Israel on Monday lashed out at Russia over “unforgivable” comments by its foreign minister about Nazism and antisemitism including claims that Adolf Hitler was Jewish. Israel, which summoned the Russian ambassador in response, said the remarks blamed Jews for their own murder in the Holocaust.
It was a steep decline in the ties between the two countries at a time when Israel has sought to stake out a cautious position between Russia and Ukraine and remain in Russia’s good stead for its security needs in the Middle East.
Asked in an interview with an Italian news channel about Russian claims that it invaded Ukraine to “denazify” the country, Sergey Lavrov said that Ukraine could still have Nazi elements even if some figures, including the country’s president, were Jewish.
“So when they say ‘How can Nazification exist if we’re Jewish?’ In my opinion, Hitler also had Jewish origins, so it doesn’t mean absolutely anything. For some time we have heard from the Jewish people that the biggest antisemites were Jewish,” he said, speaking to the station in Russian, dubbed over by an Italian translation.
In some of the harshest remarks since the start of the war in Ukraine, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid called Lavrov’s statement “unforgivable and scandalous and a horrible historical error.”
“The Jews did not murder themselves in the Holocaust,” said Lapid, the son of a Holocaust survivor. “The lowest level of racism against Jews is to blame Jews themselves for antisemitism.”
Later, Lapid said Israel makes “every effort” to have good relations with Russia. “But there’s a limit and this limit has been crossed this time. The government of Russia needs to apologize to us and to the Jewish people,” he said.
An Israeli official confirmed late Monday that Russia’s ambassador, Anatoly Viktorov, was summoned to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss a diplomatic matter, said that Israel “stated its position” and that the sides agreed not to elaborate.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who has been more measured in his criticism of Russia’s invasion, also condemned Lavrov’s comments.
“His words are untrue and their intentions are wrong,” he…