Zelensky giving his speech to the Knesset
Zelensky giving his speech to the KnessetThe Knesset Channel

Senior government ministers this evening (Sunday) sharply criticized the speech of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to the Knessset, claiming that he belittled the memory of the Holocaust with his words.

"The president of Ukraine attacked Israel and made an outrageous comparison to the Holocaust. This is a distortion of history," the ministers said.

Minister of Communications Yoaz Hendel (Blue and White) said that he "respects the President of Ukraine and supports the Ukrainian people in heart and deed, but the terrible history of the Holocaust cannot be rewritten -- genocide that was committed even on Ukrainian soil. The war is terrible but the comparison to the atrocities of the Holocaust and the Final Solution is outrageous."

Members of the opposition also sharply criticized Zelensky's speech.

MK Simcha Rothman (Religious Zionism) said: "I do not understand Ukrainian, but if the translation I heard is accurate, Zelensky asked us to behave towards the Ukrainians as they behaved towards us 80 years ago. Sorry, I think we will have to pass on his request. Regardless [of what they did to us], we are a moral nation, a light unto the nations."

The chairman of Religious Zionism, MK Bezalel Smotrich, added, "I attended Ukrainian President Zelensky’s speech on Zoom, to express solidarity with Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression. His criticism of Israel is legitimate and so is his voicing of expectations from us. Not so is his outrageous and unfounded comparison to the Holocaust, and his attempt to rewrite history and erase the involvement of the Ukrainian people in the extermination of the Jews in it."

MK Orit Strook (Religious Zionism) responded to Zelensky's speech: "Our hearts, as well as our support and efforts, are with the Ukrainian people, who are now suffering a brutal, unjustified attack, which is inflicting heavy losses. From here to a comparison to the Holocaust – the distance is great.

"The comparison to Nazism, the use of the phrase 'the Final Solution,' and the mention of Babi Yar – are out of place. As members of the House of Representatives of the State of Israel -- we cannot agree to that."

As reported earlier today by Israel National News:

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."