May 2, 2022 - World

Israel condemns Russian foreign minister's "unforgivable" Hitler remarks

Sergei Lavrov
Photo: Russian Foreign Ministry/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Israel on Monday condemned Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's false claim that Adolf Hitler had "Jewish blood," which he used to justify calling Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky a "Nazi."

Why it matters: It's the first time Israel has publicly condemned the Russian claim that Zelensky is a "Nazi."

The big picture: The condemnation is the latest example of how Israeli policy toward the Russian invasion of Ukraine has slowly shifted, with the Israeli government voicing more criticism of Russian action and showing more willingness to give aid to Ukraine.

  • While Israel condemned the Russian invasion and recently accused Russia of committing war crimes, it has for many weeks taken a careful approach to the Ukraine crisis to ensure military cooperation with Russia in Syria continues.

Driving the news: On Sunday evening, Lavrov was asked in an interview with an Italian TV channel how Russia can be "de-Nazifying" Ukraine — a stated goal of its invasion — if the leader of the country is Jewish.

  • Lavrov falsely claimed that Adolf Hitler had "Jewish blood" and added that some of the most enthusiastic anti-semites were Jews.
  • Lavrov's remarks quickly went viral on social media and were widely reported in the Israeli press.
  • On Monday morning, the Israeli Foreign Ministry summoned the Russian ambassador to demand that Russia clarify Lavrov's remarks.

What they're saying: "Foreign Minister Lavrov’s remarks are both an unforgivable and outrageous statement as well as a terrible historical error. Jews did not murder themselves in the Holocaust. The lowest level of racism against Jews is to accuse Jews themselves of antisemitism," Israeli foreign minister Yair Lapid said in a statement.

  • Dani Dayan, the chairman of Yad Vashem, the national Holocaust memorial in Israel, said Lavrov's remarks were "absurd and dangerous."
  • He also condemned the claim that Zelensky is a Nazi. "This is a complete distortion of the history and a serious affront to the victims of Nazism," Dayan said.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said he views Lavrov's comments "with utmost severity."

  • "His words are untrue and their intentions are wrong. 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," Bennett said in a statement.
  • "As I have already 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."

Editor's note: This story has been updated with Bennett's statement.

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