Background: Ukrainian forces have put up a courageous defense against Russia but are militarily outmatched and still require foreign assistance. President Volodymyr Zelensky has gone from country to country attempting to emotionally persuade politicians for more support.
United States: In his plea to Congress, Zelensky reminded Americans of 9/11 and Pearl Harbor and quoted MLK’s “I have a dream” speech. NPR said his appeal was reminiscent of Winston Churchill’s during World War II.
France: Speaking to the French Parliament, Zelensky alluded to and celebratedFrance’s resistance to the German occupation during WWII. He also compared the current siege of Mariupol to France’s Battle of Verdun where 100,000 were buried in WWI.
United Kingdom: Zelensky similarly referred to the WWII Nazi occupation in his speech to the British Parliament, during which he also referenced one of Churchill’s wartime speeches.
Canada: In his speech to the Canadian parliament, during which he asked Canada to help implement a no-fly zone over Ukraine, Zelensky asked lawmakers to imaginehearing missiles striking Ottawa Airport and the CN Tower.
And then there was Israel
The address: In an address to the Israeli Knesset, Zelensky repeatedly referenced the Holocaust and criticized Israel for not sufficiently helping Ukraine. The Ukrainian president claimed that he was defending his country against a “final solution” and that Israel was allowing another holocaust to occur.
Inaccuracies: He also said that Ukrainians saved Jews during WWII, despite the opposite being true—Ukrainian nationalists were Nazi collaborators who committed some of the Holocaust’s worst atrocities against the Jews. Additionally, Ukraine has supported neo-Nazi paramilitaries in its fight against Russia.
The backlash: Many lawmakers in Israel called Zelensky’s comparisons outrageous and were shocked by his attempts to frame Ukraine as sympathetic towards Jews in the WW2 era. It was poorly received and did little to help Zelensky’s cause.
Big picture: Zelensky’s strategy was to evoke emotional support by referring to the national tragedies of each country he spoke to. While he was mostly well-received, he took it a step too far in Israel and crossed the line of emotional manipulation.