Photo: Reuters, Flash90

Putin apologizes for Lavrov remarks

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov sparked outrage this week for saying Nazi Führer Adolf Hitler had Jewish roots.

By Erin Viner

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett revealed that he had accepted the apology over the comments offered by Russian President Vladimir Putin during a telephone conversation and thanked the Russian leader for “clarifying his regard for the Jewish people and the memory of the Holocaust.”

When asked on Sunday during an interview with Italy’s Rete 4 channel how Russia could justify claim that it invaded Ukraine to carry out a “special military operation” aimed at “de-Nazifying” its neighbor when  the country’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy is Jewish, Moscow’s top diplomat said the association was meaningless.

“When they say ‘What sort of Nazification is this if we are Jews’ -well I think that Hitler also had Jewish origins, so it means nothing,” Lavrov said, speaking through an Italian interpreter.

Continuing with his egregious remarks, Lavrov added, “For a long time now we’ve been hearing the wise Jewish people say that the biggest anti-Semites are the Jews themselves.”

Israel immediately denounced Lavrov’s statements as historically false and demanded an apology from Moscow.

Saying he viewed the Russian Foreign Minister’s statement “with the utmost severity,” Prime Minister Bennett stressed “his words are untrue and their intentions are wrong,” adding that “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.”

“No war in our time is like the Holocaust or is comparable to the Holocaust,” he reiterated, demanding that “use of the Holocaust of the Jewish people as a political tool must cease immediately.”

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) summoned the Russian Ambassador to Israel for a stern talk, stressing in a statement that “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 anti-Semitism.

The Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem, Israel’s memorial to the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust, called Lavrov’s remarks “absurd, delusional, dangerous and deserving of condemnation,” saying that he was guilty of “propagating the inversion of the Holocaust – turning the victims into the criminals on the basis of promoting a completely unfounded claim that Hitler was of Jewish descent.”

The Center added that, “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 an affront to the victims of Nazism.”

Israel has sought to maintain good ties with Kyiv and Moscow, particularly to act as an impartial intermediary to broker an end to the war in Ukraine.

According to a statement TV7 obtained from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), Bennett used yesterday’s call as an opportunity to present Putin with a humanitarian request to examine various options for evacuation of Ukrainian civilians from Azovstal in Mariupol. The request came as a result of Prime Minister Bennett’s conversation on Wednesday with Ukrainian President Zelenskyy, said the statement.

While an Israeli official indicated late last month that Prime Minister Bennett had suspended Israel’s attempts to broker a Russia-Ukraine ceasefire in order to handle the outbreak of Arab/Palestinian terror attacks, his latest phone calls with Putin and Zelenskyy suggest he may now be resuming such efforts.

President Putin promised to allow an evacuation of civilians including those who are wounded through a United Nation and Red Cross humanitarian corridor, said the PMO.

Prime Minister Bennett also thanked President Putin for his best wishes on the occasion of the 74th Independence Day of the State of Israel.