LIAT COLLINS – Jerusalem Post
The vast majority of Israelis watching Zelensky’s address understood where he was coming from, just not where he was going. Perhaps desperation and frustration overtook him.
When Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the Knesset by Zoom on Sunday, he opened his mouth and shot himself in the foot. In his 12-minute impassioned speech, instead of wooing more Israeli support, Zelensky seemed to be turning Israel into the enemy. “Apathy kills,” he told the parliamentarians and the general public. But Israelis are far from apathetic. They’re sympathetic. Empathetic, even. Very few Israelis have never run for shelter in a rocket attack. We look at the images of refugees streaming across borders, seeking safety, and we easily imagine how that feels. We don’t need a history lesson from Zelensky. And we don’t need false comparisons to the Holocaust. Or a reminder that when Israel has been attacked by would-be invading armies, we have nowhere to run. MKs from the mainly Arab Joint List, by the way, boycotted Zelenksy’s speech because of the longstanding ties to Russia of the communist-affiliated Hadash faction. Zelensky wanted to address the Knesset, even though it was in recess and the plenum is undergoing renovations. Risking the wrath of Russia – with whom Israel does now effectively share a border, given its entrenchment in Syria – the government and Knesset Speaker Micky Levy agreed, after some deliberations. The speech was delivered via Zoom and broadcast live on television and radio, as well as to a large group of supporters gathered in front of a screen at Tel Aviv’s Habima Square. Thankfully, the MKs were muted. I have no doubt they would have had what to say. Watching in my living room, I also found myself at times infuriated by the tone and words of the Ukrainian leader and was talking back at him.
Let me repeat here, as I wrote in a column earlier this month, one thing is clear in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict: Russia, led by Vladimir Putin, are the bad guys, who launched an unprovoked attack on a sovereign country. And Ukrainians, led heroically by Volodymyr Zelensky, are the victims, fighting for their freedom. Zelensky is trapped between the devil and the deep Black Sea. He is literally fighting for his life and for his country. He is courageous. And he has chutzpah. Fighting back at Russia is more than justified, attacking Israel – even verbally – is not. Israel is overwhelmingly on his side, offering tons of humanitarian aid, setting up a field hospital, helping refugees cross borders to safety in neighboring countries and offering a safe haven here, particularly for Jews and those eligible to immigrate under the Law of Return.