call on countries for help? We’re appealing for help, or even entry permits [for refugees]. What is this? Apathy? Calculations? An attempt to stay neutral mediators?”
“Apathy kills. Calculations can be wrong.”
The Ukrainian president also hinted at his government’s efforts to procure Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system.
“Your Iron Dome system is the best. You can stand up for your own interests while at the same time helping the Ukrainians and Ukrainian Jews.”
“Why can’t we obtain weapons? Why hasn’t Israel imposed serious sanctions on Russia? You aren’t applying pressure to businesses in Russia. You need to answer these questions and then live with your answers."
"Ukrainians saved Jews [during the Holocaust], we have Righteous Gentiles. The Jewish people now have a choice."