ADL: Oust anti-Semitic Polish minister

Education Minister's grandfather was staunch advocate of anti-Jewish boycotts.

Polish President 298.88 (do not publish again) (photo credit: Flash 90)
Polish President 298.88 (do not publish again)
(photo credit: Flash 90)
In an unusual move, the New York-based Anti Defamation League on Wednesday called on the Polish Government to remove the head of a far-right anti-Semitic party from his position as Education Minister. The recommendation, which were made in a new ADL report on anti-Semitism in Poland, comes two months after Israeli Ambassador to Poland David Peleg caused a diplomatic stir by publicly announcing that he was boycotting Polish Education Minister Roman Giertych due to his party's extremist views. The report, 'Poland: Democracy and the challenge of extremism,' finds that anti-Semitism and intolerance in Poland have risen to new levels since the formation of a coalition government in May which includes two small ultra-nationalist parties. The report, which calls Giertych's party "steeped" in anti-Semitism, also urges the implementation of laws dealing with racism and anti-Semitism against a right-wing Catholic radio station, Radio Maryja, which is infamous for its anti-Semitic diatribes. "Since the formation of the coalition government in May, we have spoken out vocally and forcefully against the persistence of anti-Semitism and intolerance in Poland," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. "Throughout, we have made the point that a large proportion of the Polish people are disturbed and outraged by these political views," he added. Polish President Lech Kaczynski has repeatedly stated that there is "no room" for anti-Semitism in Poland. Kaczynski, who concluded a four-day state visit to Israel on Wednesday and has called Poland "Israel's best friend" in Europe, has demurred from discussing the contentious issue during his trip, calling it an internal Polish affair. Mr. Foxman, who was born in Poland and is a Holocaust survivor, added that the country still remains vulnerable to nationalist extremism, and "the deep roots" of anti-Semitism in Poland. The appointment of the 35-year-old extremist party leader, whose party won only 8 percent of the vote in last year's Polish election, to such a prestigious government position has caused dismay among Israeli and Jewish officials. The concern was compounded by the fact that the Polish Education Ministry used to be charged with joint youth programs between Israeli and Poles, interactions which are considered to be a cornerstone of future relations between the two countries. The Polish Government subsequently decided to establish a special department dealing with the youth groups that will work out of the prime minister's office, in an effort meant both to resolve the Israeli criticism, as well as to further broaden the youth exchanges between the two countries. Giertych's grandfather was a staunch advocate of anti-Jewish boycotts, with his party rooted in a nationalist movement that existed between the two world wars which succeeded in both segregating and limiting the number of Jews at Polish Universities. The party's youth wing have in the past made Nazi salutes, and chanted Nazi slogans. The Polish Government's decision to make a union with two of Poland's small populist parties, including the 'League of Polish Families,' instead of joining forces with a competing center-right party has been criticized in both Poland and Europe, where the focus of criticism has been on the minister's anti-homosexual views. In July, Giertych attend a memorial for hundreds of Jews killed by their Polish neighbors during World War Two, in what was widely seen as an effort to prove that he was not an anti-Semite. The discord over the appointment of the Polish Education Minister follows a decade of burgeoning Israeli-Polish relations, with governmental relations between the two countries now considered to be among the best in Europe. "The nation which I represent, and on the soil of which the German Nazis committed their terrible, criminal plan of the Holocaust, knows very well the importance of maintaining the memory of these events that broke a one thousand year presence of Jews in Poland," Kaczynski wrote in the Yad Vashem guest book during his visit. "What happened in Europe at that time should be a warning and a lesson for the future of the entire civilized world," Kaczynski wrote. "We already know that all crimes are possible, and in this regard, we have to do everything in order to prevent them from happening."