Ukraine’s Zelensky asks Israeli leaders: ‘Can you explain why we’re still waiting for help?’

Ukrainian president addressed Israeli lawmakers via video conference on Sunday.

Stuti Mishra
Monday 21 March 2022 12:50
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Watch as Zelensky addresses Israel’s parliament in video call

Volodymyr Zelensky has hit out at the Israeli government for not standing unequivocally on Ukraine’s side since Russian forces invaded the country last month.

The Ukrainian president addressed Israeli lawmakers for nine minutes via video conference on Sunday.

Mr Zelensky, who is Jewish, repeatedly invoked the Holocaust and compared the plight of Ukraine under Russian assault to that of European Jews under the Nazis. During the emotionally charged address, Mr Zelensky criticised Israel for failing to help his country with arms, impose sanctions on Russia or open its doors wider to refugees.

“I’m sure you feel our pain, but can you explain why we’re still waiting… for your help… when other countries are giving help? Why isn’t Israeli help, or even entry permits, forthcoming?” Mr Zelensky asked. “What is it? Indifference? Political calculation? Mediation without choosing sides?”

“I’ll leave you to provide the answers to these questions, but I want to point out that indifference kills,” he said.

The president added: “Calculations can be wrong. You can mediate between countries, but not between good and evil. You need to provide answers to these questions and live with them.”

“The Russian invasion of Ukraine is not a military operation as it’s presented in Moscow,” Mr Zelensky told the Israeli lawmakers. “It is an all-out war, illegitimate, intended to destroy our people, our country, our cities, our culture and our children. Everything that makes Ukrainians Ukrainians.”

“The Russians use the terminology of the Nazi party, they want to destroy everything. The Nazis called this ‘the final solution to the Jewish question’,” he said. “And now… in Moscow… they’re using those words, ‘the final solution.’ But now it’s directed against us and the Ukrainian question.”

The address, attended by an overwhelming majority of legislators, received mixed responses, with some lauding his efforts and others criticising him and calling the comparison with the holocaust “outrageous”.

This map shows the extent of the Russian invasion of Ukraine

Several members, mostly on the right-wing, said Mr Zelensky overlooked the role that some Ukrainians had played in the Nazi genocide of Jews.

Local media reported that Israel is unlikely to change its policy against Russia, a long-term ally of the country, but may seek to use its unique position to broker an agreement between the two sides.

On 24 February, Russian president Vladimir Putin launched what the Kremlin has called a “special military operation” in Ukraine to “de-militarise” and “de-Nazify” the country.

The UN has confirmed at least 902 civilian deaths in the war, and said that more than 10 million people had now been displaced across Ukraine.

The Independent has a proud history of campaigning for the rights of the most vulnerable, and we first ran our Refugees Welcome campaign during the war in Syria in 2015. Now, as we renew our campaign and launch this petition in the wake of the unfolding Ukrainian crisis, we are calling on the government to go further and faster to ensure help is delivered.

To find out more about our Refugees Welcome campaign, click here. To sign the petition click here. If you would like to donate then please click here for our GoFundMe page.

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