Polish President Andrzej Duda has denied blaming Israeli leaders', specifically Foreign Minister Israel Katz, anti-Polish rhetoric for rising anti-Semitic incidents in Poland. This comes in response to a widespread and much covered report by Jewish Insider.
“The quote is not only inaccurate. It is plainly not true. President Duda never said that ‘Israel is responsible for recent anti-Semitic attacks in Poland’”, Presidential Spokesman Blazej Spychalski told The Times of Israel, insisting that all participants of the meeting “can corroborate this” and that “Jewish Insider made this up”. According to a Jewish Insider report, President Andrzej Duda expressed his disdain over Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz’s quotes from a former Israeli prime minister that anti-Semitism is in Poles from their birth. However, it appears that he wasn’t the one who directly attributed Poland’s worrisome rise in Jewish hate crimes to Israel.
Per the report published by the Israeli edition on Thursday, Duda made the controversial statement at the Polish Consulate in New York a day earlier, while meeting US Jewish officials. He allegedly referred to Israel Katz’s quotes from late Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, who said “Poles suckle anti-Semitism with their mothers’ milk”.
Duda reportedly slammed such comments as a “humiliation” to Poland, adding that such words had encouraged anti-Semitism in his country - an alleged reaction to comments like those of the foreign minister.
However, according to Shmuley Boteach, a celebrated American rabbi and author who was also in attendance, while Duda did express his disappointment over Katz’s rhetoric, the comments drawing a line between anti-Semitism and Israel were in actual fact made by Edward Mosberg, a well-known 96-year-old Holocaust survivor.
“The president told our group the Polish people were incredibly offended by Katz’s remark”, Boteach wrote in an op-ed he sent to the Times of Israel. “He said many Poles had told him he should not visit Israel until Katz apologizes. Duda seemed disappointed not only that Katz has not apologized but also that not enough people have spoken out against his remarks”, he went on.
Katz’s earlier statement about Polish “inborn” anti-Semitism led to Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki cancelling his planned attendance at the Visegrad summit in Israel arranged by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in February. Katz further struck a more conciliatory tone, hailing the two countries’ bilateral cooperation, but didn’t apologise, despite the massive backlash.
In another incident that deepened the spat between the two countries, an Israeli man spat on Polish Ambassador to Israel Marek Magierowski, with President Duda blasting the episode as a “a hate crime” and a “humiliation of Polish pride”.
Israel and Poland have been deeply embroiled in a diplomatic spat over Polish officials’ rejection of any culpability by the Poles for anti-Semitic atrocities during World War Two. Last year, the government introduced a controversial law that forbids blaming the Polish nation for Nazi crimes, although the legislation was softened a bit following Israel’s lobbying to remove punitive measures.