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‘Outraged’ Poland rejects Israel’s accusation restitution law is antisemitic

Polish PM warns of negative impact on ties from ‘shameful’ Israeli attacks on his country, which he claims are motivated by ‘partisan interests’

Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki speaks with the media as he arrives for an EU summit at the European Council building in Brussels, on May 24, 2021. (Olivier Hoslet, Pool via AP, File)
Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki speaks with the media as he arrives for an EU summit at the European Council building in Brussels, on May 24, 2021. (Olivier Hoslet, Pool via AP, File)

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Sunday rejected accusations of antisemitism from Israel over a new law that will effectively prevent Jewish heirs of property seized by the Nazis during World War II from reclaiming it.

In response to the passing of the law over the weekend, Israel recalled its charge d’affaires from Poland and told the Polish envoy to the Jewish state, currently vacationing in Poland, to not bother coming back.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid called the law “antisemitic and immoral.”

“Israel’s decision to lower the rank of the diplomatic representation in Warsaw is groundless and irresponsible, and the words of [Foreign Minister] Yair Lapid… raise the outrage of every honest person,” Morawiecki said in a Facebook post.

“No one who knows the truth about the Holocaust and the suffering of Poland during World War II can agree to such a way of conducting politics,” he argued. “Using this tragedy for the needs of partisan interests is shameful and irresponsible.”

“If the Israeli government continues to attack Poland in this way, it will have a very negative impact on our relations – both bilateral and those in the international arena,” he warned.

Israel’s move would “increase hatred towards Poland and Poles,” Morawiecki said and added that the children of Poland’s ambassador to Israel were being brought back to Poland.

Jakub Kumoch, a political adviser to Polish President Andrzej Duda, told Polish media that Lapid’s response was “hysterical and against all diplomatic norms,” Walla news reported.

Kumoch further said that he hopes Israel will cool off and rethink the situation, according to the report.

Earlier in the day, the Polish Foreign Ministry denounced the downgrading in ties signified by Israel recalling its charge d’affaires and said it would reciprocate.

However, Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Lior Hayat told Channel 12 that the ministry response was “a yellow card for Poland after its shameful decision.”

“This story is absolutely not about money,” Hayat stressed. “It’s about memory and responsibility.”

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid speaks during a Yesh Atid faction meeting at the Knesset, on August 2, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

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.

Some three million Polish Jews, 90 percent of the country’s Jewish community, were killed during World War II in Poland.

After the war, Communist authorities nationalized vast numbers of properties that had been left empty because their owners had been killed or fled.

The Polish government says the law will bolster legal certainty in the property market, but opponents say it is unjust to people with legitimate claims, including Holocaust survivors and their families.

“Poland today approved… an immoral, anti-Semitic law,” Lapid said Saturday after Duda signed off on the legislation.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett slammed the law as “shameful” and said it showed “disgraceful contempt for the Holocaust’s memory.”

“This is a grave measure that Israel cannot remain indifferent to,” he said in a statement.

While the law covers both Jewish and non-Jewish claimants, campaigners say Jewish owners will be disproportionately affected because they were often late in lodging claims after the war.

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