Polish Senate backs controversial Holocaust law


On Thursday, the Polish senate voted to approve a bill that prohibits certain speech alleging Poland was complicit in crimes committed by Nazi Germany during the Holocaust.

European Council President Donald Tusk, a former Polish Prime Minister, said the legislation would have the opposite of its intended effect, damaging Poland's reputation overseas and tarnishing the view of history that it aimed to criminalize.

Poland's Senate has backed legislation regulating Holocaust speech that has sparked a diplomatic dispute with Israel and calls from the United States for a reconsideration of a bill seen as threatening freedom of speech.

"It is stunning that Senators chose to vote without making any effort to allow for dialogue between the Polish and Israeli governments, or to consider the damage this measure may well cause to relations with the USA and world Jewry", said Markiewicz.

Israel's Foreign Ministry said Israel "opposes categorically" the vote by Poland's senators.

His statement comes amid escalating tensions with Israel following Poland's passing of the Holocaust Bill.

Israel's leaders accused Poland yesterday of trying to rewrite history and the government was urged to recall its ambassador from Warsaw.

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A Polish progressive Judaism group has voiced opposition to Poland's drafted bill that would criminalize certain phrases regarding Poland's role in the Holocaust.

Israel's parliament members are also reportedly considering retaliatory measures, making the denial of the Holocaust, or of those who aided the Nazis as punishable by a jail term. To become law, it needs only the signature of President Andrzej Duda.

Poland was occupied by Nazi Germany during World War II.

In another case, a Polish state radio commentator, Piotr Nisztor, suggested that Poles who support the Israeli position should consider relinquishing their citizenship. It bans, among other things, the ideology associated with Ukrainian war criminal and Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera who killed thousands of Poles together with his associates in Volhynia. If enacted, phrases like "Polish death camp" would be illegal, and penalties for violations could include fines and up to a three years in prison. And on another talk show Saturday on Polish state TV, anti-Semitic messages posted by viewers on Twitter were shown at the bottom of the screen as one participant said that a Jewish guest was "not really Polish".

Before the Senate's vote, the US asked Poland to rethink the proposed legislation, saying it could "undermine free speech and academic discourse" and affect ties with the USA and Israel. "The present drafting of the Act has the real danger of inhibiting discussion, investigation and commemoration of the tragic events that took place on Polish soil". "We believe open debate, scholarship, and education are the best means of countering inaccurate and hurtful speech".

The office of Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki had earlier said it was forming a team "to continue historical dialogue" with Israel. The Yad Vashem memorial also said that there were instances where Polish citizens helped the Germans.