Israel May Cancel Joint Declaration With Poland Amid Fury Over Holocaust Property Law: Report
The Israeli government is considering the cancellation of a 2018 joint declaration with Poland that ended a dispute between the two countries, following the passage of a law that effectively closes off the property restitution claims of Holocaust survivors.
The agreement, struck three years ago between Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Marowiecki and former Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu, was designed to bury the row between Jerusalem and Warsaw over a separate law that allows for the prosecution of historians and others examining collaboration between Polish civilians and the occupying Nazi authorities in the extermination of Poland’s Jewish population of three million.
The statement was deeply controversial in Israel at the time, with current Prime Minister Naftali Bennett — who was then Minister of Education — among the voices condemning the joint declaration as lacking “factual and historical validity.”
According to the Israeli news outlet Ynet on Sunday, an unnamed government source said the declaration could be canceled as a result of Israeli fury over the passage of the law by senators in the upper house of the Sejm, Poland’s parliament, at the end of last week. The legislation was passed by a large majority of the lower house at the end of June.
The source said that the new legislation would “severely damage our relations with Poland.”
The source continued: “Poland knows very well what is the right and proper thing to do.”
The law as passed by the Senate now includes includes two minor amendments that were not part of the original draft bill. First, an extension of three months was approved for submitting requests before the law comes into effect, and second, the new law will not apply to existing claims and ongoing cases.
The Senate’s vote in favor of the bill was roundly condemned by Jewish organizations as well as the Israeli government.
“The Senate has completely foreclosed the possibility for rightful owners – many of whom have had cases pending for years – to recover their property,” Gideon Taylor, chair of operations for the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO), said in a statement.
“Instead of backsliding, we would encourage Poland to once and for all settle the issue of private property by adopting comprehensive restitution legislation,” Taylor added. “As the remaining Holocaust survivors get older, they deserve a measure of justice in their lifetime.”
A statement from the Washington, DC-based B’nai B’rith “strongly condemned” the legislation.
“The law, which places a statute of limitations on claims for restitution of property, is immoral and a further injustice for Holocaust survivors and their families who have waited years to reclaim property that was stolen from them,” the statement said, noting as well that “currently, Poland is also the only EU country that has no law on restitution or compensation for property stolen during the Holocaust.”