In an incidental statement, a syntactic parenthesis, the Polish prime minister revealed the true colors of Poland’s nationalistic government.
By creating a distorted comparison between the Poles who assisted the Nazis, “perpetrators” as he called them, and saying there were “Ukrainian perpetrators and Jewish perpetrators” as well, he presented the real essence of his party.
Nationalist Poland is unprepared to take responsibility for the hundreds of thousands of Jews who were exterminated as a result of local cooperation and snitching. It is refusing to to deal with the pogroms committed against survivors after the Holocaust.
My colleague Ronen Bergman, who asked an genuine question about his family, received a disingenuous response. Of course he could tell the story of the Gestapo’s snitches. But it’s a shame it happened after the Polish prime minister invented Jews who collaborated with the Nazis, as if they were their actual helpers. And no, the Judenrat that were formed under Nazi coercion cannot be compared to a polish town which burnt all the Jewish neighbors in the barn.
A group of useful idiots, most of them rightists and extreme rightists, served the Polish government here in Israel. They explained that the Polish legislation was simply aimed at preventing the erroneous phrase “Polish death camps.” That was a classic spin, which was swallowed by the radical right’s supporters with great appetite.
The Polish government knows that there isn’t a single historian who writes “Polish death camps,” and that it’s mostly a factual error. There is no malice or historical revisionism behind it.
In Poland, on the other hand, there is an extensive enterprise of lies (a lot of them coming from the government circles), which is unwilling to deal with the role the Poles played in the war. This legislation gives the court wide discretion to decide what qualifies as scientific research and what doesn’t, and in light of the fact that the court system’s independence has been crushed, it essentially permits the government to ban factual comments about collaboration with the Nazis.
The group of Israelis which backed the Poles should deeply consider the role they played in this affair, who they served and why. Holocaust researchers and historians, who all understood the circumstances of the Polish law, have been ignored. The official State of Israel has been treating the Poles with kid gloves. This must end.
Clearly, the Israeli ambassador must be recalled, but that’s just the beginning. Israel must act against Poland in European Union institutions. It must use its influence in the United States, and this kind of influence exists. Again, that’s just the beginning.
Hundreds of thousands of Israelis are the children and grandchildren of Polish Jewish citizens whose property was stolen by the state or by their neighbors. The limited and ridiculous return provisions made sense when the Polish state still upheld an alliance with Israel. This alliance has been completely undermined, and it’s time to take advantage of Poland’s EU membership to call for the creation of proper property restitution systems.
Will anything come out of it? Probably not, but the Poles will understand that Israel is in the game.
The weakness demonstrated by the Israeli government in this affair has made it even worse. The Polish nationalists’ Israeli friends gave them courage. The result is a Polish prime minister who has the audacity to compare victims to murderers.
The prime minister often talks about the Holocaust. Perhaps he could also defend its memory.
Nadav Eyal is Channel 10's chief international correspondent.