Brussels – The European Coalition for Israel (ECI) welcomes the recent vote of the Polish parliament to amend a controversial law that sought to impose penalties including jail sentences for anyone suggesting that the country was complicit in the crime against Jews during the Holocaust. The law poisoned Polish-Israeli relations for several months and drew an angry response from the United States. Last week the Israeli government announced that they accept the proposed amendments and now wish to normalize relations with Poland.
A joint statement by the Israeli and the Polish governments read: «It is clear to everyone that the Holocaust was an unprecedented crime, a crime carried out by Nazi Germany against the Jewish nation, including the Jews of Poland.» In the statement the Polish government also confirmed its true understanding of «the Holocaust as the most tragic chapter in the history of the Jewish people».
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu clarified the position of the Israeli government in stating: «We are honoured to remember the heroic acts of numerous Poles, especially those recognised as ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ in risking their lives to save Jewish people. We reject actions aimed at blaming Poland or the Polish nation as a whole for atrocities committed by the Nazis and their collaborators in different nations.»
While standing with the critics of the legislation, Netanyahu then emphasized that both countries were committed to continuing unimpeded research into the Holocaust.
In a separate statement, representatives from Yad Vashem commented: «We believe that the correct way to combat historical misrepresentations is by promoting open, free research and educational activities.»
In recent months the European Coalition for Israel has raised the issue of the flawed «Holocaust law» in meetings with Polish legislators and diplomats both in the European Parliament in Brussels and at the United Nations in New York. Founding Director Tomas Sandell welcomes the announcement of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki to re-open the discussion on the legislation and remove any penalties imposed by the law.
«It is understandable that references to the Nazi concentration camps located in Poland, such as Auschwitz-Birkenau, as 'Polish concentration camps' are highly offensive to the Polish nation. However one cannot deny or even go so far as to take legal action against any suggestion that some Poles were in fact complicit in the crime against Jews during the Holocaust», he commented.
«It is high time that this flawed legislation is corrected and no longer stands in the way for maintaining the historically close relationship between Poland and Israel. Few countries within the European Union have shown greater support for Israel in recent years than Poland», Sandell concluded.