The Knesset in session: The legislature is going to be working overtime..
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
New legislation cosponsored by 61 members of Knesset would make a Polish bill to outlaw talk of Poles’ complicity in the Nazis’ crimes a form of illegal Holocaust denial.
The bill, formulated by MKs from the coalition and the opposition – Itzik Shmuly (Zionist Union), Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid), Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beytenu), Nurit Koren (Likud) and Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi) – seeks to amend the Law for Defense Against Holocaust Denial to state that denying or minimizing the involvement of the Nazi’s helpers and collaborators will also be a crime.
In addition, the amended law would provide legal aid to any Holocaust survivors and educators taking students to death camps who face foreign lawsuits because they recounted what happened in the Holocaust.
The 1986 Law for Defense Against Holocaust Denial states that anyone who publishes denial and minimization of the Holocaust or other crimes against the Jewish people can get five years of jail time.
The Polish Senate was expected Wednesday to approve a bill that would make using the phrase “Polish death camps” or saying the Polish people were in any way culpable for the Nazis’ crimes against humanity an offense that carries a three-year prison sentence. The vote was set to take place even though the Polish and Israeli governments plan to negotiate a version of the bill that would be agreeable to both sides.
Shmuly said: “The Poles, and others who may want to copy them, should know that the historical truth of the Jewish people is not for sale.”
“Many Poles, and many others, heard, knew about and helped the Nazi extermination machine,” Shmuly added. “The Polish attempt to rewrite history and to shut Holocaust survivors’ mouths is audacious, shocking and despicable. We will not allow the collaborators to hide behind the Nazis and deny their historic responsibility.”
Lapid said the Polish attempt to avoid responsibility “only emphasizes the need to take action against these voices. We must use all the means we have, including the Knesset, against Holocaust denial.
“We won’t let anyone forget the Nazis or those who cooperated with them. That is our responsibility to the memory of the millions killed.
The world must know the Jews are not afraid and are not willing to be silent anymore, and are not afraid anymore,” Lapid said.
Ilatov said that the number of living Holocaust survivors is dwindling, and therefore, “Israel has the moral responsibility to commemorate their bravery and promise that no one will try to hide, whitewash or cover up those who tell the stories of the horrible crimes and the shocking testimony about the crimes committed against the Jewish people. We won’t let anyone rewrite history.”
Dr. Efraim Zuroff, Nazi-hunter and director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Jerusalem office, said that “Holocaust distortion” has been a problem for over 25 years, and until now Israel has done little to combat it.
Eastern European countries, Zuroff said, “have invested in trying to convince the world the Holocaust was only the work of Germany and maybe a few degenerates.
“Since the Soviet Union crumbled, people have been trying to say communism is the same as Nazism... They want communism to be considered genocide and [some countries] criminalized denying it. And then, if communism is genocide, and there were Jewish communists, then Jews committed genocide. This is their way of undermining the Shoah and their participation in it,” Zuroff explained.
The issue of Holocaust distortion exists “in practically every country in post-communist Eastern Europe,” he said. “Their new heroes are people who fought communists, some of whom killed Jews in the Shoah.
They name streets and schools after them.”
Still, Zuroff said he did not think that legislation is the right way for Israel to deal with the problem. Rather, Israel should use its influence in post-Soviet countries, many of which have defense ties with Israel, to convince the governments that “their behavior is unacceptable.”
“They love Israel, but hate the Jews,” Zuroff said.
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