These words coming soon after the spat over comments reportedly made by the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during last week’s Middle East peace and security conference in Warsaw had apparently been resolved, caused Poland’s withdrawal from, and the subsequent cancellation of, the Visegrad Group meeting which had been scheduled to take place in Jerusalem.  Poland’s PAP news agency quoted Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz was quoted as saying that "there is a widespread view that the Israeli side is to blame for the crisis."

 

On Monday, Poland’s prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki had criticised Katz for “reprehensible, unacceptable and simply racist words.” He said that Poles, alongside Jews and Roma, had suffered the most during World War II, adding that Poles had saved a huge number of Jews after Nazi Germany instigated the Holocaust. Indeed, the efforts of thousands of Poles who risked their lives by helping Jews during World War II have been recognised by Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial.

 

For its part the US State Department, echoing the US ambassador’s Tuesday statement that there was no place in Polish-Israeli relations for offensive comments, called for dialogue between the two key US allies. As reported by Polish Radio’s IAR news agency, the State Department said that both Israel and Poland are important friends and allies of the United States. Which is all very well, but the statement stopped short of  calling for the apology which Poland deserves from Katz.

 

A more robust line was however taken by Poland’s Chief Rabbi, Michael Schudrich, who issued a statement, published on the telewizjarepublika.pl website, saying Shamir’s words as quoted by Katz were unjust when they were first said in 1989 and “are even more unjust today, 30 years later, when so much has been done on both sides for a mutual understanding of our very difficult, but shared, history.”

 

The final paragraph of his statement is worth repeating in full: “We also remember that during the occupation of Poland, Poland never established a collaborationist regime with the 3rdReich. It is a fact that Poles constitute the largest group among the Righteous among Nations. Accusing all Poles of antisemitism offends the Righteous; it also offends all those who today want to see in them the true representation of Polish society. And it also offends us, Polish Jews, who are a part of that society.”

 

It is a sad fact that as anti-Semitism appears to be increasing across Europe, notably in countries such as France with large Moslem populations, Israeli politicians should yet again choose unjustly to castigate Poland, a country which is urging caution in relation to large scale Moslem immigration, for its alleged but unfounded collaboration with the Nazi occupiers, while seemingly choosing to remain silent about those countries where collaborationist regimes willingly assisted the Nazis in their campaign of extermination.