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April 23, 2018 9:00 am

Shmuley Boteach’s Blatant Hypocrisy on Qatar and Poland

avatar by Mark Levenson and Elizabeth Berney

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Rabbi Shmuely Boteach with Elie Wiesel.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach has once again displayed mind-boggling hypocrisy.

Boteach went to Poland and met with and lavished praise on Poland’s prime minister, who recently signed a despicable law that criminalizes speaking about Poles’ complicity in the Holocaust, which Israel rightly condemned. In doing so, Boteach quite possibly harmed Israeli and others efforts to overturn this law.

Meanwhile, Boteach has continued to attack American Jewish leaders who fought for Israel in meetings with Qatari officials.  

Last month, we pointed out a glaring contradiction: On the one hand, Boteach wrote numerous articles, tweets, and advertisements wrongly condemning top pro-Israel American leaders for meeting with Qatari officials, even though these officials were simply asking Qatar to improve its policies toward Israel and the Jewish people.  

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On the other hand, Boteach hypocritically gave his organization’s award “for combating terrorism and those who finance it” to US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who met with and praised Qatari officials for “ensuring that Qatar is a hostile environment for terrorist financing.” (See “Can’t Have It Both Ways When It Comes to Qatar by Mark Levenson, JNS, March 15, 2018.)

Since then, Boteach has penned even more articles wrongly attacking pro-Israel leaders’ meetings with Qatari officials. Meanwhile, Boteach dined with Poland’s prime minister after he signed the Holocaust law. Boteach then published several articles legitimizing Poland’s treatment of its Jews and praising the prime minister.

Boteach’s post-meeting articles heaped irrelevant, cloying praise on the Polish PM. Boteach called him “warm, highly intelligent, and scholarly,” “a father of four who is always impeccably dressed and endlessly courteous,” who “evinces an earthiness and accessibility that is immediately endearing,” and “listens carefully and is deeply thoughtful in his responses.”  

Why in the world does how well someone dresses, how many children he has, or how “earthy” he is matter when that person criminalizes appropriate, legitimate, and factual speech about the Holocaust?

Boteach further praised Poland as a land where Jews “thrived and flourished” as well as suffered.

He also opined that the Poles were “most definitely not” responsible for the Holocaust and “any equation of Poles and Nazis is a historical abomination.”  

Yet both of Boteach’s conclusions ignore and absolve the Poles of complicity, and help to excuse and legitimize Poland’s law criminalizing free speech on the subject.

In fact, the highest percentage and the largest numbers of Jews murdered in World War II were murdered in Poland — more than in any other nation, even Germany. Over 90% of Poland’s 3.2 million Jews were killed. This overwhelming genocide of Poland’s Jewry required widespread collaboration and complicity.  

Countless Poles robbed, denounced, and helped the Nazis imprison and kill their Jewish neighbors. Poles meted out more horrors to the few poor, starving, emaciated, and impoverished Jews who, having nowhere else to turn, actually had the temerity to try to return to their pre-war homes after having miraculously survived the Shoah.

The 6,700 brave Polish righteous gentiles honored by Yad Vashem, whom all deserve our eternal and everlasting thanks, appreciation, and gratitude, are sadly a drop in the bucket compared to those who acted atrociously. In nations that really acted morally — Denmark is the prime example — the entire nation came together to save their Jewish neighbors.

Moreover, while Germany attempted to acknowledge and make some amends for the horrors that the Nazi regime inflicted on the Jewish people, including by the restitution Jewish property, Poland has still refused to engage in such a reckoning for its people’s crimes. 

A recent detailed article on the virtual impossibility of obtaining restitution of Jewish private property in Poland noted, “Unlike almost every other country in Central and Eastern Europe, Poland has never established a comprehensive restitution regime for private property.”  

Poland’s new law continues its 75-year refusal to reckon with — much less atone for — its past.

The Israeli government and Israeli officials adamantly condemned Poland’s Holocaust law and even considered recalling Israel’s ambassador from Poland.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry officially rebuked Poland’s deputy ambassador to Israel regarding the law. In an exchange with the Polish embassy, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid wrote,

I strongly condemn the new law that was passed in Poland, which attempts to deny the involvement of many Polish citizens in the Holocaust. 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.

So why did Boteach ignore Israel and its officials’ views when he ran to Poland? By contrast, Boteach loudly proclaimed that because the Israeli embassy opposed Qatar, American pro-Israel leaders should not have met with the Qataris. Why did Boteach fail to apply the same standard to himself?

And why did Boteach make numerous comments that could be seen as helping to legitimize Poland’s Holocaust-era actions and the prime minister who signed the repressive law, when Israel is definitively opposed to this law?

Boteach has also not disclosed whether he was paid to go to Poland or, if so, who paid for the trip. Nor has Boteach disclosed whether the board of his organization approved it.

However, he falsely claimed that the boards of the relevant Jewish organizations did not approve their leaders’ meetings with Qatari officials. In fact, the Zionist Organization of America’s board of directors executive committee unanimously approved ZOA President Morton Klein’s meeting with Qatari officials.

Boteach also falsely claimed that all the Jewish leaders whom he criticized for meeting with Qatari officials were not democratically elected by the organizations they represent. In fact, ZOA’s membership democratically elected President Morton Klein over the incumbent president in a highly contested election in 1993 and has reelected Mr. Klein numerous times since then.

Moreover, Boteach belittled dedicated Jewish leaders’ efforts in Qatar and ZOA President Morton Klein’s significant accomplishments stemming from those meetings. Yet it appears that to date Boteach accomplished nothing in Poland and quite possibly harmed efforts to rescind Poland’s despicable law. Nor, as far as we know, has any democratic organization elected Shmuley Boteach to represent them and the Jewish people in Poland or anywhere else.

It’s time for Boteach to publicly apologize to the pro-Israel leaders whom he unfairly criticized and to reconsider his own activities, especially in regard to Poland’s shameful Holocaust law.

Mark Levenson, Esq. is national secretary and a member of the Executive Committee of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) and has long advocated for the State of Israel and played an important role in passage of New Jersey anti-BDS legislation. Elizabeth Berney, Esq. is the ZOA’s Director of Special Projects.

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