Despite outrage, envoy to US hails Israeli-Polish Holocaust complicity statement

At reception hosted by Polish colleague, Ron Dermer does not mention Shoah, but says controversial joint declaration allows both nations ‘to respect the past’

Raphael Ahren is a former diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer addresses a Hanukkah reception at the Washington D.C. residence of Poland’s Ambassador the US Piotr Wilczek, December 3, 2018 (screen shoot:
Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer addresses a Hanukkah reception at the Washington D.C. residence of Poland’s Ambassador the US Piotr Wilczek, December 3, 2018 (screen shoot:

Israel’s ambassador to the US on Monday praised the controversial joint Israeli-Polish statement on the Holocaust, saying it allows both nations “to respect the past.”

During a lengthy speech at an event hosted by Poland’s Ambassador to the US Piotr Wilczek, Ron Dermer did not mention the Holocaust even once. He touched upon the issue only briefly and indirectly, saying that he was “pleased that our two governments were able to work out an agreement this summer that enables us both to respect the past and work together to build a common future.”

Dermer was referring to the June 27 agreement between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Polish counterpart, Mateusz Morawiecki. The deal, negotiated over weeks, was designed to end the spat between the two countries over a controversial Polish law that criminalized any accusation of the Polish nation of being “responsible or co-responsible for Nazi crimes committed by the Third Reich.”

Dermer was speaking at a Hanukkah reception at Wilczek’s Washington D.C. residence, which also marked Israel’s 70th birthday and the centennial of Poland regaining independence.

The Polish-Israeli Holocaust agreement included the issuance of a joint statement that declared that the term “Polish death camps” is “blatantly erroneous” and that the wartime Polish government-in-exile “attempted to stop this Nazi activity by trying to raise awareness among the Western allies to the systematic murder of the Polish Jews.”

The statement, which Warsaw later translated into several languages and widely distributed in full-page ads in important newspapers across the world, also rejected anti-Semitism and “anti-Polonism.”

Most controversially, it condemned “every single case of cruelty against Jews perpetrated by Poles during…World War II” but noted “heroic acts of numerous Poles, especially the Righteous Among the Nations, who risked their lives to save Jewish people.”

“A nation that does not embrace what makes it unique will not long survive as a nation.” My speech last night at the…

Posted by Ambassador Ron Dermer on Tuesday, December 4, 2018

In exchange for agreeing to issue the statement, the Polish government canceled the section of the controversial Polish law that stipulated criminal sanctions for people accusing the Polish nation of complicity in Nazi crimes.

The agreement, which Netanyahu initially hailed as safeguarding “the historic truth about the Holocaust,” was harshly criticized by Israeli academics and politicians.

Leading Holocaust historian Yehuda Bauer called it “a betrayal of the memory of the Holocaust and the interest of the Jewish people.”

The Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial center issued a statement saying the joint declaration “contains highly problematic wording that contradicts existing and accepted historical knowledge in this field.”

Historians at the state-funded Holocaust research center said that their thorough review of the joint statement shows that the “historical assertions, presented as unchallenged facts, in the joint statement contain grave errors and deceptions.”

The joint Israeli-Polish declaration “effectively supports a narrative that research has long since disproved, namely, that the Polish Government-in-Exile and its underground arms strove indefatigably — in occupied Poland and elsewhere — to thwart the extermination of Polish Jewry.”

Netanyahu later acknowledged the criticism and vowed to take it into consideration.

“I have listened intently to the comments of the historians, including about several things that were not included in the declaration. I respect this and I will give expression to it,” he said on July 8.

He has not addressed the issue publicly since.

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