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January 31, 2018 11:12 am

Polish Interior Minister Issues Last-Minute Ban on Neo-Fascist Show of Force Outside Israeli Embassy in Warsaw

avatar by Ben Cohen

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Polish neo-fascists gathering for an Independence Day march, Nov. 12, 2017. Photo: Reuters / Agencja Gazeta / Adam Stepien.

Poland’s interior minister stepped in at the last minute to prevent a planned rally in front of the Israeli Embassy in Warsaw by neo-fascist organizations on Wednesday, as a bitter dispute between Warsaw and Jerusalem over new legislation that would criminalize discussion of Poles who colluded with the Nazi Holocaust continued to fester.

Joachim Brudziński, the interior minister, announced on Wednesday afternoon that the streets around the Israeli Embassy in the Polish capital would remain closed until midnight on Monday, February 5. Brudziński said the planned far-right show of force was a threat to the “security and interests” of the state, overruling a decision by the city authorities in Warsaw on Tuesday to grant a permit for the rally.

Far-right leaders attempted to put a brave face on their decision not to defy the ban, claiming they had concluded independently that the rally should be canceled because of the risk of violence. “Today it is not our intention to have a confrontation with the Polish state,” Robert Winnicki — one of the rally organizers, and a member of the Polish parliament for the ultranationalist Ruch Narodowy (National Movement) — stated on Twitter.

Numerous social media posts promoting the rally on Tuesday described it as a rally against “Antipolonism” — an alleged prejudice against the Polish nation equivalent to racism or antisemitism.

Demonstrations outside the Israeli embassy have been allowed in the past, including several small rallies during the Gaza war of 2014 called by a far-right political party to protest alleged “Israeli war crimes.”

But the massive turnout at far-right demonstrations in Poland over the last year suggested that Wednesday’s protest, had it been permitted, would have drawn an unprecedented crowd to the embassy’s gates. A Polish Independence Day march on Nov. 12, 2017 called by the same organizations behind Wednesday’s aborted protest attracted 60,000 participants.

“The very fact they wanted to march on the embassy shows the growth in self-confidence of such groups in today’s Poland,” Rafal Pankowski — one of Poland’s leading experts on racism and antisemitism, and the founder of the anti-fascist NGO “Nigdy Wiecej” (“Never Again”) — told The Algemeiner.

Pankowski explained that the planned rally had been co-organized by two influential far-right organizations, the National Radical Camp (ONR) and the All-Polish Youth (MW).

“These are contemporary extreme-right groups which take their names, symbols and ideology directly from the violently antisemitic, fascist groups that had been active in Poland in the 1930s,” Pankowski said. “The ONR was actually banned by the authorities in 1934 for inciting hatred.”

Pankowski highlighted the central role played by the far-right parliamentarian Robert Winnicki in inciting Polish anger toward Israel and Jews.

“Winnicki is a frequent guest on the (antisemitic Catholic broadcaster) Radio Maryja, as well as state-owned media,” Pankowski noted. “He has said he is protesting against Poland becoming a ‘Jewish Disneyland,’ and I’m afraid he has a growing audience for this hateful message.”

 

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