Israel tells Poland: No talks on Holocaust law unless you’re willing to amend it

Foreign Ministry tells Warsaw ‘we are ready to dialogue,’ but says high-level talks can’t be public relations stunt

Illustrative image of students visiting the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp site in Poland, April 16, 2015. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)
Illustrative image of students visiting the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp site in Poland, April 16, 2015. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

The Foreign Ministry has reportedly warned the Polish government not to send a delegation to Israel to discuss the newly passed Holocaust law unless it is prepared to amend the controversial legislation.

The ministry informed Polish ambassador Jacek Chodorowicz that it was not interested in Warsaw sending a high-level delegation to Jerusalem to discuss the law unless it would lead to concrete action, Channel 10 reported Friday.

The legislation that criminalizes accusing the Polish nation or state for the crimes of the Holocaust has angered Jerusalem, which says it will inhibit free speech about the Holocaust. The United States also strongly opposes the legislation, saying it could hurt Poland’s strategic relations with Israel and the US.

“We don’t need you to send us a public relations delegation for a photo-op, or just to have a meeting for the sake of having a meeting,” the ministry’s deputy director general for Western Europe, Dr. Rodica Radian-Gordon, told Chodorowicz. “We are ready to dialogue, but only if its serious, professional, and legally binding.”

“The Polish side is responsible for finding a solution to the crisis,” Radian-Gordon said, according to the report. “If you are not willing to talk seriously about amending the law, there is no point in coming.”

The Polish bill, which was signed into law Tuesday by President Andrzej Duda, but has yet to receive final approval from the country’s constitutional court, has sparked a diplomatic crisis with Israel.

Poland’s President Andrzej Duda gives a press conference on February 6, 2018 in Warsaw, to announces that he will sign into law a controversial Holocaust bill which has sparked tensions with Israel, the US, and Ukraine. (AFP PHOTO / JANEK SKARZYNSKI)

As currently written, the legislation calls for prison terms of up to three years for attributing the crimes of Nazi Germany to the Polish state or nation. The bill would also set fines or a maximum three-year jail term for anyone who refers to Nazi German death camps as Polish.

One key paragraph of the bill states, “Whoever claims, publicly and contrary to the facts, that the Polish Nation or the Republic of Poland is responsible or co-responsible for Nazi crimes committed by the Third Reich… or for other felonies that constitute crimes against peace, crimes against humanity, or war crimes, or whoever otherwise grossly diminishes the responsibility of the true perpetrators of said crimes – shall be liable to a fine or imprisonment for up to three years.”

The condemnation in Israel came from across the political spectrum, with some lawmakers accusing the Polish government of outright Holocaust denial as the world marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day last month.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the Polish law “baseless” and said, “history cannot be rewritten.”

On Thursday, dozens of Holocaust survivors entered the Polish embassy compound in Tel Aviv, waving flags and signs reading, “No law will erase history,” and, “The Polish law spits in the Israeli people’s face.”

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