A delegation from Israel's Ministry of Social Equality, scheduled to visit Poland this week, was told to stay home after the Warsaw government discovered the purpose of the trip was to secure restitution for Polish Holocaust survivors and their descendants.
As a native of Poland, I am embarrassed that these officials thought they would deal with the restitution question, and I ask them not to speak on my behalf.
The subject of restitution should have been raised by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last year, when he and Polish counterpart Mateusz Morawiecki signed a shameful joint statement that caused outrage in Israel, with the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum releasing a harsh condemnation of a declaration it called "historically inaccurate."
The statement included controversial wording such as: "we reject the actions aimed at blaming Poland or the Polish nation as a whole for the atrocities committed by the Nazis and their collaborators."
As early as 2009, post-Soviet Poland was among the signatories of the Terezin declaration on compensation for confiscated assets in the Holocaust era, which recognized the importance of restituting communal and individual property that belonged to the victims of the Holocaust and other victims of Nazi persecution.
Over the years, all East European countries besides Poland agreed to pay a symbolic sum in compensation. The Jews did not become rich from it and these countries did not become poor.
Attempts to legislate some form of restitution by Polish governments since then have failed. The latest attempt by the current right-wing, nationalist government of Mateusz Morawiecki discriminates against 95% of Polish Jews who will not be able to seek restitution at all.
American Jewish organizations, primarily the Claims Conference, tried to insert into the potential Polish law a declarative line stating that property owned by Jews will be treated honorably. But even that evoked the ire of Polish nationals, and was therefore rejected.
Heading into the European parliamentary elections later this month, and the Polish general elections later this year, Jews are now being singled out as the enemy, intent on robbing the people of Poland and forcing them to pay a king's ransom in compensation.
That is a lie. The total amount in restitution for Jewish property (schools, synagogues and the like) in Poland is estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars only, to be paid over a period of many years, by government issued bonds. Meanwhile, private legal proceedings to recoup individual family property are proceeding in the courts.
But the Polish government insists on ignoring the spirit of the Terezin Declaration as well as the concepts of morality and justice, while promoting fear from the "greedy Jews".
Israel's voice should have been heard loud and clear on this legislation, long ago.
The Jewish state kept silent for reasons of political expediency, and a low-level delegation should not be tasked with putting any of this right.