Israeli prime minister criticises Zelenskiy over Holocaust comparison

Opposition party says Ukrainian president’s comments border on Holocaust denial

Israeli parliamentarians have reacted angrily after Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy compared the war in his country to the Jewish Holocaust.

Mr Zelenskiy, who is himself Jewish, made the comments during a 15-minute address by video link to Knesset members on Sunday evening.

Prime minister Naftali Bennett said Mr Zelenskiy was fighting for his country’s life but nothing should ever be compared to the Holocaust, which, he said, was a unique event in human history.

Communications minister Yoaz Hendel said while he appreciated the Ukrainian president and fully supported the Ukrainian people, the comparison with the Holocaust was inappropriate.


“The terrible history of the Holocaust cannot be rewritten – the genocide that was carried out on Ukrainian soil as well. The war is awful but the comparison to the atrocities of the Holocaust and the final solution is an outrage,” he said.

Knesset member Yuval Steinitz, of the opposition Likud, said Mr Zelenskiy's comments bordered on Holocaust denial and the Ukrainian people could not be proud of their conduct towards Jews in the second World War.

“War is always terrible, and the shelling and territorial conquests are unbearable but any comparison between a regular war, as awful as it might be, and the annihilation of millions of Jews in the gas chambers as the final solution, is an absolute distortion of history,” he said.


In his speech, Mr Zelenskiy said the Kremlin was using the terminology of the Nazi party, and was planning to carry out a "final solution" in Ukraine. He also noted that Ukrainian "righteous gentiles" had helped save Jews during the Nazi occupation.

He also demanded that Israel arm Ukraine, impose sanctions on Russia and remove limits on Ukrainian immigration, warning that "apathy kills".

The Holocaust analogy was also criticised by Dani Dayan, chairman of the Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Centre in Jerusalem.

“There were 2,500 righteous gentiles in Ukraine but, unfortunately, there were many more collaborators with the Nazis, and Jews were murdered directly by Ukrainians,” Mr Dayan told The Irish Times. “I understand his current situation but I hope he finds the opportunity to come clean.”

Mr Dayan also condemned comments by Russian president Vladimir Putin, who has talked about Russia's mission of "denazification" of Ukraine.

Following the wave of criticism in Israel, Mr Zelenskiy posted a video online on Sunday night in which he said Mr Bennett had made a major effort to mediate between Moscow and Kyiv, and that he was grateful for that. He also suggested that Jerusalem was the right place for peace talks between Ukraine and Russia.

He went on to say that he understood that Israel had interests of its own and a strategy to protect its own citizens.