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Zelenskyy’s Ukraine on the way to Israeliization

Demonstrators gather in Tel Aviv on March 20 to attend a televised video address by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Photo: Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images
Demonstrators gather in Tel Aviv on March 20 to attend a televised video address by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Photo: Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images

Zelenskyy is the grandson of the fourth surviving of three brothers who were massacred by Nazi Germany during the great war. As it is known, he is a politician with Jewish roots and also a theater player. But of course, he didn’t take the lead because of his Jewish identity, which he proves to be an elected Ukrainian patriot in the face of the ongoing Russian occupation.  

Zelenskyy, who gained a widespread public appreciation for his determination about defending his country, is not the first Jew to get important positions in Ukrainian politics, while Dnipropetrovsk Governor Ihor Kolomoyskyi and the country’s former prime minister Volodymyr Groysman are also figures in the Jewish community. Still, we should see that Zelenskyy’s recent statement, “We will be Greater Israel” is both extremely pragmatist and meaningful.

Ukraine, as it is known, is a country that has been home to the Jewish people for centuries. It is the fifth most populous Jewish community in the diaspora, with a Jewish population of about 350,000, most of whom live in Kyiv. Ukraine’s contribution to Jewish life, culture and wealth is indisputably precious. After all, Ukraine is within the so-called Pale of Settlement, which was designed by Tsarist Russia as a buffer zone to imprison Jews. These lands are the land where Hasidism was born, religious scholars who influenced Jewish societies were raised, folk literature was shaped, in this context Yiddish inspired literary works, and from the late 19th century the first Jewish nationalist movements dreamed of a life in Eretz Yisrael flourished. 

In addition, the Pale of Settlement is a region that has been affected by anti-semitic movements and pogroms throughout history, where hatred has been fueled too much and led to dangerous results. Similarly, it is impossible to deny the contribution of the people of the region to the fate of the Jews who were massacred during the occupation of the country by the Nazi regime. Therefore, it is difficult to argue that there are no neo-Nazi movements in this geography today. They exhibit racist behavior because of the environment in which they are growing up. Indeed, harassment and attacks against ethnic Russians have long been reported in separatist parts of the country.

Soviet Russia, on the other hand, saw Ukraine’s vast steppes as a buffer zone against attacks from the west, as did its predecessor, Tsarist Russia. In addition, the region is a major agricultural area for the Kremlin.  

This is one of the reasons why Putin does not want to abandon Moscow’s influence over former Soviet countries such as Ukraine and Belarus. Just as the Baltic states, which declared independence after the dissolution of the USSR, prevented Russia from opening up to the sea at a wider angle in that region, Ukraine confined Moscow to a narrow area, seeking access to a longer coastline in the Black Sea. The invasion of Crimea in 2014 and the Russianization of the Azov Sea were not enough to compensate for this troublous situation. 

Not only is the occupation, bombing, exile and slaughter imposed by Russia a solution to the problem, but it is making the situation worse… The processes by which people are forcibly thrown away from each other do not contribute to regional peace. It should also be noted that Kiev lost control over the separatist Donbass region, especially after the 2014 Crimea issue, where local governments declared their liberty, and Moscow officially recognized the government there just before the war. 

Therefore, at this point, Putin, who destroys all the historical and cultural accumulation of Ukraine and attempts against its infrastructure and economic values, is very reminiscent of the fascist totalitarian leaders who acceded before him. Finally, regarding Zelenskyy’s statements, I must say that not only Ukraine but also many countries of the world should take Israel as an example, especially in terms of self-defence, for justified reasons.

About the Author
Dalia Cohen has worked in magazines such as Newsweek, Fortune and Women's Health in her editorial career. She is actively involved in many NGOs and writes articles on topics such as politics, health and technology. She is also actively working on antisemitism and women's rights.
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