Cards are placed between railway tracks in the former Nazi death camp Auschwitz as people take part in the annual "March of the Living" to commemorate the Holocaust, in Oswiecim, Poland, April 12, 2018. .
(photo credit: REUTERS/KACPER PEMPEL)
Israel-Poland ties will not return to normal until changes are made in a controversial Polish law making it illegal to say the Polish state or nation were complicit in the Holocaust, Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi said on Tuesday.
Hanegbi’s comments came in a meeting he had with visiting Polish Minister for Entrepreneurship and Technology, Jadwiga Emilewicz. After the meeting, Hanegbi tweeted that he had stressed Israel’s expectations for changes to be made in the law that has already been passed, but is currently under review by the Polish Constitutional Court.
“I made clear that as long as changes are not made to the law, we will not be able to return the relations between the two states to normal,” he said.
Though the law, which strained Israeli-Polish ties, went into effect on February 21, the court review is still underway, and it could be months before a judgment is rendered.
Despite Hanegbi’s comments that the law is hampering normal relations between the two countries, Israel on Monday signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the countries making up the Visegrad Group – Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia – on training cooperation in the field of innovation.
A statement by the Foreign Ministry read, “This cooperation signed today with the Visegrad countries will enable a synergy, which will bring about growth, especially in fields in which Israel has relative advantages, like in the automobile industry. We appreciate this ‘vote of confidence’ by the Visegrad countries in Israel’s relative advantages, and its recognition of our significant achievements.”
While those do not sound like words reflecting a downgrade of ties with Poland, a Foreign Ministry official said that a change in the Polish law did remain a condition to a return of normal relations between the two countries. The issue still has not been resolved, the official added.
Since the passing of the law, however, Poland has helped Israel diplomatically by abstaining on Israel-related votes in the UN, rather than voting against Israel, as some other EU states did.
For instance, Poland was one of four states that abstained on a UN Security Council vote last month – vetoed by the US – which called for “protective measures” for the Palestinians. Warsaw also abstained last week when a similar resolution was passed in the UN General Assembly by a vote of 120-8, with 45 abstentions.
The controversial law, under the heading “Protection of the reputation of the Republic of Poland and the Polish Nation,” reads: “Whoever publicly and contrary to the facts attributes to the Polish Nation or to the Polish State responsibility or co-responsibility for the Nazi crimes committed by the German Third Reich... or for any other offenses constituting crimes against peace, humanity or war crimes, or otherwise grossly diminishes the responsibility of the actual perpetrators of these crimes, shall be liable to a fine or deprivation of liberty for up to three years.”
The law states that if the “perpetrator” acts unintentionally, “they shall be liable to a fine or restriction of liberty.” It excludes those acting “within the framework of artistic or scientific activity,” and said the law is applicable irrespective of where the “prohibited act” took place, and regardless of whether the offender is a Polish citizen or a foreigner.