Israeli President Isaac Herzog will visit Ukraine today to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Babyn Yar massacre. Roughly 34,000
Israeli President Isaac Herzog will visit Ukraine today to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Babyn Yar massacre.
Roughly 34,000 Ukrainian Jews were killed over a two-day period during the massacre perpetrated by Nazi German forces and local collaborators in 1941. Commemoration ceremonies only began after the fall of the Soviet Union, as the Soviet government generally suppressed public memorialization of the Holocaust in favor of an ethnicity-eliding narrative focused on ideological struggle.
Since the beginning of Ukraine’s conflict with Russia in 2014, however, the issue of Holocaust memorialization in the country has grown more controversial. In 2015, the Ukrainian parliament passed a bill outlawing the denigration of historical Ukrainian nationalist groups like the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, who frequently sided with the invading Nazis and aided massacres like that in Babyn Yar. Herzog and his predecessor, Reuven Rivlin, have both strongly condemned this lionization.
Do not expect Israeli condemnation to have any effect on Ukrainian actions. Nationalist sentiment is strong in the country and attempting to either coerce or convince the Ukrainian government into changing its policy is not a priority for Israel, particularly as doing so might endanger its burgeoning strategic relationship with Russia.
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