Polish Senate debates Holocaust bill that has angered Israel
WARSAW, Poland — The Polish Senate on Wednesday began debating a law regulating Holocaust speech that has sparked a diplomatic dispute with Israel.
Senate speaker Stanislaw Karczewski said he expected the upper house to vote late Wednesday, putting the controversial bill a step closer to becoming law. It must still be signed into law by the president, who supports it.
Poland’s conservative ruling Law and Justice party authored the bill, which foresees up to three years of prison for any intentional attempt to falsely attribute the crimes of Nazi Germany to the Polish state or people.
Law and Justice says it is fighting against phrases like “Polish death camps” to refer to death camps operated by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland during World War II.
Israel, however, sees the move an attempt to whitewash the role some Poles played in the killing of Jews during World War II.
The dispute, which erupted over the weekend, has elicited bitter recriminations on both sides. Some Israelis have accused the mostly Catholic Poles of being driven by anti-Semitism and of trying to deny the Holocaust. Poles believe that they are being defamed by being linked to German crimes of which they were one of the largest group of victims.
Amid the dispute some Polish commentators, including in government-controlled media, have made strong anti-Jewish remarks.
On Wednesday, a U.S. Congressional taskforce on combatting anti-Semitism said it was “alarmed” by the legislation and called on Polish President Andrzej Duda to veto it.
“We are deeply concerned that this legislation could have a chilling effect on dialogue, scholarship, and accountability in Poland about the Holocaust, should this legislation become law,” the bipartisan group said.
The lower house of the Polish parliament approved the bill on Friday, a day before International Holocaust Remembrance Day, timing that has also been criticized as insensitive.