Israel’s Foreign Ministry released a statement Tuesday condemning Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko for a speech he gave about the Holocaust.
Lukashenko said Saturday that Belarus should follow the example of “the Jews” who made the whole world “bow before them” after the Holocaust, according to The Times of Israel. The Israeli Foreign Ministry described the comments as “unacceptable” and summoned Belarus’ chargé d’affaires at the country’s embassy in Israel to discuss the speech further.
Belarus: During a speech, Lukashenko said that “Jews had succeeded in making the whole world bow to them and no one today would dare to raise a voice and deny the Holocaust. In contrast, the Belarusians, who are a tolerant nation, allowed people to spit in their faces” pic.twitter.com/elMUBdAYpT
— Amichai Stein (@AmichaiStein1) July 5, 2021
“I have already said that we began to do this, investigating the crimes of Nazism on the Belarusian land. This is akin to the Belarusian Holocaust, or the Holocaust of the Belarusian people. The Jews were able to prove it,” Lukashenko said. “The whole world today bows before them, they are even afraid to point a finger at them, and we are so tolerant, so kind, we did not want to offend anyone.”
Nazi Germany killed around 3,000,000 civilians in Belarus, of which about 800,000 were Jewish, according to The Times of Israel.
The Belarusian embassy in Israel said the speech, which was given on the anniversary of Belarus gaining its independence at a memorial for Soviet soldiers during World War II, was being misunderstood. “The noble purpose of this work — to perpetuate the memory of the victims of the Holocaust and to prevent any attempts to deny it — is beyond question,” it said in a statement. (RELATED: Presidential Challenger In Belarus Sentenced To 14 Years In Prison)
The embassy contends that Lukashenko was not equating the suffering of Jews and Belarusians during the war or making a derogatory comment about Jews, but rather that he was comparing the plights of the two peoples and suggesting that Israel’s efforts to memorialize the Holocaust could serve as “an example for Belarusians [of] the colossal and successful work of the Jewish state in preserving historical truth and memory, including in the international arena.”
Lukashenko’s behavior has been under a microscope due to increasing crackdowns on civil liberties following an allegedly rigged election last year. His government was recently subjected to Western sanctions for grounding a Ryanair flight in order to detain a high-profile opposition journalist in the country.