On 18 February, a Visegrad summit in Jerusalem was cancelled over the Polish-Israeli diplomatic spat triggered by acting Israeli Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz's remark that the Poles were harbouring "innate" anti-Semitism and that "many" of them collaborated with the Nazis. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki denounced the minister's comments as "absolutely unacceptable" and "racist".
"Israeli-Polish relations have been deteriorating over some time now and it seems as though this situation is a culmination of long-harbored scorn between the two countries," Noah Phillips, commenting on the situation, told Sputnik.
On 19 February Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Szymon Szynkowski said that Tel Aviv should apologise to Warsaw for the acting foreign minister's words.
According to Phillips, the latest diplomatic spat is unlikely to affect Tel Aviv's relations with the Visegrad Group and the EU in general.
"Thus far it seems that the situation will not hold monumental significance for Israel's relations with the EU. The fact that the remainders of the Visegrad Group are willing to hold bilateral meetings with Israel demonstrates that the incident with Poland won't sour Israel's relations with other European nations," the columnist highlighted.
"This is something particularly contentious in Poland as the administration actively employs revisionism when discussing the role of some Polish nationals in the Holocaust; however, outside of Poland these statements are understood as fact no matter what Polish officials claim. Poland is in effect going rogue on the decision to not meet with Israel and the decision does not directly reflect the attitudes of other EU nations," Phillips opined.
At the same time, the journalist specified that "despite Europe's acceptance of the role of Polish citizens in the Holocaust", "on most matters pertaining to Israel the EU has adopted a staunchly anti-Israel stance (from tolerance of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' anti-Semitic remarks to unilateral furthering of economic relations with Iran and more)".
Therefore, according to the columnist, the bloc will, "in all likelihood, be accommodating of Poland's move-even if the reason for Poland doing so is not legitimate and recognized as such".
'Anti-Israel Sentiment in Poland is Immense'
Phillips opined that the recent Israeli-Polish diplomatic row and the cancellation of the V4 meeting is unlikely to backfire on Netanyahu either.
"Among Israeli political circles there has been bipartisan disdain for Poland's understating of the role Poles played in the Holocaust," he said. "As a result, Netanyahu shouldn't face significant internal criticism for the cancellation of the V4".
"It is outlawed to speak anything damaging of the Polish role in the Holocaust-an utter denial of historical facts," he said. "This absolves Poles of all historical responsibility in the Holocaust. There's also been a noticeable uptick in anti-Semitic activity which is somewhat legitimised by the government not taking culpability for Polish support of Nazis during the Holocaust".
Previously, Tel Aviv and Warsaw locked horns over a Polish draft legislation which criminalised blaming Poland for Nazi Holocaust crimes with a fine or a penalty of imprisonment of up to three years. The proposed bill also made it illegal to describe Nazi death camps in Poland as "Polish".
Auschwitz is the most bitter lesson on how evil ideologies can lead to hell on earth. Jews, Poles, and all victims should be guardians of the memory of all who were murdered by German Nazis. Auschwitz-Birkenau is not a Polish name, and Arbeit Macht Frei is not a Polish phrase.— Mateusz Morawiecki (@MorawieckiM) 27 января 2018 г.
"There is no doubt that there were many Poles who fought the Nazi regime, but we cannot deny that Poland and Poles had a hand in the extermination," Israeli President Reuven Rivlin told his Polish counterpart Andrjez Duda on 18 April 2018, as quoted by Times of Israel.
In June 2018 Polish authorities dropped criminal penalties for blaming Poland for Nazi crimes.
During the Nazi occupation of Poland in the times of the Second World War the country was home to the Auschwitz Concentration Camps, a complex of over 40 concentration and extermination facilities built and operated by Nazi Germany and liberated by the Soviet Army in January 1945.
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