Israeli politicians slam Poland for passing controversial Holocaust law

The Polish parliament on Thursday passed a law that makes suggesting Polish complicity or participation in the Holocaust punishable by prison time or a fine.

A sign reading "Stop" in German and Polish is placed outside the gates to Auschwitz to mark the anniversary of its liberation, January 2018 (photo credit: KACPER PEMPEL/REUTERS)
A sign reading "Stop" in German and Polish is placed outside the gates to Auschwitz to mark the anniversary of its liberation, January 2018
Politicians from across the Israeli political spectrum slammed the Polish Senate's decision Thursday to criminalize suggesting Polish complicity in the Holocaust.
A short statement from the Foreign Ministry on behalf of the State of Israel said that the country opposes the decision of the Polish Senate.
"No law will change the facts," the statement said in response to the bill, which many Israeli politicians see as trying to amend history.
Senior diplomatic sources expressed “deep disappointment” at the decision by the Polish Senate, especially since relations between the the two countries is important to both of them.
Israelis condemn Polish law that bans using the phrase "Polish death camps"
The sources also said the passage of the law was against the “sprit of the conversation” between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Polish counterpart Sunday night in which they agreed to set up teams to discuss the issue.
Minister of Intelligence and Transportation Israel Katz called on Netanyahu to immediately recall the Israeli Ambassador to Poland for consultations in Israel.
"The law passed by the Polish government is severe and constitutes a brushing off its own responsibility and a denial of Poland's part in the Holocaust against the Jews," Katz said. "In the balance between political considerations and moral considerations, there must be a clear decision - perpetuating the memory of Holocaust victims over any other consideration."
Yisrael Beytenu Chairman Robert Ilatov echoed the same statement, saying that the Polish parliament is attempting to "whitewash" and "rewrite history."
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid sent a letter to EU ambassador to Israel Emanuele Giaufret, demanding that the European Union and its member states condemn the legislation clearly, forcefully and unequivocally.
"We have not forgotten and not forgiven," Lapid wrote. "No nation can be expected to forgive and forget the murder of millions of its sons and daughters, including a million and a half children. We will not accept the re-writing of history, we will not accept attempts to  avoid responsibility and neither should you."
MK Nachman Shai (Zionist Union) said that the Polish Senate is "indicating that the Poles are determined to blur their share of the Holocaust," and encouraged his colleagues in the government to "publicly oppose this attempt to shake off the Holocaust from this generation, while many survivors are still alive."
"Israel owes them and millions of others who have perished and must bear witness to their memory so as not to erase it. This is the moment to mention it," Shai said.
MK Ksenia Svetlova (Zionist Union) accused the Israeli right of being in bed with extremist nationalist governments, and noted that "We must remember that those who deny the Holocaust and continue inciting against Jews in their country cannot be our friends."
Zionist Union Chairman Yoel Hasson blamed Netanyahu for the law's passing, saying that the prime minister "flies all over the world and is photographed with world leaders, but at the moment of truth, he cannot prevent the enactment of the Polish law or the voting against Israel at the UN. It's time to admit that Benjamin Netanyahu is not a political prodigy. Israel needs results not impressive pictures on Facebook."
While Netanyahu did speak with his Polish counterpart via telephone earlier this week, and the two agreed to open an "immediate dialogue" the prime minister was unable to sway the Polish prime minister from working to amend the text of the legislation.
The US, too, encouraged Polish legislators to change the wording of the bill, but were also unsuccessful.
One of the most notable and controversial facets of the law is its attempt to stamp out the phrase "Polish death camps." Several concentration camps - including Auschwitz and Treblinka - were located in Poland; the labeling of these camps as Polish is often meant to be only a geographic qualifier, but many Poles feel that it suggests the camps were run by their own nationals.
Herb Keinon contributed to this report.