Yad Vashem Chairman Dani Dayan says that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s comparison between what’s happening in Ukraine and the Holocaust is “deplorable.”
“Those are deplorable comparisons. We have to make a very clear distinction between the past and the present,” Dayan tells Israel National News. “Regarding the present, we condemned the Russian invasion against Ukraine and we are very worried about civilian casualties in different cities across Ukraine. But that doesn't mean that you can distort. It's right that there were more than 2,500 Ukrainian Righteous Among the Nations recognized by Yad Vashem, but unfortunately we know that many more were collaborators with the Nazi extermination machine.”
Dayan adds: “In Babi Yar itself the Nazis pulled the trigger but the Ukrainians facilitated the the gathering of the Jews, their transport to to Babi Yar and many more activities. Unfortunately, Ukraine’s history regarding the Holocaust and other atrocities towards Jews is far from being positive.”
Does Dayan think Zelenskyy’s comparison should be forgiven because he’s talking from his bunker during a war while his citizens are being killed and also because he’s Jewish?
Dayan comments that “this was the completely wrong context. Our task is to safeguard historical accuracy.”
He called Zelenskyy’s words “a kind of Holocaust distortion that we cannot condone.”
“When I was in Kyiv just a few months ago to mark the 80th anniversary of the massacre in Babi Yar in which almost 34,000 Jews were exterminated in less than 48 hours, I said very clearly to my Ukrainian hosts, ‘We are very satisfied by the fact that Ukraine as opposed to the Soviet Union acknowledges the Jewishness of the victims of the Holocaust of Babi Yar and other massacres. But we cannot accept the fact that Ukrainians don't look with open eyes into your past and acknowledge also the fact that many Ukrainians collaborated with the Nazis.’”
Dayan explains that Zelenskyy’s initial request to have his online speech broadcast to Yad Vashem was turned down because it was not the appropriate venue for the speech.
“Indeed the Ukrainian ambassador was here in this very office and asked to conduct a speech here in Yad Vashem, and not in the Knesset,” Dayan says. “I thought that was the wrong option. I thought then and for sure I do now that the Knesset is the right venue to address the Israeli public. I spoke with my friend the Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy and I understood that he's going to to accept the request. I told the ambassador to do it in the Knesset. Retrospectively, I am very glad I did it because imagine if President Zelenskyy would have said those inaccurate comparisons here in Yad Vashem. We would have been forced to react immediately on camera and that would be an embarrassing situation both for President Zelenskyy and for us.”