Scratch an imperialist, find a raging anti-Semite. That formula appears to hold up in Moscow, where foreign minister Sergei Lavrov tied himself in knots attempting to rationalize Vladimir Putin’s Big Lie about the invasion of Ukraine.
Asked how Russia could possibly justify its “de-Nazification” rhetoric while attacking a country that elected a Jewish man as head of state, Lavrov helpfully offered a reply straight out of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion:
Sergei Lavrov hit out at Ukraine’s president during an interview with Italian media, saying Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s Jewish ancestry “doesn’t mean anything” while trying to justify Vladimir Putin’s call to “denazify” the nation. …
Speaking through an interpreter, Mr Lavrov told Italian media: “So what if Zelenskyy is Jewish? The fact does not negate the Nazi elements in Ukraine.
“Hitler also had Jewish origins, so it doesn’t mean anything. Some of the worst antisemites are Jews.”
This is the ultimate absurd outcome of Putin’s absurd claim of “de-Nazification.” Its value in propaganda is obvious in Russia, where their victory over the Nazis in “the Great Patriotic War” is endlessly celebrated. The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact that initially allied the Soviets to the Nazis and allowed Hitler to extend his extermination of Jews to the ends of eastern Europe is usually left unmentioned, of course. There is no small amount of resentment toward Ukrainians in those memories of war either. Some ethnic Ukrainians, bitter about Joseph Stalin’s genocidal famine of the Holodomor a few years earlier, fought with the Nazis in the Russian invasion, and Russians haven’t forgotten it.
That may have made Putin’s propaganda effective at first, but it doesn’t withstand scrutiny. As a result, Lavrov has to come up with this absurd formula to justify the “de-Nazification” claim, but the cost of this isn’t just that Lavrov now looks like an idiot. This claim has infuriated Israel, which had been trying to maintain a delicate diplomatic balance between Ukraine and Russia. Now they want an immediate retraction from Lavrov and Russia:
Israel lashed out at Russia on Monday 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 neutral position between Russia and Ukraine and remain in Russia’s good stead for its security needs in the Middle East. …
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.”
Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett issued a lengthier statement. Bennett avoided using the term “anti-Semitism,” but his remarks clearly carried the same accusation. Bennett viewed Lavrov’s remarks with “the utmost severity,” he said, and demanded that Russia and Lavrov quit appropriating the Holocaust for their desperate propaganda efforts:
Following more strident condemnations by other Israeli leaders, Bennett did not call Lavrov’s comments to an Italian news network Sunday racist or anti-Semitic, choosing instead a more restrained response.
“I view with utmost severity the Russian Foreign Minister’s statement,” Bennett said Monday afternoon. “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.”
“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.”
It’s not just the government in Israel that has erupted in anger. “This is the old, classic anti-Semitism,” Holocaust historian Gideon Greif told Israel’s English-language i24 News this morning. The idea that a Nazi movement has any influence on any world government at this point is equally absurd, Greif says, but the Russian people seem to be falling for another “evil ideology” emanating from Putin and his ruling clique in Moscow:
Lavrov and Putin probably hoped to keep Israel from a dramatic choice of one side over another in this conflict. Israel has the potential to add even more to Ukrainian arms, plus Russian forces in Syria could very well become vulnerable if hostilities rise between the two nations. At one time, that might have looked like a mismatch for Israel, but with the Russian military looking as inept as they are, Israel might end up with an opportunity to push Bashar Assad’s patron out of Syria for good. It would tremendously risky still, but now Russia has to at least worry about its position in the Middle East after this series of incompetent actions and insults.
On the other hand, no one may need to do anything except keep the Ukrainians fighting. This is beginning to look more like an imperialist implosion rather than an expansion. Tsar Vlad I and his toadies had better start reviewing the history of the Romanovs in their final iteration, who also made the same mistake of going to war in Europe with fantasy armies based on Russian mythology. It didn’t end well for the Romanovs, or for Russia.