On Monday, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba accused El Al of using the Mir network for international electronic funds as a loophole to bypass international sanctions against Russian banking systems.
“While the world sanctions Russia for its barbaric atrocities in Ukraine, some prefer to make money soaked in Ukrainian blood,” Kuleba tweeted. “Here is @EL_AL_ISRAEL accepting payments in Russian banking system ‘Mir’ designed to evade sanctions. Immoral and a blow to Ukrainian-Israeli relations.”
The tweet has since been taken down.
El Al quickly responded:
“EL AL has blocked the use of the Mir credit card as of February 28,” El Al tweeted. “With the closure of Ukrainian airspace, EL AL flew hundreds of tons of humanitarian and medical equipment for Ukraine, and evacuated orphans and refugees to bring them to safety in Israel.”
Critics of Israel were unsatisfied with the response, noting that El Al is one of the very few airlines flying into Russia from a western country.
El Al responded that “El Al is operating flights to Russia at the request of the Israeli government and we will continue to get Israelis and Jews out of Russia so long as it is possible.”
Israel has remained guardedly neutral regarding the conflict, maintaining political relations with both Ukraine and Russia. It is due to this neutrality that Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has acted as a negotiator, visiting Moscow on Saturday.
Before the conflict, Israel had warm relations with both countries and as a close ally of the US has an interest in complying with sanctions against Russia. At the same time, Russia has a substantial military presence in Syria and turns a blind eye to Israeli airstrikes targeting Iranian military assets in Syria.
The baseless accusation is similar to blood libels in which anti-Semites falsely accused Jews of murdering Christian children in order to use their blood to bake matzo for Passover. This libel has taken a new form as Jew-haters resort to similar convoluted logic to blame the bloodshed on Jews. White supremacists around the world have largely condemned the violence in Ukraine as a “brother war” between two white European countries instigated by the Jews. Far-right groups have called for an end to hostilities in the name of “racial unity”.
Though Isreal is far from the conflict, anti-Semitism has played a confusing role. Both Ukraine and Russia have a long history of oppressing Jews. Volodimir Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, is proudly Jewish and Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, has a personal and political history of positive relationships with Jews and Israel that is uncharacteristic for a Russian leader. Despite Ukraine’s Jewish leader, Putin justified the invasion as an effort to”de-Nazify” the country, a claim partially justified by the Azov Battalion, a Neo-Nazi volunteer militia. Ironically, Putin has touted himself as the global leader of Christian nationalism.
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