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Poland 'doesn't respect greatest tragedy in human history'

Major crisis as Israel recalls envoy to Poland after WWII restitution law okayed

Bennett slams ‘disgraceful contempt for the memory of the Holocaust’; Lapid rages against ‘antidemocratic’ Warsaw; Polish ambassador advised not to return from vacation

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (left) speaks at a ceremony in Rabat, on August 11, 2021. Poland's President Andrej Duda (right) arrives for a NATO summit in Brussels on June 14, 2021. (Shlomi Amsalem/GPO; Kenzo Tribouillard/Pool via AP)
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (left) speaks at a ceremony in Rabat, on August 11, 2021. Poland's President Andrej Duda (right) arrives for a NATO summit in Brussels on June 14, 2021. (Shlomi Amsalem/GPO; Kenzo Tribouillard/Pool via AP)

Israel recalled its envoy to Warsaw for consultations on Saturday, in a fierce response to Poland’s passage of a law that severely restricts World War II-era restitution claims.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said that “Poland, not for the first time, passed an antisemitic and immoral law,” in a Hebrew-language statement released on Saturday.

“Today Poland turned into an anti-democratic, illiberal country that doesn’t respect the greatest tragedy in human history,” he charged.

Lapid added: “We must never remain silent. Israel and the Jewish people definitely will not be silent.”

The Foreign Ministry will also advise Poland’s ambassador to Israel to remain on vacation in his homeland, according to the statement.

The new Israeli ambassador to Poland, who was expected to travel to Warsaw in the near future, will remain in Israel for the time being, the statement said.

A briefer version of Lapid’s statement, in English, was shared on the Foreign Ministry’s Twitter, and did not include accuse Poland of becoming “an anti-democratic, illiberal country.”

Lapid’s statement came after Poland’s President Andrej Duda approved the law, defying strong opposition from Israel and the United States.

Lapid said on Saturday that Israel was in touch with the US on how to respond.

The law sets a 30-year time limit on challenges to property confiscations, which would mean that pending proceedings involving Communist-era property confiscations would be discontinued and dismissed. It affects Polish, Jewish and other property claims that are subject to contested previous determinations.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the approval of the legislation is “a shameful decision and disgraceful contempt for the memory of the Holocaust.”

“Israel views the approval of the law that prevents Jews from receiving compensation for property stolen from them during the Holocaust gravely, and regrets the fact that Poland chooses to continue to harm those who have lost everything,” Bennett said in a statement.

“This is a shameful decision and disgraceful contempt for the memory of the Holocaust,” he added, calling it “a serious step that Israel will not be able to accept lightly.”

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, on August 8, 2021. (Ronen Zvulun/Pool/AFP)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz said he was “deeply disturbed” by the law’s passage and urged international condemnation.

“As the son of Holocaust survivors, I am deeply disturbed by the law passed in Poland that effectively prevents justice for the victims of the Holocaust and their families,” he said.

“Property restitution is a small yet significant part of the process to fulfill the rights of those who have survived and to acknowledge those who have perished in one of the world’s biggest genocides,” he added, calling upon his “international partners to condemn this move in one voice.”

The World Jewish Restitution Organization condemned the law’s approval as well, saying it marked “a sad day for justice and the rule of law.”

“Today is a sad day for justice and the rule of law, as President Duda signs a law trying to make it virtually impossible for all former Polish property owners to secure redress for property illegally stolen during the Communist era — and which remains in Poland to this day,” the group said in a statement.

Far-right demonstrators protest against the US Senate’s 447 Holocaust Restitution bill, in Warsaw, on May 11, 2019. (Alik Keplicz/AFP)

“With this law, Poland is attempting to say to the world — if you delay justice long enough, you can shut the door to history without taking responsibility, and benefit in the present from the communist actions of the past,” it added.

“They are wrong. This issue will not go away… Without justice for what happened in the past, there will not be legal certainty for those who trade in this stolen property in the future,” the statement concluded.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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