WARSAW, Poland – After Polish nationalists failed in their efforts to prevent a ceremonial session of the Knesset in the Polish city of Krakow on Monday, right-wing groups have launched a campaign aimed at convincing Poles that the event would infringe on Poland’s constitutional framework and even compromise its sovereignty.
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The hostile campaign is being waged primarily on youth-oriented websites, after serious newspapers in the country turned down requests to support the effort. The Knesset session coincides with International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
“The [Knesset session] is aimed solely to serve historic Jewish policy to which Polish authorities are conferring their stamp of credibility,” a message posted by campaigners on a website said.
Six members of the Polish Senate and 26 members of Poland’s lower house, the Sejm, along with its speaker, Ewa Kopacz, are scheduled to take part in the session, together with visiting from Greece, the Czech Republic, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Lithuania and Estonia. The session’s official theme is “Remembering the past, looking to the future.”
The Polish parliament is handling arrangements for the session. It will be held at an as-yet-unnamed Krakow hotel and will be followed by a larger ceremony at the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp, nearby. The Knesset session was initially planned for the camp, but the venue was changed due to the large number of other commemorative events there that day, the 69th anniversary of the liberation of the camp by the Soviet army. The event is affiliated with the Israeli nonprofit organization From the Depths, which is involved in Holocaust commemoration efforts.
The Polish parliament decided on January 9 to officially sponsor the event in Krakow. Several days later, Prof. Michal Bilewicz, the director of the Center for Research on Prejudice at the University of Warsaw, submitted a report to parliament regarding the scope of anti-Semitism in the country. His research suggests that even though there has been a significant revival of Jewish religious and cultural life in the country over the past decade, there has been no decline in traditional anti-Semitism.
In a comment about the upcoming Knesset session in her country, a parliament member for the opposition nationalist Law and Justice party, Dorota Arciszewska-Mielewczyk, stated, for example, that the Israeli parliament represented Jews all over the world, including Polish citizens. For his part, Bilewcz said that there is a confluence of such a view and the belief among some Poles regarding alleged international Jewish control, particularly in banking and the media.
“The Knesset members’ visit to Krakow makes sense,” Arciszewska-Mielewczyk told journalists, “only if they finally officially condemn the use of the term ‘Polish death camps.’” Her reference was the use of the term among some American Jews, as well as its appearance at times in the European and American press. Many Poles find the term offensive because although the death camps were on Polish soil, they were established by Nazi Germany. The use of the term has been seen as an obstacle to improved Polish-Jewish relations.