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February 19, 2018 4:51 pm

Israeli Political Leader Lapid on Polish Holocaust Law: ‘On the Verge, If Not Beyond, Holocaust Denial’

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid. Photo: Yaniv Morozovsky via Wikimedia Commons.

Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid continued his war of words with the Polish government on Monday, comparing a new Polish law to Holocaust denial.

Referring to a recent act of vandalism against the Polish Embassy in Tel Aviv, Lapid told a Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations gathering in Jerusalem, “Of course I denounce the drawing of a swastika on the Polish embassy but I’m not in the mood to apologize to the Polish government, who passed a bill which is on the verge, if not beyond, Holocaust denial.”

The law in question essentially criminalizes any acknowledgement of Polish complicity in the Holocaust. The text states, “Whoever claims, publicly and contrary to the facts, that the Polish Nation or the Republic of Poland is responsible or co-responsible for Nazi crimes committed by the Third Reich … shall be liable to a fine or imprisonment for up to three years.”

Israel, Lapid stated, was morally obligated to take a stand against the law. “The Jewish state cannot stand by while they try to rewrite history this way,” he said. “There are things beyond diplomacy, the ambassador [to Poland] should have been returned weeks ago. We should have looked them in the eye and said we will not tolerate this. The core idea of a Jewish state is that we don’t have to tolerate this behavior.”

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Lapid has been perhaps the most vocal critic of the law in Israel, though it has been condemned across the political spectrum. In January, as the law was coming to a vote, he tweeted, “I utterly condemn the new Polish law which tries to deny Polish complicity in the Holocaust. It was conceived in Germany but hundreds of thousands of Jews were murdered without ever meeting a German soldier. There were Polish death camps and no law can ever change that.”

The Polish Embassy in Tel Aviv shot back, “Your unsupportable claims show how badly Holocaust education is needed, even here in Israel.”

Lapid replied, “I am a son of a Holocaust survivor. My grandmother was murdered in Poland by Germans and Poles. I don’t need Holocaust education from you. We live with the consequences every day in our collective memory. Your embassy should offer an immediate apology.”

This past weekend, the Polish prime minister further exacerbated the situation by claiming there were also “Jewish perpetrators of the Holocaust.”

Lapid responded, “The Polish prime minister’s statement was antisemitism of the bad old kind. The criminals are not the victims and the State of Israel will not allow the murdered to be blamed for their own deaths.”

He also called on Israel to recall its ambassador to Poland in response.

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