Photo Credit: Shlomi Cohen/Flash90
President Volodymyr Zelensky with Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, January 23, 2020.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky compared Russia’s invasion of his country to Nazi Germany’s oppression of Jews in a renewed plea to American Jews to help guide the West to offer Ukraine more military assistance and establish a no-fly zone over the war zone, Reuters reported Monday.

“This is just a pure Nazi behavior. I can’t even qualify this in any different manner,” Zelensky told the Conference of Presidents of American Jewish Organizations.


He read a list of Ukrainian cities and towns that had been destroyed by the Russian invaders, and where Ukrainian citizens fought back even when they were unarmed.

“They are throwing themselves under the tanks – just for you to understand what’s happening here,” he said.

“All of this happened during Nazi times,” he said. “The survival of the Ukrainian nation – the question will be the same as antisemitism… All of these millions of people are going to be exterminated. … They’re bombing the life out of everything that is moving.”

This is not the first time President Zelensky, who is Jewish, has pushed the Jewish button since the start of the conflict. Last Wednesday, after a Russian attack on a TV antenna that stood outside Kiev, near the Babi Yar memorial center, the site of the massacre of some 30,000 Jews at the hands of Nazi troops, Ukrainian police, and enthusiastic local civilians, Zelensky was outraged and declared: “I call now on all the Jews of the world – do you not see what is happening here? This is why it’s important for millions of Jews around the world not to stay silent in the face of such sights. Because Nazism was born in silence.”

And last Thursday, Zelensky shared at a news conference his delight with “a beautiful picture of people wrapped in the Ukraine flag at the Western Wall.” But he could help himself, and added that he wasn’t sure “that the Israeli government had also wrapped itself with the Ukrainian flag.”

It wasn’t as harsh a rebuke as the one we reported Tuesday morning when Ukrainian FM Dmytro Kuleba accused El Al of making money soaked in Ukrainian blood (Ukraine FM: El Al Makes Money Soaked in Ukrainian Blood). After all, Zelensky is Jewish, did we mention that?

As the Wall Street Journal reported in 2019, Zelensky’s wife is not Jewish, and his children were reportedly baptized in the Greek Orthodox tradition, the religion of about two-thirds of Ukrainians (Understanding Ukraine’s Jewish President).

A 2019 profile of Zelensky in The Atlantic noted (The Betrayal of Volodymyr Zelensky): “When he portrayed Jews in his comic sketches, the humor often carried an atavistic edge. He once dressed in a yarmulke and wire-rimmed glasses while finagling his way out of paying bills. Mocking a Jewish oligarch, he spoke in a stereotypical accent that Jackie Mason might consider a touch too thick.”

United Jewish Community of Ukraine chairman Mikhail Tkach told the WSJ that “Zelensky is Ukrainian, he was taught in a family where they knew they were Jews by origin. He understands what Sabbath is. The question of whether he prays . . . is not the most important one.”

True enough. And it also makes sense that a desperate leader under attack by a superpower would try whatever move he can to elicit support. But rebuking the Bennett government for failing to wrap itself in the Ukrainian flag, meaning to embrace the Ukrainian cause regardless of Israel’s security considerations is insulting. Especially since, as this newspaper has been documenting like gangbusters, Israel is more involved in helping Ukrainians than anyone else in the West.


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