Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
Israel has summoned Russia's ambassador and is demanding an apology from Moscow after Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov suggested that Adolf Hitler had Jewish roots.
Lavrov was asked during an interview with an Italian television channel on May 1 how Russia could claim that it needed to "de-Nazify" Ukraine when the country's president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, was Jewish.
Lavrov had defended Russian President Vladimir Putin's goal of the "de-Nazification" of Ukraine and said Zelensky's Jewish ancestry did not undermine Putin's position.
"When they say, 'What sort of Nazification is this if we are Jews,' well, I think that Hitler also had Jewish origins, so it does not mean anything," Lavrov told Italy's Rete 4, speaking through an Italian interpreter.
"For a long time now, we've been hearing the wise Jewish people say that the biggest anti-Semites are the Jews themselves," Lavrov claimed.
Israeli Foreign Ministry Yair Lapid said the Russian ambassador would be summoned for "a tough talk" over the comments, which he called "unforgivable and scandalous and a horrible historical error.”
“The Jews did not murder themselves in the Holocaust,” Lapid said. “The lowest level of racism against Jews is to blame Jews themselves for anti-Semitism.”
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who has been more measured in his criticism of Russia's invasion, also condemned Lavrov's comments.
“Using the Holocaust of the Jewish people as a means to score political points must be stopped immediately,” he said.
Dani Dayan, chairman of Yad Vashem, Israel's memorial to the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust, called Lavrov's remarks "an insult and a severe blow to the victims of the real Nazism."
Speaking on Israel's Kan radio, Dayan said Lavrov was spreading "an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory with no basis in fact."
Leaders from several Western nations denounced the foreign minister's comments, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy accused Russia of having forgotten the lessons of World War II.
In his nightly video message, Zelenskiy noted that Moscow has been silent since Lavrov's comments. "This means that the Russian leadership has forgotten all the lessons of World War II," he said. "Or perhaps they have never learned those lessons." The German government's anti-Semitism commissioner, Felix Klein, said Lavrov's remarks mocked the victims of Nazism and "shamelessly confront not only Jews but the entire international public with open anti-Semitism." Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi called Lavrov's comments obscene, while Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed disbelief. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (Democrat-New York) accused Lavrov of falling back on anti-Semitism to defend his nation's actions. "As the highest ranking Jewish elected official in the U.S., I take particular umbrage at what Mr. Lavrov said," Schumer said in Washington.