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Anti-defamation bill passed in Polish Senate amid tensions with Israel

PR dla Zagranicy
Victoria Bieniek 01.02.2018 10:11
The Polish Senate has approved a proposed law that could mean a jail term for anyone who accuses the nation of being complicit in Nazi German crimes during World War II, amid a warning by the US that the move could damage relations with both America and Israel.
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The US State Department said: “We encourage Poland to reevaluate the legislation in light of its potential impact on the principle of free speech and on our ability to be effective partners”.

In a statement posted on its website, the State Department added it was concerned about the repercussions the draft legislation, if enacted in Warsaw, “could have on Poland’s strategic interests and relationships” – including with the its ally the United States and Israel.

In Jerusalem, the majority of Knesset deputies have backed plans to introduce new laws which could see Poland accused of Holocaust denial, according to the Jerusalem Post.

Under the bill, which has not yet been voted on, Israel's Holocaust Denial laws could stipulate that “denying or minimising the involvement of the Nazis' helpers and collaborators will also be a crime,” the paper said.

The plans could also foresee legal aid for Holocaust survivors and educators facing lawsuits abroad, the Jerusalem Post said.

Tensions between Israel and Poland emerged after Poland's lower house last week passed a bill that would introduce penalties for anyone who publicly ascribes blame to the Polish nation or state for crimes committed by Nazi Germany.

Israeli ambassador to Poland Anna Azari said: "In Israel, this bill is seen as creating a possibility of punishment for Holocaust survivors' testimony. The emotions are running high”.

In Poland, the planned new law is seen as a way of fighting the use of the phrase “Polish death camps”, which implies Poland's involvement in the Holocaust.

Polish government spokeswoman Joanna Kopcińska has said: “It was the Germans who attacked Poland, while the Poles and Jews were the victims”.

“There were no Polish death camps, no Polish concentration camps or Polish extermination camps. We must set the record straight by continually explaining and clarifying things,” she added.

Meanwhile, Azari has told Poland’s Rzeczpospolita daily that she hoped tensions between her country and Poland could be resolved by working groups from both nations that are due to conduct dialogue on the matter.

The Polish and Israeli prime ministers have agreed their countries would hold dialogue.

GermanDeathCamps.info, a new educational website aimed at debunking misconceptions about Poland’s role in the Holocaust, has been launched by Polish Radio.

The Polish bill needs to be signed by President Andrzej Duda before it enters into law.

Poland's ruling conservatives are set to issue a statement explaining the bill on Thursday. (vb/pk)

Source: IAR, PAP

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