Russia lashes out at Israel amid rift over Holocaust, Ukraine

The Kremlin deepened its unusual rift over World War II history with Israel on Tuesday morning by endorsing – and expanding on – about the supposed collaboration of Jews during the Holocaust with their own Nazi killers.

In , Russia’s foreign ministry tried to tie support for Ukraine with Nazi collaboration, arguing (incorrectly) that history “is unfortunately familiar with tragic examples of Jewish-Nazi collaboration.”

It went on to accuse the current regime in Kyiv – headed by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who is Jewish – of exactly such complicity while reminding Israel that it was the Red Army “that stopped the Holocaust and the destruction of the Jewish world.”

The post went so far as to suggest that Israel – which has hardly been Ukraine’s foremost supporter in the war effort – was too naive to see that after “canceling” Russians, Ukrainian leadership would inevitably move against the nation’s Jewish population.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov meets Eritrean Foreign Minister Osman Saleh Mohammed (not seen) in Moscow, Russia on April 27, 2022. (Russian Foreign Ministry/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

It was a remarkable turn of events, considering that when the war began, . Slow to help at first, . If that support is more limited than that of European nations and the United States, that is largely because Israel’s precarious geopolitical status leaves little room to maneuver between allies and foes.

Still, it is not entirely clear why the Kremlin has decided to litigate one of the most controversial and misunderstood aspects of World War II history as a means of persuading Israel – and, presumably, other nations – that it was right to invade Ukraine. Such an attempt may have been inevitable, given that Russia’s initial rationale for attacking its much smaller neighbor was a need to “” Ukrainian leadership.

Lavrov offered his own thoughts on the matter on Sunday, telling an Italian outlet, “Wise Jewish people say that the most ardent antisemites are usually Jews.” He also repeated the debunked claim that Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler was partly Jewish.

Having just commemorated the Holocaust the previous week, Israeli leadership vigorously denounced Lavrov’s remarks. “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 condemn themselves of antisemitism.”

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid holds a press conference at the Foreign Ministry, in Ukraine, on April 24, 2022 in Jerusalem.  (Israeli Gov't Press Office (GPO/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid holds a press conference at the Foreign Ministry, in Ukraine, on April 24, 2022 in Jerusalem. (Israeli Gov’t Press Office (GPO/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Despite the fact that there is little evidence that Lavrov’s argument – or any other justification for the Ukraine invasion – was finding traction, Russia’s foreign ministry decided to post a lengthy exposition on Telegram that called Lapid’s statement “anti-historical” and repeated Lavrov’s claim that European Jews were responsible for their own destruction.

The Russian foreign ministry charged Zelensky with “consciously” abetting Ukrainian neo-Nazis, comparing him to Jewish leaders during World War II who may have been aware of some aspects of the Holocaust but said nothing. Zelensky, on the other hand, is helping neo-Nazis “quite voluntarily,” the Telegram post said.

Claims about complicity with the Nazis fail to reflect faced by Jewish leaders in Eastern European ghettoes from which hundreds of thousands were deported to the death camps of Poland, where they were murdered.

The Nazis kept their plans for the Holocaust under secrecy, telling Jews that they were merely being “resettled” in Poland. Rumors of the death camps did reach the ghettos where Jews were housed in inhumane conditions, but many refused to believe them.

Even as the Russian foreign ministry proffered its arguments about Jewish-Nazi collaboration, it acknowledged – in the very same Telegram post – that any such collaboration on the part of Jewish leaders was, in the words of three leading Israeli historians,

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