Israeli lawmakers blast Poland’s ‘Holocaust denial’ law

Knesset members respond by joining forces to propose a new Israeli law that would make Holocaust denial a criminal offense.

By: Margot Dudkevitch, World Israel News

Israeli Knesset members across the political spectrum, blasted a bill passed by the Polish Senate that calls to outlaw talk of Poland’s complicity in Nazi crimes, calling the move an attempt to deny the Holocaust. In response, some 61 Knesset members from the coalition and opposition, outlined new legislation that would make denying the Holocaust or diminishing the role of Nazi collaborators a criminal offense under Israeli law.

The Polish law, whic  still needs the final seal of approval from the Polish President Andrzej Duda, who himself said he was surprised at Israel’s angry response, would make using the phrase “Polish death camps,” or saying the Polish people were culpable for the Nazis’ crimes against humanity, an offense that carries a three year sentence.

“The Polish attempts to rewrite history and to shut Holocaust survivors’ mouths is audacious, shocking and despicable. We will not allow the collaborators to hide behind the Nazis and deny their historic responsibility,” the Jerusalem Post quoted Knesset member Itzik Shmuly of the Zionist Union, one of the co-sponsors of the new law, as saying.

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Knesset member Robert Ilatov of the Yisrael Beitenu Party said Israel has the moral responsibility to commemorate the bravery of the Holocaust survivors and will not allow anyone to whitewash or cover up what occurred during the Holocaust. “We won’t let anyone rewrite history,” he declared.

MK Yair Lapid of the Yesh Atid Party said the Israeli law emphasized the need to act against Holocaust denial. “We cannot forget, not the Nazis and not those who cooperated with them,” the Jewish Press quoted him as saying. “This is our commitment to the memory of the millions who perished. The world needs to know – the Jews are not willing to remain silent and are not afraid anymore,” Lapid said.

However objections to the proposed Israeli legislature came from an unexpected source, with Nazi hunter Dr. Efraim Zuroff, the director of the Simon Wiesenthal’s Jerusalem office saying he did not think it was the right way for Israel to deal with the problem.

The distortion of the Holocaust has been a problem for more than 25 years he said, adding Israel has done little to combat it. Instead, Zuroff said he believes it would be far more effective for Israel to influence post-Soviet countries, many of whom have defense ties with Israel, and try and persuade their governments that such behavior is unacceptable he said.

“They love Israel but hate the Jews,” the Post quoted him as saying.

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A statement released by Yad Vashem, the Israel Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem said while it opposes the bill passed by the Polish Senate, which could lead to the blurring of historical truths, it should be noted that referring to the extermination camps the Nazis built in Poland as “Polish camps,” is a “historical misrepresentation.”

David Harris, the chief executive officer of the American Jewish Committee also issued a statement urging the Polish leaders and lawmakers to “withdraw the legislation and focus on education, not criminalization of inaccurate and harmful speech.”