Israel-Poland discuss controversial Holocaust law

A Polish delegation headed by deputy Foreign Minister Bartosz Cichocki held talks in Jerusalem with an Israeli team headed by Director General of the Foreign Ministry Yuval Rotem, as part of the latest efforts to try and defuse the severest diplomatic standoff between the two countries, over a new Holocaust legislation. The law, which has taken effect yesterday and which imposes jail sentences of up to three years for suggesting Poland was complicit in Nazi German crimes during world war two, has drawn outrage in Israel and criticism from Warsaw’s NATO allies, including member-states of the European Union and the United States. Ahead of the meeting, Rotem emphasized the concern in Israel and around the Jewish world regarding the Holocaust law, underlining the importance to assure historical truths are preserved with no restrictions on freedom of research and speech. “It is no secret that the issue of the Polish legislation with regard to the Holocaust is a matter of concern to Israel and the Jewish people worldwide. We must make sure that historical truths are preserved and that there will be no restriction on the freedom of research and speech and that the widespread of criminalization in this regard is addressed and resolved,” Israeli Director General of the Foreign Minister Yuval Rotem said.

The Polish deputy Foreign Minister welcomed the opportunity to establish dialogue with the Israeli team on the matter of Poland’s legislation, emphasizing his country’s commitment to join efforts with Israel to fight any manifestation of “anti-Semitism or national stereotyping,” as well as Warsaw’s commitment “to promote truth about the Holocaust and the Polish-Jewish centuries-old relationship.” “I welcome this opportunity to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s team and to launch the legislative, historical dialogue between Poland and Israel on Holocaust and World War II-related issues driven by the common desire to defend and promote truth, freedom of research, artistic performance and public debate. We are committed to join our efforts with the Israeli side to fight any manifestation of anti-Semitism or national stereotyping.” / “We are committed to join our efforts to promote truth about the Holocaust and the Polish-Jewish centuries-old relationship. We are here ready and open to answer all the questions and to clarify whatever is left to be clarified with regard to the anti-defamation law recently amended in Poland,” Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Bartosz Cichocki said.

Israel has warned that the Holocaust law could criminalize truthful scholarship on the role some Poles played in German crimes against the Jewish people, during the Nazi occupation of Poland during World War Two – a warning the Polish government vehemently rejects. Nevertheless, to assure continued relations between Warsaw and Jerusalem, the Polish government agreed to advance negotiations with Israel to assure the legislation would not thwart Jerusalem’s efforts to “never forget the six million lives lost on Polish soil.”