How Ukraine has reacted to the rocket attacks against Israel
Starting on 11 May 2021, cities in southern and central Israel were subjected to a barrage of nearly 4,000 rockets fired from Gaza. Politicians, civic figures, and the Ukrainian media were not indifferent and reacted to these dramatic events.
On 12 May 2021, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky posted the following statement on Twitter:
The sky of #Israel is strewn with missiles. Some cities are on fire. There are victims. Many wounded. Many human tragedies. It is impossible to look at all this without grief and sorrow. It is necessary to stop the escalation immediately for the sake of people's lives.
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) May 12, 2021
Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged President Zelensky’s words of support by including the Ukrainian flag among the flags of the countries to which he expressed his gratitude in a Twitter post.
That same day the governor of Chernivtsi oblast, Serhiy Osachuk, posted the flag of Israel and the following words on his Facebook page: “Today we are all Israelis, because now, unfortunately, innocent people are dying there. Death has no nationality. It has only pain. Let the deadly shelling stop! We stand with the people of Israel!” Governor Osachuk has established excellent relations with the chief rabbi of Bukovyna, Menachem Mendel Glitsenshteyn, and with the head of the Jewish community of Chernivtsi, Leonid Milman.
On 16 May, on the personal directive of the mayor of Dnipro, Borys Filatov, the flag of Israel was flown over City Hall. Filatov explained his decision: “I have always called things by their names. Civilization versus barbarism. The twenty-first century versus the Middle Ages. An army that gives advance warning of its attacks versus missiles treacherously fired at civilians.”
“We are for our loved ones, friends, relatives, classmates, former compatriots, and colleagues, who are now forced to sit in bomb shelters. We are the multiethnic city of Dnipro, where before the October coup [of 1917—Trans.], the war, and the Holocaust, Jews comprised a third (!) of the population, and before the last Aliyah from the USSR—nearly eight percent. The only way we can help our loved ones today is to express our sympathy to them and words of unconditional support,” the mayor of Dnipro said.
Andriy Denysenko, a deputy of the Dnipropetrovsk oblast council from the European Solidarity party and former deputy of the Verkhovna Rada, also demonstrated his support for Israel, which, in his opinion, “is the only outpost of the civilized world in the Middle East, the only democracy that is opposing extremists and totalitarians. And a wonderful example for Ukrainians on building a national state…Right now, when Israel is under attack, my support goes to peace, the IDF, and the Iron Dome over people’s heads. And, like it or not, the Jewish state has natural allies among Ukrainian patriots/Banderites,” Denysenko wrote on his Facebook page.
On 18 May, Ukraine’s Minister of Defense Andriy Taran talked about the possibility of “acquiring something along the lines of the ‘Iron Dome’ to provide our state with an air defense system.” The following day the Ukrainian Service of Radio Liberty broadcast the statements of military expert Oleh Zhdanov and Lieutenant-General Ihor Romanenko, former Deputy Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, who confirmed the successful results of Israel’s Iron Dome. They noted that this Israeli system “has no analogues in the world and could be useful for solving Ukraine’s defense problems.”
Most television channels, newspapers, and magazines covered the rocket attacks against Israel as one of the main news items in May 2021. Comparisons were frequently made between Israel, which, like Ukraine, is fending off aggression, while Gaza was compared to the illegal enclaves of the so-called DNR–LNR (Russian-backed separatist enclaves).
While most Ukrainian media outlets and social media sites voiced pro-Israeli positions, some Ukrainian experts expressed opposing views. For example, Dr. Ihor Semyvolos, the director of the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies, and his deputy, Serhiy Danylov, gave an interview to Texty.org.ua, in which they accused Israel of “deliberately exacerbating the conflict with Gaza and of discrimination against Arabs.”
A group of young people in Kyiv tied a huge flag of Israel to a drone and flew it in the sky above Ukraine’s capital. The gigantic flag flew over various districts of Kyiv. The World Zionist Organization expressed gratitude to Ukraine for supporting Israel in these difficult days.
Two rallies featuring the flags of Ukraine and Israel took place in support of Israel, one of them on Mykhailivska Square, opposite Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The Ukrainian documentary filmmakers’ collective Babylon-13 shot a video clip entitled No Fear! in support of Israel. The studio’s documentary film about the withdrawal of Ukrainian sailors from Crimea in 2014 was shown on a rooftop in Tel Aviv in 2016, with the support of the NGO Israeli Friends of Ukraine (IFU) and the Embassy of Ukraine in Israel.
Six Ukrainian television channels invited Vyacheslav Feldman, IFU’s co-head, to appear live numerous times to explain the situation in Israel. Inna Turbayevska, another representative from this organization, was also interviewed on Ukrainian television.
The three largest television channels in Ukraine interviewed me about how Israelis are living under attack and about the IDF’s operations.
On 20 May, Yevhen Korniychuk, Ukraine’s Ambassador to Israel, told Ukrainian Jewish Encounter (UJE) that over a hundred Ukrainian nationals will be flown out of Gaza on a special flight to Kyiv. The Israeli armed forces and security services are helping Ukrainian diplomats to organize this evacuation.
On 20 May 2021, on the initiative of Verkhovna Rada deputy Olha Vasylevska-Smahliuk, the Ukrainian parliament registered the draft resolution “On Condemning the Activities of the Radical Islamist Organization HAMAS and Recognizing It as a Terrorist Organization.” Over 80 parliamentarians from various factions signed the draft resolution.
Text: Shimon Briman (Israel).
Photos: Facebook and Twitter.
Translated from the Ukrainian by Marta D. Olynyk.