Israel Media Review

Polish off the Holocaust law deal: 6 things to know for July 6

The joint declaration by Israel and Poland which absolves the European country of involvement in Nazi crimes causes an uproar in the Jewish state

Adiv Sterman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a press conference at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv on June 27, 2018, to discuss Poland's amended Holocaust Law. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a press conference at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv on June 27, 2018, to discuss Poland's amended Holocaust Law. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

1. The Yad Vashem Holocaust museum’s harsh criticism of the “highly problematic” Israeli-Polish declaration on the Holocaust is joined by all facets of the Hebrew-language media, with the country’s major papers taking jabs at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his staff for approving the statement.

  • On June 27, Netanyahu and his Polish counterpart Mateusz Morawiecki signed an agreement that ended the spat between the two countries over a controversial Polish law that criminalized any accusation of the Polish nation being “responsible or co-responsible for Nazi crimes committed by the Third Reich.”
  • After the Polish parliament passed legislation to remove the troubling passages and President Andrzej Duda signed it into law, the Israeli and Polish governments issued a joint statement on the Holocaust and Poland’s role in it. The declaration states that the term “Polish death camps” is “blatantly erroneous” and that the wartime Polish government-in-exile “attempted to stop this Nazi activity by trying to raise awareness among the Western allies to the systematic murder of the Polish Jews.”
  • Most controversially, the statement condemned “every single case of cruelty against Jews perpetrated by Poles during…World War II,” but noted “heroic acts of numerous Poles, especially the Righteous Among the Nations, who risked their lives to save Jewish people.”

2. Israel Hayom leads with an anonymous quote maintaining that the deceleration is “a betrayal of the memory of the Holocaust,” and in Haaretz, contributor Mordechai Kremnitzer says the statement is an “embarrassing letter of surrender to Poland.”

  • Both papers prominently feature criticisms of the declaration by Holocaust survivors. “It is impossible to have a debate on any matter in a way that ignores the truth and from what happened, and from the suffering endured by the Jews on Polish land,” writes Mordechai Hareli, a survivor of the Theresienstadt concentration camp, in Israel Hayom.
  • Education Minister Naftali Bennett also slammed the declaration, adding that the statement, which “has no factual basis,” would not be included in Israeli school curriculum in the future. “[The deceleration is] a disgrace, saturated with lies, [and] a betrayal of the memory of those who perished in the Holocaust,” said Bennett.

3. Amid the condemnations across the political board, Netanyahu’s negotiators nevertheless insisted Yad Vashem approved the text of the joint statement.

  • In a statement, Joseph Ciechanover and Yaakov Nagel said that Dina Porat, Yad Vashem’s chief historian, “accompanied the process from its inception.”
  • However, The Times of Israel reported this week that while Porat was involved in the secret negotiations with Warsaw, she did not see the final draft of the statement until it was released last week.

4. Overnight, the High Court of Justice issued a temporary injunction preventing the state from carrying out plans to demolish the West Bank Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar.

  • After a years-long legal battle, the Supreme Court approved the demolition of Khan al-Ahmar in May. The state says the structures were built without the relevant building permits and pose a threat to the village residents because of their proximity to a highway. The village is made up mainly of makeshift structures of tin and wood, as is traditionally the case with Bedouin villages.
  • Israel has pledged to resettle the residents, which the UN says number 180 people, and the Jewish state has maintained that it offered the residents an alternative location, near a garbage dump in the nearby Palestinian town of Abu Dis. Bedouin villagers say the location is unsuitable for their way of life, and have also said residents of Abu Dis have warned them not to come there.
  • On Wednesday clashes broke out between police and protesters at the village. Residents and activists attempted to block construction equipment from advancing, leading to violent scuffles. Police said in a statement that 11 people were arrested during disturbances at the site, and that rocks were thrown at officers. Israeli rights group B’Tselem said the detainees included the organization’s own head of field research.

5. Discussion of the implications of the temporary injunction are notably absent from the weekend newspapers.

  • Haaretz, however, reports that the actual demolition of the site was not set to have taken place until several weeks from now.
  • The EU has taken a stand against the government’s moves in Khan al-Ahmar, asserting that “these demolitions, together with the plans to establish a new settlement for Israelis in the same area, increase the threats to the feasibility of a two-state solution and undermine the chances of reaching a sustainable peace.” The UN envoy to the Middle East, Nikolai Mladenov, joined the condemnation.

6. In other news, the Ynet news site provides a fascinating report on an Israeli initiative that aims to use one of Israeli beach-goers worst fears — jellyfish, to provide a solution to one of the worlds leading environmental problems — micro-plastic pollutants.

  • According to the site, the project — lead by Dr. Dror Angel of the Department of Maritime Civilizations at the School of Marine Sciences at the University of Haifa — is based on the findings of a study in which researchers were able to isolate tiny gold particles from liquid by using mucus produced by jellyfish. Angel and his team believe that the jellyfish can also be used to isolate micro-plastic particles from water.
  • Angel and his team plan to test the possibility of using jellyfish to trap and remove the micro-plastic particles from recycled water coming out of Israeli wastewater treatment plants. The water treated in these institutes undergoes a process designed to clean them of contaminants, but many tiny plastic particles nevertheless remain in the water. While in Israel recycled water is not discharged into the sea, it is used in agriculture. “The tiny particles can enter the crops and the food we consume,” says Dr. Angel. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that the pesky jellyfish may actually be the cure to micro-plastic contamination.

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