Polish PM to Netanyahu: Israel Has Laws Criminalizing Lies About History Too

He was apparently referring to Israel's 1968 law prohibiting denial of the Holocaust, the violation of which constitutes a five-year prison sentence

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki at the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium on January 9, 2018.
\ FRANCOIS LENOIR/REUTERS

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Monday that Israel also has laws that criminalize lies about history. The two leaders talked after a storm broke out in Israel over the approval of a law in Poland prohibiting discussion about the role of "Polish people" in Nazi crimes.

Polish TV channel TVN reported Monday night that Moravitzky told Netanyahu: "Israeli law also has similar solutions to those who deny or underestimate the severity of the crimes committed against the Jewish nation."

>> Poland doubles down: Poland has a right to fight historical lies, just as Jews combat anti-Semitism <<

Apparently, he meant Israel's law prohibiting denial of the Holocaust passed by the Knesset in 1986, which imposes a five-year prison term on anyone who denies or underestimates "the acts committed during the period of the Nazi regime."

According to the report, Netanyahu agreed with Morawiecki that the phrase "Polish concentration camps," now criminalized by the law, is "offensive and wrong." No further details were reported by Netanyahu, but both agreed that work teams from both countries would begin an immediate dialogue in order to reach an understanding on the Polish law's wording.

>> Polish president seeks to reassure Israel: Those who share 'personal' Holocaust memories won't be punished

Meanwhile, Israel's Ambassador to Poland Anna Azri met with Krzysztof Szczerski, the deputy minister of foreign affairs on Monday, and emphasized Israel's concern about the violations of freedom of expression and restrictions on discourse surrounding the victims of the Holocaust in Poland. 

The Polish minister expressed Poland's interests in preventing the Polish people and state from being guilty of crimes committed by the Nazis. 

Azri told the Polish media later Monday that "I am sad the debate is a victory for the Nazi ideology, which wanted to bring about war between different nations." However, she added "I am optimistic, and I believe that Poles and Jews will find the right way to deal with the truth."

Poland doubled down on its position this week, saying that the proposed Holocaust law, which raised a furor in Israel over the weekend, is legitimate and required in order to protect Poland’s reputation in the face of lies about the country’s past.

Morawiecki posted a parable on his Twitter account, which in his view shows how Poland is being wronged by anyone who claims it played a part in the Holocaust: “A gang of professional thugs enters a two-family house. They kill the first family almost entirely. They kill the parents of the second, torturing the kids. They loot and raze the house.”

The criminals, according to Morawiecki, are the Nazis. The building is Poland and the two families are the two peoples, the Poles and the Jews, who lived in Poland side by side. The first family, which was almost entirely killed, are the Jews. The second family, part of which was killed and part of which was tortured, are the Poles.

Morawiecki then asked: “Could one, in good conscience, say that the second family is guilty for the murder of the first?” In other words, can one argue that the Poles, who were themselves murdered and tortured by the Nazis, were responsible for the murder of Jews?

In a speech, he said Poland was a victim too: "Camps were built in the then non-existent Nation of Poland by the Germans, by the Nazis, who together with Soviet Russia attacked Poland, tore it apart it and destroyed it!"

He emphasized it is the Poles' "right as a nation, just as it is the right of the Jews is to combat anti-Semitism," to clarify the role Poland played in the tragic events: "There was no systematic support, from the Polish side, for the Holocaust, only the fight against it." He then called on the international community to acknowledge this "basic truth."