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Two major American Jewish organizations are urging the Polish government and the Vatican to publicly condemn the latest anti-Semitic remarks made by a powerful Polish priest who heads a right-wing Catholic radio station that has a long history of anti-Semitic diatribes, the groups announced Thursday.
The priest, Father Tadeusz Rydzyk, who heads the controversial Radio Marjya, reportedly accused the Jews of greed in a potential government compensation deal on confiscated property, and denounced Polish President Lech Kaczynski as a "fraudster who is in the pockets of the Jewish lobby."
The comments, which were made in a private meeting in April that was taped and leaked to the Polish press last week, were certain to renew Jewish concerns over lingering anti-Semitism in Poland.
The separate calls urging public repudiation and punishment for the priest were made by the New York-based Anti Defamation League and the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center.
"This is far from the first time Father Rydzyk or other broadcasters on Radio Maryja have made incendiary and hateful remarks about Jews," said ADL leaders Glen S. Lewy and Abraham H. Foxman. "Anti-Semitic content broadcast on Radio Maryja continues to include ugly stereotyping, conspiracy theories, claims that Jews were responsible for communist-era repression and accusations that Jews are using the Holocaust to leverage compensation payments from Poland."
"He is sort of a Goebbels with a collar," said Rabbi Marvin Hier, the founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
Hier has written to the head of the Warsaw bishops' conference and to the head of Rydzyk's religious order at the Vatican, demanding that the priest be punished.
"Father Tadeusz Rydzyk is not merely an individual - as a priest he speaks for the Catholic church and it is the church that must discipline him," Hier said.
Kaczynski and his twin brother, Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, are political allies of Rydzyk. Both have appeared on the radio station, which strongly supports the government.
Earlier his month, Radio Maryja held a large Mass celebrating its 15th anniversary attended by the Polish prime minister and deputy prime ministers.
"You know what this is about: Poland giving $65 billion to Jews," Rydzyk said on the tape, according to the Polish news magazine Wprost, which published excerpts of the comments. "They will come to you and say, 'Give me your coat! Take off your trousers! Give me your shoes!'"
The controversial priest has not denied making the comments, but suggested that they were doctored.
In a letter to Prime Minister Kaczynski, the ADL urged the Polish government to speak out against Rydzyk's remarks and cited a recent poll of anti-Semitic attitudes in Poland, which found that 45 percent of Polish respondents believed that three our of four anti-Semitic stereotype were "probably true," and 39% said they considered Jews responsible for the death of Christ.
"The attitudes revealed in our polling, reinforced by the extremism of Radio Maryja and the comments of Father Rydzyk, demonstrate the need for Poland's political leadership to speak clearly and directly to condemn all manifestations of anti-Semitism," the ADL said in a statement.
Both the president and the prime minister have sought to downplay the comments, saying they needed to be absolute certainty the tapes were authentic before commenting on them.
The comments, made as ties between Israel and Poland continue to flourish, come as the Polish government is working on a bill dealing with Holocaust compensation, which could be passed by the end of the year.
A draft bill currently before the Polish parliament has passed its initial reading and would pay 15% compensation to former property owners - both Jewish and non-Jewish - whose properties were seized during World War II.
Polish officials estimate that the Jewish-owned private property makes up nearly 20% of the total property in question.
The total value of seized property is estimated to be $21-24b., according to Polish groups working to attain the compensation.