Poland pisses off the bubbes
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Hebrew media review

Poland pisses off the bubbes

Everyone and their grandmother, literally, has something to say about Warsaw's Holocaust legislation, though a backlash against Israeli hypocrisy brews

Holocaust survivors participate in a beauty pageant contest, in the northern Israeli city of Haifa, November 24, 2015. (Illustrative: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Holocaust survivors participate in a beauty pageant contest, in the northern Israeli city of Haifa, November 24, 2015. (Illustrative: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A day after Israel dressed down a Polish envoy and got Warsaw to agree to talks over a controversial law criminalizing blaming Poles for Nazi crimes during the Holocaust, outrage over the measure in the Israeli press has not only not subsided but reaches levels of indignation competing with Sara Netanyahu yelling at a media adviser, the other big story of the day.

On Sunday, it was noted that Israeli papers pages full of bile and anger at the Polish law were essentially preaching to the choir, as most Poles don’t read Hebrew. Perhaps taking that to heart, Yedioth Ahronoth splashes some Polish across its front page: “Nie zaprzeczycie Holocaustu babci,” which apparently translates to “Do not deny my grandmother’s Holocaust,” and also quotes some Poles who may actually speak Hebrew.

Indeed grandmothers take center stage in both Yedioth Ahronoth and Israel Hayom as the papers rage against the legislation.

As a day earlier, though, the paper fills its first two pages with accounts from survivors and their families about how terrible the Poles were, with an apparent emphasis on grandmothers.

“Grandma always told us that the Poles were more horrible than the Germans,” one woman is quoted saying. “The Poles were the worst of all, that’s what my grandmother told me, and I’ll never forget it until my last day,” adds columnist Telem Yahav.

It’s not just grandmas that are against the law, but also some Poles living in Israel, according to the paper, though their main complaint seems to be the timing of the bill, which passed last week on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“The idea behind the law is that for years there were items in newspapers and politicians talking about ‘Polish death camps.’ That’s very hurtful to the Polish people and to my family, who are Polish-Catholic, who suffered a lot in the war,” Polish journalist Karolina Przewrocka-Aderet tells the paper. “There’s a desire to protect our good name, but it’s very hard to understand why they did it now and why they did it like this.”

Not to be outdone, Israel Hayom also turns to the grandmas and like Yedioth also borders its pages with barbed wire. While it doesn’t feature any Polish on its front page, the tabloid shows only an old woman’s arm, numbers tattooed on it, next to the headline “stop the disgraceful Holocaust bill.”

The quote is from a series of letters from survivors to Polish President Andrzej Duda against the bill.

“Your law is an attempt by the Poles to hide from their responsibility,” one woman writes. “Hitler knew the Poles would cooperate and so the killing of the Jews happened mostly in Poland. It would not have happened in a country that loves Jews.”

The paper also quotes Krakow Rabbi Eliezer Gur-Aryeh who says the law is just one part of a larger Polish effort to paint themselves as victims of the Holocaust.

“When you get to Auschwitz, the Polish guide mostly talks about the suffering of the Polish people and how 200,000 Poles were killed in the camp,” he’s quoted telling the paper.

He also says the Israeli government has only woken up to the issue now, though Israel actually signed an agreement with Poland on not using the term “Polish death camp” in 2016. The joint statement went so unnoticed, however, that Israel’s Channel 2 ran the publicly available fact as an “exclusive” Sunday night and Israel Hayom, which is friendly to the government, is not about to start reporting on it.

Haaretz’s only dalliance with the angry grandma crew also follows the theme of Israeli hypocrisy, coming in the form of an editorial cartoon showing old women complaining about those “anti-Semitic Poles” while standing in a long line at the Polish embassy, presumably to get a visa to move there, as many Israelis have done in recent years.

The paper’s lead editorial also uses anger against the Polish bill to take Israel’s own government to task for its efforts to legislate what people can and cannot say.

“Just as it’s wrong for Poland to threaten criminal sanctions that will stunt the historical, media and public debate over Poles’ role in persecuting Jews during the Holocaust, it’s wrong for Israel to threaten sanctions against people for whom Israel’s Independence Day is not a holiday,” the editorial reads. “The Polish government erred in failing to anticipate how strongly Israel would oppose the new law, and it will now have to either tone it down or scrap it altogether. Israel’s government, which is rightly demanding that its Polish counterpart do exactly that, would be wise to practice what it preaches.”

On the same page, writer Odeh Bisharat is even more strident in saying the Israeli government can’t claim the high ground against Poland.

“As long as the government and most of the opposition support the continuation of the occupation and the crushing of an entire people under fences and checkpoints, they can’t, morally at least, raise the battle flag against the fascist right,” he writes.

Putting Israel’s outrage against the Polish law to shame is Sara Netanyahu, who showed the country what real anger is when a tape of her going ballistic on a media consultant nine years ago was published Sunday.

Yedioth devotes two pages to the tape, inluding a garish headline trying to telegraph her shrill demand that she be taken seriously as an educated woman in the press.

Yedioth, which published the 44-word article that sparked her rage in 2009, notes that the tape “is the first time a tape of the prime minister’s wife has been widely published. In the past there have been reports of her raising her voice against workers at the Prime Minister’s Residence, but proof has never been published.”

Columnist Sima Kadmon does some talmudic-style induction in reasoning that the tape was probably the least bad of it, noting the seniority of the butt of her anger, media adviser Shaya Segal, who died a year ago.

“If this is how the prime minister’s wife spoke to a senior consultant, a strong and independent man who could walk away from the couple at any time, what have the daily grunt workers, whose living depends on her, taken from her?” she writes.

In Haaretz, columnist Yossi Verter makes the same exact point and then wonders about the one man who spends the most time with her and how he might be affected by a screamer of this type.

“How can the busiest prime minister on the globe relax at home with this kind of helpmate? If a trivial matter such as a gossip column sets off such an earthquake, what happens when the media looks into the investigations into Sara herself, into the strip-club recording of their son Yair, or the corruption investigations into her husband,” he asks. “What tantrums and sleepless nights is he subjected to (there are always bags under his eyes) amid the investigations into his tycoon-funded flights, the alleged malfeasance at the residence and other shameful behavior by Sara, incidents that keep getting worse over the years?”

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