Israel and Poland have agreed to diplomatic talks about the controversy surrounding a proposed Polish law that would outlaw blaming Poland for Nazi atrocities committed on its soil during World War II, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday night.
Passed by the lower house of the Polish parliament Friday, the bill would make it illegal to suggest the Polish state or people were responsible for the murder of Jews in the Holocaust. The proposal has not yet become law — it still has to be approved by the Polish senate and President Andrzej Duda — but Israeli officials have denounced it as legal sanction for distorting history.
Israel has “no tolerance for the distortion of the truth, the rewriting of history and the denial of the Holocaust,” Netanyahu said at his weekly cabinet meeting Sunday, according to the Associated Press.
Earlier Sunday, the Israeli Foreign Ministry summoned Poland’s charge d’Affaires Piotr Kozlowski to officially express displeasure with the bill. Netanyahu followed up with a call to Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, during which they agreed hear out Israeli objections to the legislation.
“The two agreed that teams from the two countries would open an immediate dialogue in order to try to reach understandings regarding the legislation,” Netanyahu’s office said in a statement.
Before WWII, Poland was home to roughly 3.2 million Jews, the largest Jewish community in Europe. Nazis invaded and occupied Poland in 1939 and eventually built some of their most notorious death camps there, including Auschwitz and Treblinka. Historians have said that some Polish people collaborated with the Nazis and enabled the extermination of Polish Jews.
The Polish government says the proposed “blame” bill is not intended to whitewash history or limit freedom to research or speak about the Holocaust. Rather, the legislation seeks to codify the nationalist government’s position that the Polish state and people were also victims of Nazi terror, according to the bill’s sponsors.
“We will not change any provisions in the bill,” said Beata Mazurek, spokeswoman for the ruling conservative-nationalist Law and Justice party, according to the AP. “We have had enough of Poland and Poles being blamed for German crimes.”
It is already against the law in Poland to deny that the Holocaust happened.
Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust remembrance center, said it is historically inaccurate to describe Auschwitz and other Nazi camps in Poland as “Polish death camps.” But the proposed bill is “liable to blur the historical truths regarding the assistance the Germans received from the Polish population,” the organization said, according to Reuters.
Israeli officials were also angered by the “surprising and unfortunate” timing of the Holocaust bill, which was passed a day before International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
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