Is Poland snubbing Netanyahu at World War II anniversary gathering?

This is the first of a series of major anniversary events that will be held in the coming months to mark World War II events.

July 31, 2019 22:25
2 minute read.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara visit the Jewish Museum in Warsaw, Poland, February 14, 2019. (photo credit: KACPER PEMPEL / REUTERS)

On September 1, 17 days before the elections, Poland will host a gathering in Warsaw marking 80 years since the Nazi invasion of Poland and the start of World War II.

US President Donald Trump and a number of other world leaders are scheduled to attend.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for whom photos of a meeting with Trump and other world leaders so close to the balloting would be an obvious preelection boon, has not been invited.

One Polish official said that the invitations were for heads of state, and were sent to NATO members, EU countries, the Eastern Partnership countries – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine – and UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

This is the first of a series of major anniversary events that will be held in the coming months to mark World War II events.

In January, Yad Vashem is organizing an event – to which Polish President Andrzej Duda has been invited – to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Numerous world leaders, including Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron, are expected to attend.

A few days later, on January 27, The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Poland is organizing a large event of its own at the Nazi death camp on the actual day of liberation. And on May 9, Moscow is hosting an event to mark 75 years since the end of World War II. Netanyahu has already been invited to attend.

When the Poles sent out invitations in March for their even on September 1, the Russian Foreign Ministry expressed “bewilderment” that Russia – which played such a monumental role in defeating the Nazis – was not invited.

“Despite our homeland’s unquestionably decisive contribution to the defeat of Hitler’s Reich and the liberation of Poland from the Nazi aggressors, there is no place for Russia in this plan,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Netanyahu went to Warsaw in February to participate in a US-sponsored conference dealing with Iran, but that visit ended on a sour note, as Israel’s already strained relations with Poland became even worse when Netanyahu was quoted erroneously as saying that “the Poles cooperated with the Nazis” to kill Jews, when he actually said “Poles,” meaning some Poles.

As a result of that incident, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki canceled at the last minute his participation a week later at a summit in Israel of the Visegrad Group – Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

That incident was just the latest in a series of tensions between the two countries over Holocaust-related issues, beginning in 2017 when legislation was introduced in Poland that would have made it a crime carrying a prison sentence for attributing complicity in the Holocaust to the “Polish nation” or using terms such as “Polish death camps.”

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