Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on Monday slammed his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov for alleging Adolf Hitler may have “had Jewish blood” and summoned Moscow’s ambassador for “clarifications”.
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Israel has sought to keep a delicate balance between the two sides, but remarks by Lavrov to an Italian channel sparked anger in Israel.
Moscow has previously said it wants to “de-militarise” and “de-Nazify” Ukraine.
Lavrov, speaking to Italian outlet Mediaset’s Rete 4 channel in an interview released Sunday, claimed that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “puts forward an argument of what kind of Nazism can they have if he himself is Jewish”.
Lavrov, according to a transcript posted on the Russian foreign ministry website, then added: “I could be wrong, but Hitler also had Jewish blood”.
Lapid in a statement from the foreign ministry on the “grave remarks” condemned them as “an unforgivable and outrageous statement as well as a terrible historical error”.
“Jews did not murder themselves in the Holocaust,” Lapid said. “The lowest level of racism against Jews is to accuse Jews themselves of antisemitism.”
Israel’s foreign ministry “has summoned the Russian Ambassador to Israel for a clarification meeting”, the statement added.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett then denounced Lavrov’s “lies” that he said effectively “accuse the Jews themselves of the most awful crimes in history,” perpetrated against them.
– ‘Delusional and dangerous’ –
“No war in our time is like the Holocaust or is comparable to the Holocaust,” the Israeli premier said in a statement. “The use of the Holocaust of the Jewish people as a political tool must cease immediately.”
Dani Dayan, director of Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Israel, also criticised Lavrov’s comments as “unfounded, delusional and dangerous remarks which deserve to be condemned”.
In Berlin, German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit told reporters: “I think the Russian propaganda being spread here by Foreign Minister Lavrov needs no comment -– it’s absurd”.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in a tweet that Lavrov’s comments illustrate “deeply rooted antisemitism of the Russian elites”.
“His heinous remarks are offensive to President Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine, Israel, and the Jewish people,” he added.
“More broadly, they demonstrate that today’s Russia is full of hatred towards other nations.”
In a March speech to the Israeli parliament, Zelensky called on Israel to “make a choice” by supporting Ukraine against Russia, and asked the Jewish state to provide it with weapons.
Israel has provided helmets and bulletproof vests to Ukrainian rescue workers, but has not recently supplied the country with weapons, Israeli officials say.
The United States, which has led international support for Ukraine, called Kyiv “a valued partner” against antisemitism and said Russia’s offensive was putting Jews, as well as others, in harm’s way.
“To invoke the lie of ‘denazification’ in Ukraine, a country with a Jewish president and a significant Jewish population living in peace among their fellow citizens, is baseless and cruelly deranged,” the office of the State Department envoy on combatting antisemitism wrote on Twitter.