Israel has ‚no right’ to interfere in Polish legislation: opinion

Israel has no right to interfere in Poland’s legislative process, the founder of a Jewish cultural organisation has told dziennik.pl, while adding that he is grateful that Israel has drawn international attention to the fact that there were no “Polish death camps”.
Logo serwisu GermanDeathCamps.infoLogo serwisu GermanDeathCamps.infoPolskieRadio.pl

Severyn Ashkenazy, a Polish-American Jew and the founder of the Beit Warszawa Jewish Cultural Association, was interviewed by the Polish news portal amid tensions between Poland and Israel over a bill passed through Polish parliament to penalise the use of the phrase “Polish death camps” in reference to Nazi German extermination camps in occupied Poland.

The proposed law could mean a jail term for anyone who accuses the Polish nation of being complicit in Nazi German crimes during World War II.

Ashkenazy told dziennik.pl that he congratulated Poland for the bill, which was passed in the lower house last week and drew fierce criticism from Israel.

“Israel has no right to interfere in the legislative powers of the Polish government … But we should be grateful to Israel for [its] protest, because, thanks to it, it will finally get into many heads that there were no ‚Polish death camps’, only German, Nazi” ones, Ashkenazy was quoted by the portal as saying.

“The more Israel and others protest, the better the world will know that Germans are responsible for the Holocaust … not the Polish nation,” he said, according to dziennik.pl.

“The Polish government has done in seven days what Poland’s diplomats failed to achieve in 70 years,” he said, adding that former US President Barack Obama’s use of the misleading phrase in 2012 was “an embarrassment to Polish diplomacy”.

Poland has long fought the use of the phrase “Polish death camps”, which have appeared in foreign media in relation to Nazi German-run extermination camps located in occupied Polish territory during World War II.

But commentators have said that Israel is concerned that the planned new law could mean penalties for anyone who criticises any individual Pole’s role in the Holocaust.

Critics said Poland was trying to censor researchers and limit freedom of speech. Polish politicians have denied such accusations, pointing out that artists and researchers would be exempt from penalties.

Israeli ambassador to Poland Anna Azari has said that her country rejected the bill, adding that: „In Israel, this bill is seen as creating a possibility of punishment for Holocaust survivors’ testimony”.

Ashkenazy told dziennik.pl that there were “incidents” of antisemitism in Poland, but that the country was not anti-semitic, while Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Thursday said the Polish bill aimed to fight Holocaust denial, which he defined as “not only the denial of German crimes” but also lying about history, including minimising the responsibility of perpetrators and assigning blame to their victims.

Morawiecki said: “We understand emotions in Israel. A lot of work is needed for us to be able to tell, together, our shared and often complicated history”.

A working group for “historic truth and Israeli dialogue” was called on Thursday, after Morawiecki and his Israeli counterpart earlier agreed to hold bilateral dialogue.

GermanDeathCamps.infoa new educational website aimed at debunking misconceptions about Poland’s role in the Holocaust, has been launched by Polish Radio.

The Polish bill was passed in the Senate on Thursday and needs to be signed by President Andrzej Duda before it enters into law. (vb/pk)

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