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September 27, 2019 2:24 pm

Outpouring of Online Antisemitism in Poland After Reports of Tense Meeting Between Country’s President and US Jewish Leaders

avatar by Ben Cohen

Polish President Andrzej Duda. Photo: Agencja Gazeta / Dawid Zuchowicz via Reuters.

Reports of an argument between Polish President Andrzej Duda and a group of American Jewish leaders on the fringes of the United Nations General Assembly in New York this week provided the cue for a torrent of antisemitic abuse on Polish websites on Friday.

Hundreds of comments on the popular Wiadomości news website drew on both ancient antisemitic stereotypes and more modern hostility to the State of Israel, as one poster after another attacked Jews.

“I used to feel sorry for the Jews, but having observed Israel’s actions over the last year, I now understand that they are guilty,” read one typical contribution.

The context for Friday’s outpouring of hatred was a meeting on Wednesday between Duda and a delegation of  prominent US Jewish figures. Over the last two years especially, Polish-Jewish relations have soured over the passage of the IPN Act, a Polish law that criminalizes discussion of Polish collusion with Nazi Germany during World War II — a period when three million Polish Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, and millions of Poles perished under both the German and Soviet Russian occupations of their country.

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One particularly tense moment came in Feb. 2019, when Israel’s then-acting foreign minister, Israel Katz, opined that Poles “suckle antisemitism in their mother’s milk.”

Katz’s comment, in a TV interview, resulted in a furious response from Duda and other top Polish officials.

The alleged heated exchange at Wednesday’s meeting in New York was said to have occurred during a discussion of Katz’s February remark. Polish media reported that Duda had expressed disappointment with the lack of condemnation or remorse in Israel for Katz’s statement, and that he had also complained about an “act of aggression” against Marek Magierowski, Poland’s ambassador to Israel, who was accosted by a protester in Tel Aviv in May.

However, an initial media report that Duda had explicitly blamed Israel for sparking antisemitism among Poles during Wednesday’s meeting was firmly denied by the Polish president’s office. “President Duda never said that ‘Israel is responsible for recent antisemitic attacks in Poland,'” his spokesman, Blazej Spychalski, said in a statement released through the Polish Embassy in Washington, DC. “All participants of the said meeting can corroborate this.”

That unverified report was nonetheless enough for Poland’s online antisemites to vent their fury. “Poles don’t like Jews because Jews exploit Poles with privatization, they rob Poles because they are cunning and better-organized, and they own newspapers like the New York Times that slander Poles,” said one comment.

“You have to be out of your mind to enter into any relationship with these people,” said another. “There are thousands of examples over thousands of years.”

Ironically, another commenter warmly praised Duda for making the very same observation that his office later denied. “Finally, we have a President who isn’t afraid of the truth,” the comment read. “Yes Jews — draw your own conclusions from this.”

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