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The continuing anti-Semitic rhetoric of Father Tadeusz Rydzyk, founder of Poland's Catholic, nationalist Radio Maryja, and the Polish government's refusal to come out publicly against the rhetoric, has angered senior Israeli government officials, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
Radio Maryja, whose audience is estimated at between 1.5 million and 2.5 million daily, was a strong supporter of the ruling Law and Justice Party during the last election in 2005. Its political influence may be the reason the Polish government has not spoken out against the repeated anti-Semitic remarks aired on the station in the past, even those that have drawn protests from the European Union and the Vatican, a senior Israeli official told the Post Monday.
"The Polish government sends people to tell us behind closed doors that they're against these [statements]," the official said. "But when it comes to anti-Semitism, we can't compromise; it's not a negotiable political issue. We're demanding a public statement from the government."
At issue is the most recent incident, in which the charismatic Rydzyk, a member of the Redemptorist missionary order, said the Jews were greedy and too powerful. Early last month, the popular Polish weekly Wprost said it had an April tape recording of Rydzyk speaking about a meeting with Polish President Lech Kaczynski in which they discussed Holocaust property restitution.
According to Wprost, Rydzyk was heard in the recording saying: "You know what this is about: Poland giving [the Jews] $65 billion. They will come to you and say, 'Give me your coat! Take off your trousers! Give me your shoes!'"
A request by Israeli Ambassador to Poland David Peleg that Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the president's brother, respond to Rydzyk's comment went unanswered. Israeli diplomatic circles are concerned that internal Polish politics may prevent a government response, sending a message that such sentiments are not beyond the pale, sources in Jerusalem told the Post.
"Rydzyk also accuses the president of being a cheat and serving Jewish interests," due to Kaczynski's support of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews slated to open in 2009, said Peleg, "and accused a Polish newspaper of having 'Talmudic ethics.'"
In the recording's wake, "we expressed our hope that the government will reject these statements, and that the Catholic Church, at the Polish Council of Bishops meeting in late August, come out against this," he said.
Peleg rejected the notion that domestic political concerns preventing a government critique of Rydzyk reflected heightened anti-Semitism in Poland.
"Opposing anti-Semitism is very important to this government," he said. "Poland isn't an anti-Semitic country. There's much less physical anti-Semitism than in West European countries." But, he said, "the stereotypes are still there, and anti-Semitic folklore still exists, especially in the small towns."
Radio Maryja, which opposes Poland's EU membership and ownership of land by foreigners, has broadcast shows discussing conspiracy theories involving Freemasons and intelligence services, and has drawn the ire of the Vatican for becoming too "political" and overtly supporting political parties.
On hearing of the latest incident, "I was amazed, but not surprised," said Peleg. "[Rydzyk] attacks everything Jewish - a Jewish theater, a Jewish movie festival, a Jewish museum. It's not the first time we've seen this, but here it got a more public demonstration."