A document compiled by the Polish justice ministry refutes claims by Israeli officials that they were taken by surprise by Poland’s plan to take penal action against anyone who accuses the nation of being complicit in Nazi German crimes, wpolityce.pl, a Polish online news service, reported.
The service said it had seen a list of meetings between Polish and Israeli officials that “clearly shows” that Israeli diplomats and officials “were well familiar with the Polish government's proposal and that their initial remarks were taken into account.”
For example, to accommodate suggestions by Israeli officials, a decision was made to exclude academic research from the proposed penalties, the website said.
The document, compiled by the justice ministry in Warsaw, shows that Israeli officials “had dozens of opportunities to raise any further doubts in direct talks, but they never did so,” according to wpolityce.pl
Quoting an unnamed justice ministry official, the service reports that the Polish government originally approved the contested proposal in August 2016.
“The Israeli ambassador approached us at the time and a meeting was held on August 30,” the official said, as quoted by the service. “The ambassador said that passing the law in such a form could cause a situation in which it would be impossible to conduct research on the Holocaust.”
The official added: “It seemed that the exclusion of research and artistic activities from criminalisation would dispel doubts about the matter,” especially as the Polish prime minister at the time, Beata Szydło, and her Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu, in November 2016 issued a joint statement in which they opposed the use of the term "Polish death camps" in reference to German extermination camps in occupied Poland during World War II.
The website quotes the justice ministry official as saying that “the Israeli authorities were fully aware” that the Polish government was working on legislation to impose penalties on anyone who publicly ascribes blame to the Polish nation or state for crimes committed by Nazi Germany.
Numerous Polish-Israeli meetings were held, including a total of about six hours of talks “with the Israeli side” at the justice ministry in Warsaw in 2017 and 2018, wpolityce.pl says. It adds that Israeli officials had many opportunities to raise any doubts at each such meeting, but the subject of the proposed law never cropped up. Instead the subject of property restitution dominated the talks, according to wpolityce.pl.
The Polish and Israeli prime ministers have agreed their countries would hold dialogue amid tensions over the proposed Polish law.
Polish Radio has launched a new educational website aimed at debunking misconceptions about Poland’s role in the Holocaust, at GermanDeathCamps.info.