PHOTOGRAPH OF Auschwitz-Birkenau taken in February 2017..
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Israel values its good political and bilateral ties with Warsaw, but preserving the memory of the Holocaust is even more important, Foreign Ministry director-general Yuval Rotem said Thursday in Jerusalem, at the start of talks with a Polish team to discuss their government’s controversial Holocaust legislation.
“Israel and Poland enjoy strong political bilateral ties, based on common values,” Rotem said. But, Rotem added, “preserving the memory of the Holocaust is a matter beyond the bilateral relationship between Israel and Poland. It is a core issue cutting to the essence of the Jewish people.”
Rotem said it is imperative to make sure “historical truths are preserved, that there be no restrictions on the freedom of research and speech, and that the wide threat of criminalization in this regard is addressed and resolved.”
The new law makes it a crime punishable to up to three years in prison to say that Poland was complicit in the Holocaust.
Foreign Ministry officials said that during the more than three-hour meeting, which they characterized as “penetrating and open,” Israel expressed its concern over the recent public atmosphere in Poland and the manifestations of antisemitism, and stressed the need for the Polish government to act with zero tolerance toward antisemitism.
Bartosz Cichocki, the Polish deputy foreign minister who is heading his country’s team, said Poland is “committed to join our efforts [with Israel’s] to promote truth about the Holocaust and the Polish-Jewish centuries- old relationship. We are here open and ready to answer all the questions and clarify whatever is left to be clarified with regard to the anti-defamation law recently amended in Poland.”
The two sides are working on a common statement to be released at the end of the dialogue.
The law, which took effect Thursday, still needs to come under review by Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal. Poland’s Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro said last week that before the public prosecutor’s office presses charges against anyone based on the law, the Constitutional Tribunal will take a position on it.
Israel urges Poland to change bill regarding its role in Nazi Holocaust, January 28, 2018 (Reuters)