Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is an antisemite.
On Sunday, he called Ukrainian Jews antisemites amid Russia’s so-called "de-Nazification" campaign in Ukraine. "When they say, 'What sort of Nazification is this if we are Jews,' well, I think that Hitler also had Jewish origins, so it means nothing," Lavrov said. "For a long time now, we've been hearing the wise Jewish people say that the biggest antisemites are the Jews themselves," he added.
The Russian Foreign Ministry on Tuesday stood by Lavrov’s comments. It claimed that "history, unfortunately, knows tragic examples of cooperation between Jews and the Nazis."
For one, Hitler did not have Jewish roots.
Second, while Jews themselves can be antisemitic — Noam Chomsky is one such example — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who is Jewish, is not. It is Russia's Vladimir Putin, not Zelensky, who has acted like a Nazi in Ukraine. The Russians, not the Ukrainians, have been committing genocide, indiscriminately bombing civilian targets and raping women. As I wrote last week, this is happening in the country where Jews were targeted during the pinnacle of the history of antisemitism, the Holocaust. Jews were forced by the Nazis to work for them or else face death. While it can be debated whether those Jews should’ve ever consented to work, the Jews never willfully aided and abetted their oppressors.
Zelensky has not been shy from identifying as Jewish. He has even noted that "most Jewish families in the Soviet Union were not religious." The reason for this is simple. The Soviet Union persecuted the Jews by prohibiting them from practicing their religion and, until the 1970s, refusing to allow them to leave.
History has shown that the biggest antisemites are non-Jewish. The exiling of Jews from Israel? Babylonians and, later on, Romans. The Crusades? The Catholic Church. The Inquisition? Spain’s monarchy of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. Expulsions from European countries? England, Spain, and Portugal. Pogroms? Calls to wipe the Jewish state of Israel off the map?
Speaking of Israel, it rightly condemned Lavrov’s initial remarks. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett eloquently noted that "lies like these are meant to blame the Jews themselves for the most terrible crimes in history, which were committed against them, and thus free the oppressors of the Jews from their responsibility."
What Lavrov said is the worst accusation against Jews. Russia deserves yet more scorn for embracing it.
Jackson Richman is a journalist in Washington, D.C. Follow him @jacksonrichman.