The Polish foreign ministry contacted its Israeli counterpart on Sunday to demand an explanation for swastikas and anti-Polish graffiti that were scrawled on a gate of the Polish Embassy in Tel Aviv, according to reports in Polish media.
The Israel Police launched a probe into the incident, which saw vandals drew misshapen swastikas and wrote slurs in English, including “Polish shit,” on the embassy’s gates.
The act came with Israelis furious over a recently passed Polish law that bars accusing the Polish nation or state of complicity in the Holocaust.
On Saturday, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki added fuel to the fire when he told an Israeli reporter that the law would not ban accusing some Poles of being perpetrators.
Israelis vandalize the Polish Embassy in Tel Aviv because they're mad about a recent law passed in Poland…
As an aside, they apparently didn't know how to draw a swastika. pic.twitter.com/obv93eX0SB
— Brett MacDonald (@TweetBrettMac) February 19, 2018
“There were Polish perpetrators, as there were Jewish perpetrators, as there were Russian perpetrators, as there were Ukrainian; not only German perpetrators,” Morawiecki said, sparking further Israeli anger.
“I told him there’s no basis for this comparison, between the act of Poles and the acts of Jews during the Holocaust,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israeli reporters the next day, after speaking with Morawiecki at the Munich Security Conference.
Israeli officials have railed against Morawiecki’s comparison, noting that the tiny number of Jews who collaborated with the Nazis did so out of fear of being put to death, while the large numbers of non-Jewish Poles who collaborated, often by handing over their Jewish neighbors to the Nazis, were not acting out of fear for their lives, but from anti-Semitism or greed.
Hours after his Saturday comments, Morawiecki drew further criticism from Israeli politicians and Jewish groups after he paid his respects at the grave of Polish fighters who collaborated with Nazi Germany during World War II.
— Kancelaria Premiera (@PremierRP) February 17, 2018
The Polish prime minister’s office on Saturday tweeted a photo of Morawiecki with his hands clasped at the grave of fighters from a Polish underground military unit, known as the Holy Cross Mountains Brigade. He lit a candle and laid a wreath at the Munich grave site.
In recent weeks, Israeli officials have sharply criticized the Police legislation, which criminalizes blaming Poland as a nation for crimes committed by Nazi Germany. Israeli critics have accused Poland of seeking to use the law to whitewash the role of some Poles who helped Germans kill Jews during the war. Holocaust scholars estimate that Poles might have either killed or helped Germans kill as many as 200,000 Jews.
Polish authorities say they just want to protect Poland from being depicted as a collaborator of the Nazis when the country was Adolf Hitler’s victim and suffered through nearly six years of war and occupation.
AP contributed to this report.