Polish Officials Expected in Israel to Discuss Controversial Holocaust Law

Polish President Andrzej Duda makes a statement in Warsaw, Poland, Monday, July 24, 2017. Duda announced that he will veto two contentious bills widely seen as assaults on the independence of the judicial system. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)
AP Photo/Alik Keplicz

TEL AVIV – An official delegation from Poland will arrive in Israel in the coming days to reach an understanding on a controversial bill that criminalizes blaming the eastern European country for any Holocaust-related crimes, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said Saturday.

As a result of Israeli pressure, Polish Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro said that the law will not be implemented before his country’s Constitutional Tribunal reviews the matter, the spokesperson said.

Together with Israel, the Polish team will try to find a mutually acceptable amendment of the text of the law. At the time it was signed by the Polish parliament, the Foreign Ministry released a statement saying it hoped the law would be amended before being approved by the Constitutional Tribunal.

“Israel noted the fact that the Polish president referred the law to the Constitutional Court for clarifications on the matter, and hopes that in the period before the verdict, it will be possible to agree on changes and amendments to the law,” the statement said. “Israel and Poland have a common responsibility to investigate and preserve the history of the Holocaust.”

Israel’s Ambassador to Poland, Anna Azari, recently met with Ziobro to discuss the controversial bill.

Foreign Ministry director-general Yuval Rotem described the news that the bill would not be implemented immediately as “an achievement” for Israel.

The bill prescribes penalties for those who blame Poles as a nation for crimes committed by Nazi Germany during World War II.

Polish President Andrzej Duda’s authorization of the bill caused consternation in the U.S., with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson saying that it could result in “repercussions” for Poland’s relationship with the U.S.

“Enactment of this law adversely affects freedom of speech and academic inquiry,” Tillerson said.

In its current form, the bill stipulates that any individual who accuses Poland of being responsible for “crimes against peace and humanity” will be subject to a fine or prison sentence.

“Whoever accuses, publicly and against the facts, the Polish nation, or the Polish state, of being responsible or complicit in the Nazi crimes committed by the Third German Reich … or other crimes against peace and humanity, or war crimes, or otherwise grossly diminishes the actual perpetrators thereof, shall be subject to a fine or a penalty of imprisonment of up to three years,” a translation of the bill reads.


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