Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky

In Knesset address, Zelensky calls on Israel to help stop Russia's 'final solution'

Speaking before Israeli lawmakers via video link, Ukrainian leader draws comparisons between language used by the Kremlin and anti-Jewish Nazi rhetoric, excoriates Jerusalem's fence-sitting amid conflict

Itamar Eichner |
Published: 03.20.22, 19:01
From his shelter in bombarded capital Kyiv, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke before the Knesset via a video link on Sunday as his country reels under a Russian invasion and urged Israel to help his country fight the onslaught on his country, which he compared to Nazi Germany's genocide of the Jewish people in World War Two.
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  • Zelensky opened his remarks by paraphrasing Israel's Ukrainian-born fourth prime minister Golda Meir.
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    ולדימיר זילנסקי ומיקי לוי
    ולדימיר זילנסקי ומיקי לוי
    Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky
    (Photo: Moti Kimchi)
    "We want to live alongside our neighbors, they want to see us dead, so that doesn’t leave a lot of room for compromise," he said.
    The Ukrainian leader then sought to draw a comparison between Russia and the Nazis, noting that date of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — February 24 — was also the date on which the Nazi party was founded in Germany in 1920.
    "Listen to the language the Kremlin uses, they use the terminology of the Nazi Party. They called it the 'final solution' to the Jewish question. You remember well, I'm sure, you'll never forget," he said.
    "Now Moscow uses the words 'final solution' again regarding us, Ukraine. We see this on their official websites, there are quotes in the Russian media. This is what was said in Moscow. Without the war against Ukraine, they could not have secured the final solution to their security, just as was said 80 years ago."
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    הקרנה פומבית של נאום זלנסקי בכיכר הבימה בתל אביב
    הקרנה פומבית של נאום זלנסקי בכיכר הבימה בתל אביב
    Over a thousand gather Tel Aviv's Habima Theater Square for Zelensky's speech
    (Photo: Moti Kimchi)
    The speech was broadcast live on television, online, and Tel Aviv's Habima Theater Square before a crowd of over a thousand people.
    At the beginning of the virtual address, Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy introduced Zelensky with most MKs in attendance despite Knesset being on its winter recess. Members of the Joint List Party chose to be absent from the call, saying they did not wish to pick a side in the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia.
    Israel apparently did not ask Zelensky, who is Jewish, to refrain from any problematic comments or comparisons to the Holocaust, which he ultimately made.
    A senior Israeli official claimed in a conversation with the Ynet's sister publication Yedioth Ahronoth that "they won't tell a leader of a state that is under attack what is allowed or forbidden to say - freedom of speech is sacred value".
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    מליאת הכנסת
    מליאת הכנסת
    The Knesset plenum
    (Photo: Yoav Dudkevitch)
    In addition, the Ukrainian president torched Israel for its reluctance to join the international sanctions against Russia and provide the Ukrainians with military assistance, namely its refusal to sell Kyiv its Iron Dome missile defense system.
    "Everybody knows that your missile defense systems are the best and that you can definitely help our people, save the lives of Ukrainians, of Ukrainian Jews," he said.
    "We can ask why we can't receive weapons from you, why Israel has not imposed powerful sanctions on Russia or is not putting pressure on Russian business. Either way, the choice is yours to make, brothers and sisters, and you must then live with your answer, the people of Israel."
    Zelensky's associates said he was excited about this speech, which he made in Ukrainian with simultaneous translation.
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    הקרנה פומבית של נאום זלנסקי בכיכר הבימה בתל אביב
    הקרנה פומבית של נאום זלנסקי בכיכר הבימה בתל אביב
    Over a thousand gather Tel Aviv's Habima Theater Square for Zelensky's speech
    (Photo: Moti Kimchi)
    The video address was monitored and the Knesset tech personnel ensured that only lawmakers were present during the video call, fearing Russian hackers would try to sabotage the broadcast.
    Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid also watched the address live. President Isaac Herzog was not able to watch the speech due to his state visit to France, where he is set to attend a memorial service for an attack on a Jewish school in Toulouse in 2012 and meet French President Emmanuel Macron.
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