JERUSALEM—Diplomatic relations between Israel and Poland, already strained by a standoff between the two countries over Holocaust remembrance and over demands that Poland pay reparations for former Jewish properties that were seized by Nazi Germany and later nationalized by Poland’s communist regime, experienced a new tension this week after an Israeli man reportedly shouted anti-Polish slurs and spat on the Polish ambassador in Israel, Marek Magierowski.
The man, 65-year-old Arik Lederman, was indicted and charged with assault and threatening behavior. According to the indictment, Lederman blocked Ambassador Marek Magierowski’s car outside the Polish embassy in Tel Aviv on Tuesday and banged on its roof. The ambassador then wound down the window to photograph him. Lederman opened the door and spat at the ambassador twice.
Lederman’s attorney told the court at the hearing that he had gone to the Polish embassy to inquire about Jewish property abandoned after the Holocaust. He said the embassy guard addressed him with an anti-Jewish slur, calling him a “Zhid,” and refused him entry.
Lederman later apologized for the incident during the hearing at the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court.
Polish President Andrzej Duda called the incident “an anti-Polish act” and said he expected Israeli explanations.
“The Israeli authorities must clarify this matter as well as the services responsible for security in this country,” he said. “Unfortunately, everything indicates that it was an anti-Polish act, an act of hatred against us.”
He added: “Just as I fight all manifestations of anti-Semitism which I consider to be hideous and unworthy, I will not agree absolutely to any anti-Polish act.”
Poland’s foreign ministry summoned the Israeli ambassador in Warsaw, Anna Azari, to explain why the ambassador was assaulted.
In a statement, the World Jewish Congress said it was ‘’shocked and dismayed’’ by the assault on the Polish ambassador.
WJC President Ronald S. Lauder said: “How appalling that a member of the diplomatic corps should be subjected to such abuse. Ambassador Magierowski is a good man, who has time and again demonstrated his deep commitment to strengthening ties between Israel and Poland, so much so that in the short time that he has been in Israel, he has acquired a formidable command of Hebrew and a great number of friends and admirers. This incident underscores the need for bridge-building between Jews and Poles.”
In a front page article in Polish daily Rzeczpospolita, Lauder emphasized his friendship for and long engagement with Poland, and denounced renouncement manifestation of antisemitism in that country. “I know many wonderful people in Poland, and it pains me to think that a message emerging from that country today only serves to reinforce stereotypes and prejudices on both Polish and Jewish streets, that should have been buried long ago,” Lauder wrote. “I hope that the political and religious leaders of Poland will speak out forcefully against all manifestations of anti-Semitism. We cannot allow the ghosts of the past to re-emerge. We cannot allow ghosts from the past to reemerge and to upend everything that our two nations have built over the years.”