MK Tamar Zandberg.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s controversial agreement with Poland that resulted in decriminalizing blaming Poles for the Holocaust in Poland is part of a trend that started with Netanyahu defending US President Donald Trump, Meretz leader Tamar Zandberg said Wednesday at the Knesset.
She said that after Netanyahu came to Trump’s side when he was not distancing himself from openly antisemitic supporters, Netanyahu became an apologist for Eastern European governments led by right-wing parties with extremist policies.
“This selling off of our history is not disconnected from the present,” Zandberg said. “Israel is giving its hand to Eastern European democracies that are far from liberal and base their support on antisemitism and hatred of foreigners.”
Zandberg spoke at a preliminary discussion on her proposal to have the Knesset distance itself from Netanyahu’s agreement with Poland. She also called for a parliamentary commission of inquiry to probe how the deal was reached.
The Knesset voted 16 to 0, which she said was an endorsement of her proposal. But Knesset officials clarified that the vote was merely on sending the proposal to the Knesset Education Committee for further discussion, which will take place in October at the earliest, when the issue will likely be long forgotten.
Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Michael Oren responded by reading a prepared statement on behalf of the prime minister that was very similar to what Netanyahu said in Sunday’s cabinet meeting.
Oren said the declaration was negotiated with the Poles by Netanyahu confidants Yaakov Nagel and Joseph Ciechanover and was part of an agreement whereby Poland would decriminalize a clause in the controversial bill that would have made it a crime punishable by three years in prison for saying “Polish death camps” rather than “German death camps in Poland.”
“The goal of the contacts with the Polish government was to abrogate the criminal clauses in the Polish law that cast a pall of fear over research and free discourse regarding the Holocaust. This goal was achieved,” Oren said, quoting Netanyahu.
Oren said there was no dispute that the Poles helped the Nazis and murdered Jews. But he said Israel could not tolerate a law limiting freedom of speech that made it illegal for Holocaust survivors to tell their stories.
“We demanded the law be canceled and used a lot of diplomatic levers to ensure that it happened,” Oren said. “We risked harming bilateral ties. Our criticism led to a wave of antisemitism that endangered Jews in Poland and worried us no less than the law.”