Shlomo Köves: Ukraine is terrible — but it is not the Holocaust

Earlier, we reported that several Israeli lawmakers were furious with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for drawing parallels between the Holocaust and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in a speech to Knesset members. Now, the chief rabbi of EMIH, Shlomo Köves, has weighed in on the matter. 

„War is always a terrible thing… but any comparison between a regular war — however difficult — and the extermination of millions of Jews in gas chambers in the context of the Final Solution is a complete distortion of history.”

– one of the Likud MPs exclaimed.

On Sunday, a Ukrainian demonstration was held at the Shoes on the Danube Bank Holocaust memorial in Budapest, where participants placed shoes in tribute to the memory of those murdered in Mariupol. In response to this, Yacov Hadas-Handelsman, the State of Israel’s Ambassador to Hungary, issued a statement saying that

any comparison trivializes the Holocaust and also impacts the suffering of the innocent Ukrainian victims of the war.

János Fiala spoke about this with Shlomo Köves, Chief Rabbi of EMIH, on the program Keljfeljancsi, according to

Köves, who is currently in Israel, said:

“We must keep the issues of both the Holocaust and the Russian-Ukrainian war out of the context of the elections.”

He further said:

„What is happening in Ukraine is horrific, shocking, almost incomprehensible, how this can happen in this day and age. The suffering of all civilian victims is horrific and reprehensible, but that is precisely why it is important not to compare the suffering and not to create some sort of priority list based on individual people.”

The chief rabbi continued by noting that,

the Holocaust, the genocide of the Jews, was about the premeditated destruction of people of Jewish descent, regardless of their nationality, religion, place of residence or political beliefs.

To this end, Nazi Germany set up death camps to which tens of thousands of people were transported every day. This is something which, in his view, is not an issue today and falls more in the area of the so-called “black vs. white” morality, wherein something must be opposed by any means necessary.

He explained that

there is a war going on in Ukraine, a war in which a nation is fighting heroically for its sovereignty with terrible suffering and civilian casualties. „But at the same time, the simplification that seeks to reduce this war to a black/white moral choice, equivalent to the Holocaust, is not valid.”

As he sees it,

it is not a simplistic moral black/white issue, but an armed conflict that is part of a geopolitical network of political choices.

This was supported by the fact that

while Ukraine is calling for sanctions against Russia as a matter of moral conscience, and „these sanctions are consistently met by McDonalds or IKEA,” the U.S. has agreed to grant Russia a waiver from sanctions against Iran, which includes the development of a nuclear reactor between Russia and Iran.”

Asked why Zelensky had the Danube Shoes in mind as a parallel, Shlomo Köves replied,

he would not want to criticize or get inside the head of a leader who is currently fighting for the sovereignty of his own nation. He added that if the goal is to end the war and the suffering of civilians as soon as possible, then the most effective way to do so must be considered.

Israeli Ambassador comments on the Ukrainian demonstration at the Danube Shoes

„To link the severe suffering of today’s innocent Ukrainians with the Holocaust of the Jews is completely unfounded.”

„If the Holocaust analogy were really true, then there would be no choice but total war, in which we can only prevent war crimes and genocide against other civilians by killing more civilians”

– he said. As he put it,

if the events in Ukraine are compared to the Holocaust, then the call for not only sanctions but also total war should be raised.

Although he considers the comparison between the Holocaust and the war in Ukraine to be unfortunate, he does not think it constitutes a desecration of its memory.

He noted,

it would be problematic to be dismissive in this matter because then it might appear that Hungary or the Jewish community is not sensitive to the suffering of others. „Regardless, the first task is to end the suffering of civilians in besieged Ukrainian cities as soon as possible”

– he stressed, adding,

later, in the medium term, it will be necessary to reflect on how damaging it is to invoke the memory of the Holocaust as a moral barometer in the political arena and what can be done about it.

He also mentioned that

the various Palestinian terrorist organizations are fond of using the Holocaust analogy „to cover up their crimes against their own people.” 

„If this analogy sticks in the Ukrainian situation, then the next step would be to raise to the level of consensus the idea that Israel is also committing genocide. That would be a fatal direction”

– concluded Köves.

Antisemitism in France both rose and fell last year

Both texts refer to the same set of figures published by the French Ministry of the Interior.