On February 24, 2022, Russia has invaded Ukraine. Since then, Russian forces have shelled Ukrainian cities, large and small; hundreds of civilians, including children, have been killed; Ukrainian infrastructure is being pummelled to dust. In addition to military targets, the Russian army has fired upon kindergartens, hospitals, schools, and residential buildings. Over one million people have fled Ukraine, according to the UN.
The reaction of Ukraine’s Western allies has been swift and decisive. The US, the EU, the UK, and other countries have introduced devastating sanctions against the Russian economy and Russian elite and closed their airspace to Russian flights. While NATO and its allies have ruled out sending troops to Ukraine out of fear of nuclear attack by Russia, they are currently supplying Ukraine with both humanitarian and military aid. The entirety of the Western world rose to the defence of Ukraine – except Israel.
While Jewish organizations worldwide have condemned Russian aggression and offered assistance to Ukraine, the Government of Israel has remained vague and cautious. Even though Israel has voted for a UN resolution condemning Russia in the UN General Assembly, Prime Minister Bennet has failed to name Russia as the culprit in his most recent stat http://gty.im/1377682148 ement on the topic of war. And while Israel has sent several planeloads of humanitarian aid to Ukraine, it has not sent any weapons. Our country has even refused to send flak vests and helmets, despite the repeated pleas from the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Israel has not joined the sanctions against Russia – instead, Yad Vashem has asked the US government not to sanction Roman Abramovich, one of Putin’s financial backers. As of writing this article, Israel has not allowed Ukrainian refugees to enter the country.
This conduct by the Israeli government is shameful and cowardly. It goes against the very spirit of the Jewish State. It allows us to stand aside as a power-hungry dictator attacks a democratic country. It enables a fascist dictatorship to murder thousands of innocent people with only a token reaction from our government.
I am well aware that Israel needs Russian non-interference to have freedom of action in the Syrian skies. I understand that without that cooperation, Israel would have a far harder time striking Iranian targets in Syria. Nevertheless, there comes a time when a country and its people must choose between convenience and their values – and I believe that this time has come. If we do not make that choice, if we continue to sit on two chairs, we will essentially abandon the core values of Israel as the Jewish State.
There is another reason for action. Already we hear the US government voicing its dissatisfaction with Israel’s reticence to condemn Russia and send aid to Ukraine. It is true that we will face the fury of President Putin if we send military aid to Ukraine or sanction Russia. We can take it – Israel is strong enough. Putin will not use his nuclear arsenal against us – his threats to do so are a bluff unless the Western countries attack Russia. But if we do nothing now, we risk alienating the rest of the Western world and our greatest ally, the US.
I do not ask to send the Iron Dome to Ukraine – I know it is too late for that. I do not ask Israel to send its troops to fight Russia – I know it is too dangerous. There is plenty that we can do without taking these steps.
I now call on the Government and the People of Israel – do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbour. Condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Sanction Russia and its leaders. Send meaningful aid to Ukraine, including weapons. Allow Ukrainian refugees to come to Israel. It is our responsibility as a democratic and Jewish state. Do this, or our legacy will forever be marred in shame.