Israel takes diplomatic action against Poland after bill limiting restitution of property lost in Holocaust signed into law

August 15, 2021 by Aryeh Savir - TPS
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Israel’s leadership has taken significant diplomatic action and has issued harsh condemnations against Poland after a law limiting the ability of Holocaust survivors and descendants of Holocaust victims to reclaim their property passed through the final stage of legislation.

Andrzej Duda speaks in the town of Lubartów during the 2015 Polish presidential election campaign, March 31, 2015. Credit: Radosław Czarnecki via Wikimedia Commons

The Polish Holocaust Restitution Law sets a 30-year deadline for Jews to recover property seized by Nazi Germany in Poland, essentially preventing any Holocaust-era compensation claims or appeals of past decisions.

The law severely restricts the process for Holocaust survivors and their families, as well as other Jewish and non-Jewish property owners, to obtain restitution for property confiscated during Poland’s communist era.

After being passed by the Polish legislators, Polish President Andrzej Duda signed it into law on Saturday.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett stated Saturday night that “Israel views with utmost gravity approval of the law that prevents Jews from receiving compensation for property that was stolen from them during the Holocaust, and regrets the fact that Poland has chosen to continue harming those who have lost everything.”

“This is a shameful decision and disgraceful contempt for the memory of the Holocaust,” and “this is a grave step that Israel cannot remain indifferent to,” he added.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said that “Poland approved – not for the first time – an immoral, anti-Semitic law.”

“Poland has become an anti-democratic and illiberal country that does not honour the greatest tragedy in human history. We must never remain silent. Israel and the Jewish people will certainly not remain silent,” he declared. ​​

He instructed Israel’s charge d’affaires in Warsaw to return immediately to Israel for consultations, “for an indefinite period of time.” The new Israeli ambassador to Poland, who was scheduled to depart to Warsaw, will remain in Israel for the time being.

Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs recommended that the Polish Ambassador to Israel, who is on vacation in Poland, remain in his country.

His time there “should be used to explain to the people of Poland the meaning of the Holocaust to the citizens of Israel, and the extent to which we will refuse to tolerate any contempt for the memory of the Holocaust and its victims,” the Foreign Ministry stated.

“It will not end here,” Lapid threatened.

“We are holding discussions with the Americans to coordinate our future response,” he said. The US may take similar diplomatic action against Poland.

Paweł Jabłoński, Polish Undersecretary of State, rejected Lapid statements as “an ill-motivated attempt to gain domestic political support, detached from reality and the nature of the law itself.”

Poland “strongly condemns instrumental exploitation of the tragedy of millions of Jews during WWII in the current political discourse, as well as malevolent attacks against our country,” he added.

Israel’s response means a temporary lowering of the level of diplomatic relations with Poland, a very sharp reaction.

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