Letters to the Editor: Why Did Haaretz Columnist Not Listen to Zelenskyy’s Knesset Speech?

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaking via Zoom in Tel Aviv on Sunday.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaking via Zoom in Tel Aviv last week.Credit: Moti Milrod

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy complained bitterly about insufficient support while comparing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to the Holocaust in his speech to the Israeli parliament. As a Jew, Zelenskyy expects more support from the Jewish state and that explains his disappointment with Israel.

“What will remain of Ukraine’s cities after this war?” Zelenskyy asked and expected Israel and the rest of the world to support Ukraine to achieve an immediate cease-fire and mediate direct talks on a political solution. In Israel, we also want mediation when violence escalates into war.

But Haaretz op-ed columnist Odeh Bisharat decided not to listen to Zelenskyy’s desperate appeal to the Knesset. In an op-ed in Haaretz (March 21), he wrote, “Zelenskyy isn’t the right address” and that only Israeli right-wing politicians supporting Israel’s own occupation will benefit from his speech.

While Bisharat claims that he vehemently condemns Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and feels empathy for the millions of refugees now fleeing the war, he draws inaccurate comparisons with the Nakba and Israel’s wars with Hamas in Gaza.

Russia’s invasion was an unprovoked and illegal attack, trying to restore the power of the former Soviet Union and Tsar-Russia, against the international order and a neighboring country under the false pretext of “de-nazifying” it. The war has already caused a humanitarian disaster.

We can feel Bisharat’s pain when he writes about his parents who were forced to leave their hometown in 1948, but that’s no reason to ignore what is going on in Ukraine right now and not listen to Zelenskyy.

Hardly anything can be compared with Russia’s indiscriminate and intentional bombardment of Ukrainian cities and civilian targets.

That does not exempt Israel from responsibility to do everything possible to prevent the killing of innocent civilians in Gaza. Such calls, however, seem to be wasted on Russia, which intensified the bombings after its ground forces met fierce Ukrainian resistance.

The international community considers Hamas a terrorist organization. It’s not, as Bisharat seems to think, that Gaza is ruled by a peace-loving regime that does nothing to provoke the wars with Israel.

Most Jews in Israel and abroad expressed solidarity with Israel during the Gaza war last year and its right to defend itself against Hamas. That doesn’t imply that they support the ongoing occupation of Palestinian territories.

If Bisharat himself believes in a two-state solution, reconciliation and peaceful Israeli-Palestinian coexistence, he would also support the Ukrainian people’s right to national self-determination and a state of their own.

Furthermore, Zelenskyy’s appeal was also addressed to the public opinion and all citizens in Israel, Jews and Arabs alike. By refusing to listen to his speech, Bisharat has shown how alienated he is from his own country and the suffering in Ukraine.

Mose Apelblat, Tel Aviv

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