Israeli ambassador tells Ukrainians their national heroes were ‘historically a horror for the Jews’


(JTA) — Israel’s new ambassador to Ukraine described that country’s nationalist heroes as “historically a horror for the Jews.”

Joel Lion spoke out harshly against Ukraine’s rehabilitation of various World War II-era figures in an interview with local radio.

Figures such as Stepan Bander and Roman Shukhevych are widely seen as “heroes who fought for Ukraine’s independence,” but “we see them as the killers of Jews,” Lion said in an interview with Radio Svoboda.

Israel has largely remained silent over recent Ukrainian efforts to rehabilitate figures seen as complicit in the Holocaust and refrained from condemning a 2015 law codifying their status as national heroes.

“A dialogue should be open between us so that we can see that we can talk openly about this bad time period because these issues will always arise in the Ukrainian-Israeli dialogue. This is a very necessary dialogue,” Lion said.

“We expect our Ukrainian friends to understand our emotions. You can store historical memory and open memorial monuments, commit acts of memorialization, but there will always be a perception of the historical memory that was.”

Last year Eliav Belotzercovsky, the previous ambassador, told attendees at a Jewish conference in Odessa that the honoring of anti-Semites was a “problem” that was “not in line” with Israel’s interests.

Lion’s comments on Ukraine stand in stark contrast to Israel’s approach elsewhere. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made warm overtures to Hungary’s nationalist government, even as senior leaders there have praised their own World War II-era leaders who helped perpetrate the Holocaust.

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