JERUSALEM/WARSAW—Israel and Poland have “agreed to immediately open a dialogue” to try and reach an understanding over the controversial bill that would criminalize blaming Poland for any crimes committed during the Holocaust.
Last Friday the lower house of the Polish parliament approved by 297 to five votes the bill which stipulates that the term “Polish extermination camps” and statements implying that Polish citizens were involved in any way in the extermination of the Jews during the Holocaust would constitute criminal offences, potentially punishable by up to three years in prison.
Three million Polish Jews were murdered during the Holocaust.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to his Polish counterpart Sunday night, as the two attempted to set aside a diplomatic spat over the legislation.
Netanyahu called the law a “distortion of the truth, the rewriting of history and the denial of the Holocaust.”
On Sunday, the Deputy Chief of Mission of the Polish Embassy to Israel Piotr Kozłowski was summoned to the foreign ministry in Jerusalem for clarifications of the proposed legislation. The foreign ministry said that the bill “will not help continue exposing the historical truth and can impede the freedom of research”.
At a Holocaust memorial event held at Auschwitz over the weekend Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki asserted that in the Avenue of the Righteous at Yad Vashem “there are trees for the Righteous Among the Nations, but one tree is missing, a tree for the country of Poland”.
The proposed bill received harsh criticism from several Israeli MKs as well as President Reuven Rivlin. Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, whose father survived the Holocaust, said: “I strongly condemn the new law that was passed in Poland, which attempts to deny the involvement of many Polish citizens in the Holocaust. No Polish law will change history, Poland was complicit in the Holocaust. Hundreds of thousands of Jews were murdered on its soil without them having met any German officer.”
To become law, the bill, which could yet be amended, must be approved by the Senate and Polish President Andrzej Duda, who said he would review the legislation and present his “final evaluation of procedural legal provisions after the completion of parliament’s work and a careful analysis of the final shape of the act”.
Israel and Poland have recently enjoyed close ties. Poland abstained in the UN vote on rejecting the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and last July, Netanyahu was invited to a summit of the leaders of the Visegrad Group — Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia.