- The Washington Times
Monday, May 2, 2022

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Monday condemned remarks by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, denouncing as  “untrue” the Moscow diplomat’s claim that Adolf Hitler “had Jewish blood.”

The uproar over the remarks threatens to upset Israel’s delicate balancing act as one of the few states with open lines of communication with both Russia and Ukraine in the current war. 

An Israeli official confirmed to The Associated Press late Monday that Russian Ambassador Anatoly Viktorov had been summoned to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem in protest. The official said that Israel “stated its position” and that the sides agreed not to elaborate. 

Mr. Bennett, who has been more measured in his criticism of Russia’s invasion given delicate security relations between Russia and Israel, also condemned strongly Mr. Lavrov’s comments.

“The goal of such lies is to accuse the Jews themselves of the most awful crimes in history, which were perpetrated against them, and thereby absolve Israel’s enemies of responsibility,” Mr. Bennett said.

“No war in our time is like the Holocaust or is comparable to the Holocaust. The use of the Holocaust of the Jewish people as a political tool must cease immediately,” the Israeli leader said, adding that he views Mr. Lavrov’s comments “with utmost severity.”

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Mr. Lavrov’s comment on Sunday came days after Israel had observed its annual Holocaust Remembrance Day. He responded to an Italian television interviewer who asked how Ukraine could be “de-Nazified” by Russia when its president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, is Jewish.

The BBC translated Mr. Lavrov’s answer; “I could be wrong, but Hitler also had Jewish blood. [That Mr. Zelenskyy is Jewish] means absolutely nothing. Wise Jewish people say that the most ardent anti-Semites are usually Jews.”

Russia has claimed that its war against Ukraine has been driven, in part, by an attempt to remove anti-Moscow neo-nationalist elements from power in Kyiv.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid also decried Mr. Lavrov’s comments.

“Foreign Minister Lavrov’s remarks are both an unforgivable and outrageous statement as well as a terrible historical error,” Mr. Lapid said in a statement. “Jews did not murder themselves in the Holocaust. The lowest level of racism against Jews is to accuse Jews themselves of anti-Semitism.”

On Twitter, Dani Dayan, former Israeli consul general in New York and chairman of the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, rebuked Mr. Lavrov, saying his comments were “absurd [and] dangerous.”

“Equally serious is calling the Ukrainians in general, and President Zelenskyy in particular, Nazis. This, among other things, is a complete distortion of the history and a serious affront to the victims of Nazism,” he said on Twitter.

Ukraine also was quick to condemn Mr. Lavrov’s remarks, AP reported.

“By trying to rewrite history, Moscow is simply looking for arguments to justify the mass murders of Ukrainians,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted. 

• Mark A. Kellner can be reached at mkellner@washingtontimes.com.

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