Russia Has Invaded Ukraine, But Let’s Not Let the Conflict Invade Our Values
As a child of Ukrainian immigrants, Russia’s brazen and criminal attack on Ukraine and her people hits close to home for me. Since Russia launched a full-scale military invasion into Ukraine on Feb. 24, fighting has caused over 2,600 civilian deaths and driven over 4 million Ukrainians to flee to neighboring countries.
As the conflict in Europe rages, the effects of the war are starting to be felt around the world. Institutions like Israel’s Immigration and Absorption Ministry and the Jewish Agency have had to deal with a new wave of immigration. According to the Jewish Agency, over 4,000 Ukrainian “Jews,” have immigrated to Israel since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine last month, and thousands more are expected to arrive in the coming weeks under Israel’s law of return.
As a result, Israel has introduced new immigration policies to combat the issue. Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked announced that Israel is willing to accept 5,000 non-Jewish refugees fleeing the fighting in Ukraine, in addition to waiving deportation for about 20,000 non-Jewish Ukrainians who had been in the country before the war. These revelations are rather troubling. The intentions of the Israeli government are clear and simple: they have an opportunity to help, and want to take it. It is in their Jewish DNA. Not to mention that this operation will result in great PR. They can finally reaffirm their commitment to peace and democracy on the world stage by supporting Ukraine, a fellow underdog.
The liberal international community may be in support of such actions, but Jews need to ask themselves: what will be the cost to Israel and Jews worldwide? Jews need to stop sacrificing Jewish ideals for world approval. Israel is not America. America may be a “melting pot,” but Israel needs to be a Jewish enclave. Israel exists for the sole purpose of providing a safe haven for Jews. A safe haven for the Jews of today and for the Jews of tomorrow. It cannot afford to let non-Jews immigrate and/or continue to stay in Israel without any restrictions. The Israeli government needs to do everything in its power to make sure there is no threat to a Jewish majority in the State. Not to mention the economic drain all the helpless immigrants will have on the already poor Jewish population and struggling Israeli economy. 23% of Israeli citizens and 31.7% of Israeli children are living below the poverty line, including 49% within the ultra-Orthodox sector alone. Setting up a field hospital in Ukraine is noble, but Israel cannot and should not prioritize the complex problems of the world, no matter how dire, when Jews within the State are suffering day-to-day and are being murdered on the streets of Tel Aviv.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy attempted to manipulate Israel during his speech to the Knesset on March 20 by pulling on emotional chords of the Holocaust. However, President Zelenskyy gave, at the very least, a false-hearted and tone-deaf address. “Why hasn’t Israel seriously sanctioned Russia? Why aren’t you putting pressure on businesses?” asked the Ukrainian leader, who warned that Russians were engaged in their own “final solution.” “Ukrainians made their choice 80 years ago. We saved Jews, and that’s why there are Righteous Gentiles among us. People of Israel, you too now have a choice. Thank you!”
Frankly, Zelensky is lucky he is Jewish. His speech was bordering on Holocaust denial; it was not just ahistorical but was actively perverting history. Israel may side with Ukraine, but it does not owe the besieged country anything. Ukraine was one of the most violently antisemitic nations in Europe during WWII. At Babi Yar, over two days in 1941, at least 34,000 Jews were stripped of their possessions and clothing, led into ravines, shot and dumped into mass graves. The Jews of Babi Yar were often herded, guarded and shot by Ukrainian police, militia and collaborators.
As much as I want to see Ukraine stand victorious and her people bask in her sovereignty, it is not Israel’s job to provide that. Perhaps you can make an argument for Israel’s involvement if all of her internal and external issues had been solved, but obviously that is not reality. Instead, Israel should focus on helping Jews that desperately need its support. A glaring example is the current situation with Jews in Ethiopia. Israel was swift to mobilize and help Ukraine but is taking its time with keeping to the agreement it signed to rescue Ethiopian Jews back in 2015. As war rages on in Ethiopia, putting more and more Jews at risk, Israel continues to prioritize the non-Jews of Ukraine. That decision is unforgivable. It sets a poor precedent for future international conflicts Israel will undoubtedly take part in, directly or indirectly. The Israeli left is already complaining that the State is not accepting enough non-Jewish refugees. 25,000 refugees are not going to flip the majority today, but this attitude can and will upend the Jewish majority in the long run. Israel is meant to be the refugee home for Jews, only. Herzel famously titled his book describing his vision of the founding of a future safe haven for Jews, “The Jewish State.” Israel should continuously work to perpetuate his vision instead of transitioning into a mere State with Jews.
Photo Caption: Illustration of the Israeli and Ukrainian flags
Photo Credit: Unsplash