Poland says the story is 'plainly not true'

Polish president blamed Israel for anti-Semitic incidents in country — report

In meeting with Jewish leaders in New York, Duda reportedly shocked attendees by suggesting offensive comments by Israeli FM were cause for rise in hate

Poland's President Andrzej Duda gives a press conference on February 6, 2018, in Warsaw. (AFP/Janek Skarzynski)
Poland's President Andrzej Duda gives a press conference on February 6, 2018, in Warsaw. (AFP/Janek Skarzynski)

Polish President Andrzej Duda blamed Israel for rising anti-Semitism in his country in a meeting this week with American Jewish leaders, according to a new report.

Jewish Insider, citing several sources who attended Wednesday’s New York meeting with top community officials, said Duda claimed offensive comments by Israel’s foreign minister had caused an increase in anti-Semitism in Poland.

Poland subsequently rejected the report as “plainly not true.”

In February Foreign Minister Israel Katz, then acting foreign minister, inflamed tensions with Warsaw when, quoting late prime minister Yitzhak Shamir, he said “Poles suckle anti-Semitism with their mothers’ milk.”

He is also quoted as saying, “There were many Poles who collaborated with the Nazis.”

Duda reportedly told the Jewish representatives in attendance that those comments were a “humiliation” to Poland.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then-Transportation Minister Israel Katz attend the inauguration ceremony for a new train station in the southern Israeli town of Kiryat Malachi, September 17, 2018. (Flash90)

The move by the Polish president to blame Israel for anti-Semitic incidents in his own country reportedly provoked a shocked and angry response by several participants at the meeting.

Responding to the report, MK Yair Lapid, no.2 in the Blue and White party, said: “No Mr. Duda, Israel is not responsible for anti-Semitic incidents in Poland. The ones responsible are anti-Semitic Poles — like those who aided in the murder of Jews in the Holocaust.”

Katz’s February comments infuriated Warsaw, which pulled out of a Jerusalem summit with central European nations. The top diplomat later struck a more conciliatory tone, hailing the two nations’ close cooperation, but did not apologize.

Warsaw has long been at pains to state that Poland did not collaborate as a nation in the Holocaust, although individual Poles committed what the Polish ambassador to Israel described as “abominable crimes.”

Israel and Poland have seen diplomatic tensions over Polish officials’ rejection of any culpability by the nation for anti-Semitic atrocities of the past. Last year the government introduced a controversial law that forbids blaming the Polish nation for Nazi crimes (though the legislation was softened following Israeli pressure to remove punitive measures).

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki listens during a joint press conference with Germany’s chancellor, at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, on February 16, 2018. (Michele Tantussi/Getty Images via JTA)

The ruling Law and Justice Party has also campaigned heavily against Jewish Holocaust restitution claims, leading Jewish leaders to warn the debate had turned anti-Semitic. May saw thousands of Polish nationalists march to the US Embassy to protest US pressure on Poland to compensate Jews whose families lost property during the Holocaust. It appeared to be one of the largest anti-Jewish street demonstrations in recent times.

Recent months have seen a dramatic rise in reports of Polish anti-Semitism online, in the media and in local politics.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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