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Posts tagged ‘Patient Land of Poland’

Ukraine deports opposition leader Saakashvili to Poland

February 12, 2018

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Opposition leader Mikheil Saakashvili was deported from Ukraine to Poland on Monday after being detained by armed, masked men at a restaurant in Kiev and rushed to the airport, Ukrainian officials and his supporters said.

Ukraine’s border guard agency had to use force to counter Saakashvili’s supporters at the Kiev airport, Oleh Slobodyan, a spokesman for the agency, said on Facebook. He confirmed the deportation of the former Georgian president-turned-Ukrainian opposition leader, citing rulings by Ukrainian courts that said Saakashvili was staying in the country illegally.

Saakashvili called the move “a kidnapping.” Saakashvili was stripped of Ukrainian citizenship while he was abroad last year, but he forced his way back into the country from Poland in September. Since then, he has led repeated protests against Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and the official corruption that still plagues the country.

Poland’s border guards said on the agency’s website that Saakashvili was admitted to Polish territory Monday at the request of Ukrainian immigration authorities. He was permitted into Poland as the spouse of a European Union citizen, the Polish guards said. Saakashvili’s wife is Dutch, and both the Netherlands and Poland are EU nations.

Upon his arrival in Poland, Saakashvili said his deportation showed Poroshenko’s weakness. He denounced the Ukrainian president as a “sneaky speculator who wants to destroy Ukraine” in a Facebook statement.

Saakashvili, Georgia’s president from 2004-13, came to Ukraine after his presidency ended as an ally of Poroshenko, who appointed him governor of the southern Odessa region. He resigned from that post in 2016 and harshly criticized Poroshenko for failing to stem corruption.

“I was very nicely met by Polish side, and Ukrainian side was absolutely outrageous, total lawlessness — it was a kidnapping, illegal one. But Poles are very good and I am very grateful,” Saakashvili told Polish Radio RMF FM as he left Warsaw Airport.

Vanessa Gera and Monika Scislowska in Warsaw, Poland, contributed to this report.

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Polish Senate backs controversial Holocaust speech law

February 01, 2018

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland’s Senate has backed legislation that will regulate Holocaust speech, a move that has already strained relations with both Israel and the United States. The bill proposed by Poland’s ruling conservative Law and Justice party and voted for early Thursday could see individuals facing up to three years in prison for intentionally attempting to falsely attribute the crimes of Nazi Germany to the Polish nation as a whole. It was approved by the lower house last week.

Though the bill exempts artistic and research work, it has raised concerns that the Polish state will decide itself what it considers to be historic facts. The bill has already sparked a diplomatic dispute with Israel and drawn calls from the United States for a reconsideration.

Senators voted 57 to 23 in favor of the bill with two abstentions. To become law, the bill requires approval from President Andrzej Duda, who supports it. Poland’s government says it is fighting against the use of phrases like “Polish death camps” to refer to death camps operated by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland during World War II. Poland was among the hardest-hit victims of Nazi Germany and is preserving Holocaust memorials.

Expressing surprise at the storm the legislation has unleashed, the Polish government said it was to issue an explanatory statement later Thursday. Though Deputy Justice Minister Patryk Jaki suggested Israel had been consulted on the bill and voiced no objections, many in Israel have argued that the move is an attempt to whitewash the role some Poles played in the killing of Jews during World War II.

Halina Birenbaum, a Holocaust survivor and acclaimed Israeli author, called the new law “madness,” telling Israel’s Army Radio it was “ludicrous and disproportionate to what actually happened to Jews there.”

Birenbaum, a member of the International Auschwitz Committee, said she was concerned the Polish government “might arrest me there for what I’m saying now.” And Israeli Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz said the law constituted “a denial of Poland’s part in the Holocaust of the Jews.” He called on Netanyahu to immediately recall Israel’s ambassador to Poland for consultation.

“In the balance between diplomatic considerations and moral considerations, there must be a clear decision: perpetuating the memory of the victims of the Holocaust above any other consideration.” Working groups in Poland and Israel are to start discussing the issue this week, although it was not clear what effect it could have on the bill.

Just hours before the Senate’s vote, the U.S. asked Poland to rethink the proposed legislation saying it could “undermine free speech and academic discourse.” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert voiced concern about the “repercussions this draft legislation, if enacted, could have on Poland’s strategic interests and relationships — including with the United States and Israel.”

Poland’s Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Gowin said the government will take every effort to “minimize the losses” stemming from the storm over the bill. “Having been entangled into a big international conflict, without any such intention on our part, we decided that the basic goal is to defend the good name of Poland and (so the Senate) approved the bill,” Gowin said on TVN24. “We acted in good faith.”

Israel’s Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem, issued a statement saying it was “most unfortunate” that Poland was proceeding with a law “liable to blur historical truths” that “jeopardized the free and open discussion of the part of the Polish people in the persecution of the Jews at the time.”

Ilan Ben Zion in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

Israeli criticism sparks anti-Jewish remarks in Polish media

January 30, 2018

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A diplomatic dispute between Poland and Israel over pending legislation that would outlaw blaming Poland for the crimes of the Holocaust has led to an outburst of anti-Semitic comments in Poland, including some in the government-controlled media.

Poland’s lower house of parliament gave its approval Friday to the bill, which calls for penalties of up to three years in prison for anyone who “publicly and against the facts” accuses the Polish people of crimes committed by Nazi Germany during World War II.

Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party says the law is meant to fight expressions like “Polish death camps,” to refer to the wartime camps that Nazi Germany operated in occupied Poland. Poles were among those imprisoned, tortured and killed in the camps, and many today feel Poles are being unfairly depicted as perpetrators of the Holocaust.

As part of the same effort, the government launched a website on Tuesday in Polish, German and English with documentary evidence that death camps like Auschwitz were built and operated by Nazi Germany, a historically accurate account.

Germany occupied Poland in 1939, annexing part of it to Germany and directly governing the rest. Unlike other countries occupied by Germany at the time, there was no collaborationist government in Poland. The prewar Polish government and military fled into exile, except for an underground resistance army that fought the Nazis inside the country.

The Israeli government in the past has supported the campaign against the phrase “Polish death camps,” but it has strongly criticized the new legislation, which still must be approved by the Senate and President Andrzej Duda, who both support it.

Israel, along with several international Holocaust organizations and many critics in Poland, argues that the law could have a chilling effect on debating history, harming freedom of expression and leading to a whitewashing of Poland’s wartime history, which also includes episodes of Poles killing Jews or denouncing them to the Germans.

Polish Holocaust and World War II scholars, as well as international organizations including Yad Vashem, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Wiesenthal Center, are among groups who have criticized the law. Critics have said they fear the law could lead to self-censorship in academia and that the legislation — which also mentions “other crimes against peace and humanity” — is so broad that it could be used to fight any form of criticism against Poland by authorities already accused of eroding democratic standards.

In a sign of the sensitivities on both sides, Yair Lapid, head of Israel’s centrist Yesh Atid party and the son of a Holocaust survivor, insisted in a heated Twitter exchange with the Polish Embassy that “there were Polish death camps and no law can ever change that.” An Israeli journalist, Lahav Harkov, also wrote a tweet that consisted only of the phrase “Polish death camps” repeated 14 times.

Such Israeli remarks offended many in Poland, including many who oppose the law and any expressions of anti-Semitism in Poland. Far-right groups have called for a demonstration Wednesday in front of the Israeli Embassy in Warsaw to protest the “anti-Polish” sentiment they say is being propagated by Israel and some media.

And there has been an eruption of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish comments online and in the media, including in state media, which is tightly controlled by the right-wing ruling Law and Justice party. The director of the state-run television station TVP 2, Marcin Wolski, even went so far as to say Monday on air that the Nazi death camps should actually be called Jewish. “Who managed the crematoria there?” he asked — a reference to the fact that death camp prisoners, usually Jews, were forced to help dispose of gas chamber victims.

Wolski was joined on his show by a right-wing commentator, Rafal Ziemkiewicz, who only a day earlier had used an extremely derogatory term to refer to Jews on Twitter. The comment was later removed. 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.” The state TV director later apologized for the messages, blaming a technical glitch that caused them to go onto the screen unedited.

In another case, a Polish state radio commentator, Piotr Nisztor, suggested that Poles who support the Israeli position should consider relinquishing their citizenship. “If somebody acts as a spokesman for Israeli interests, maybe they should think about giving up their Polish citizenship and accepting Israeli citizenship,” Nisztor said in a comment carried on the radio’s official Twitter account.

Some commentators in Poland, however, expressed dismay, saying it reminded them of an official state-sponsored anti-Semitic campaign carried out by Communist authorities in 1968. “There has been a lot of hate speech against refugees and Muslims over the past two years in state media, but anti-Semitism was so far rare,” said Rafal Pankowski, who monitors anti-Semitism and other forms of extremism as head of the Never Again association. “But in the last couple of days it seems the floodgates have opened.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki agreed after speaking by phone Sunday night to try to resolve differences over the legislation by convening a group of history experts, though it was unclear how effective that will be given the strong support for the bill by the ruling Law and Justice party.

Before the outbreak of World War II, Jews had lived in Poland for centuries, thriving in some eras and even becoming the world’s largest Jewish population at one point. But anti-Semitism in the decades before the war had grown virulent, driving many Polish Jews to emigrate.

Relations between Jews and Poles had seen efforts of reconciliation since the fall of communism, but some fear the current controversy has set that back. Agnieszka Markiewicz, Central Europe director for AJC, a Jewish global advocacy group, called the language on state media “shocking.”

“It is hard to imagine that there is actually space in the Polish public sphere for such anti-Semitic language and discourse,” she told The Associated Press. “It’s unacceptable, I believe, not only for Polish Jews, but also for millions of Poles who know World War II history.”

Israel says Poland agrees to talks in WWII legislation spat

January 29, 2018

JERUSALEM (AP) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday night that Israel and Poland have agreed to hold talks seeking to resolve the uproar over proposed Polish legislation that would outlaw blaming Poland for any crimes committed during the Holocaust.

Earlier, Israel’s Foreign Ministry had summoned a Polish envoy to express its displeasure at the bill. But Polish officials dug in their heels, saying the measure was being misinterpreted and its wording would not be changed.

Netanyahu then spoke by phone with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki late Sunday. “The two agreed that teams from the two countries would open an immediate dialogue in order to try to reach understandings regarding the legislation,” Netanyahu’s office said in a statement.

The prime minister said at his weekly Cabinet meeting earlier Sunday that Israel has “no tolerance for the distortion of the truth, the rewriting of history and the denial of the Holocaust.” The lower house of the Polish parliament’s bill calls for prison time for referring to “Polish death camps” and criminalizes the mention of Polish complicity.

The bill still needs approval from Poland’s Senate and president. Still, it marks a dramatic step by the nationalist government to enforce its official stance that the vast majority in Poland — a country that was terrorized by Nazi Germany’s occupation — acted heroically under those conditions. Historians say many Poles collaborated with the Nazis and committed heinous crimes.

The bill has sparked outrage in Israel and suddenly raised tensions with a close European ally. Israel declared independence in 1948 in the wake of the Holocaust and is home to the world’s largest community of Holocaust survivors.

On Sunday, the Foreign Ministry summoned Poland’s deputy ambassador, Piotr Kozlowski, to express Israel’s opposition to the bill. It called the timing of the bill, passed on the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, “particularly surprising and unfortunate” and said it expected the draft to be amended before final approval.

“The legislation will not help further the exposure of historical truth and may harm freedom of research, as well as prevent discussion of the historical message and legacy of World War II,” a ministry statement said.

Speaking to reporters after his meeting, Kozlowski said the intent of the legislation is not to “whitewash” history. It is already a crime in Poland to deny that the Holocaust happened. “It is to safeguard it, to safeguard the truth about the Holocaust and to prevent its distortion,” he said of the proposed legislation.

Polish authorities insisted they would not give in to the Israeli demands. “We will not change any provisions in the bill,” said Beata Mazurek, spokeswoman for the ruling conservative-nationalist Law and Justice party, “We have had enough of Poland and Poles being blamed for German crimes.”

Mark Weitzman, the director of government affairs for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a U.S.-based group that battles anti-Semitism, called the law “an obscene whitewashing” of history. He said its wording could be used against Holocaust survivors talking about their personal experiences as well as researchers, teachers or anyone else documenting the Holocaust.

He urged Poland to “immediately terminate this law and put an end to all attempts to distort the history of the Holocaust for political purposes.” The Polish prime minister on Sunday night compared Poles and Jews to two families who lived in the same house — Poland — before the war and were both victimized by the Nazis.

In a post on Twitter, Morawiecki said: “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. Could one, in good conscience, say that the second family is guilty for the murder of the first?”

Associated Press writer Vanessa Gera in Warsaw contributed to this report.

Israel slams bill to outlaw blaming Poles for crimes of WWII

January 28, 2018

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli leaders angrily criticized pending legislation in Poland that would outlaw blaming Poles for the crimes of the Holocaust, with some accusing the Polish government of outright denial Saturday as the world marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the proposed law “baseless” and ordered his country’s ambassador to Poland to meet with Polish leaders to express his strong opposition. “One cannot change history, and the Holocaust cannot be denied,” he said.

The lower house of the Polish parliament on Friday passed the bill, which prescribes prison time for using phrases such as “Polish death camps” to refer to the killing sites Nazi Germany operated in occupied Poland during World War II.

Many Poles fear such phrasing makes some people incorrectly conclude that Poles had a role in running the camps. But critics say the legislation could have a chilling effect on debating history, harming freedom of expression and opening a window to Holocaust denial.

The bill still needs approval from Poland’s Senate and president. However, it marks a dramatic step by the country’s current nationalist government to target anyone who tries to undermine its official stance that Poles only were heroes during the war, not Nazi collaborators who committed heinous crimes.

Netanyahu’s government generally has had good relations with Poland, which has been recently voting with Israel in international organizations. At Auschwitz on Saturday evening, Israel’s ambassador to Poland, Anna Azari, abandoned a prepared speech to criticize the bill, saying that “everyone in Israel was revolted at this news.”

In Israel, which was established three years after the Holocaust and is home to the world’s largest community of survivors, the legislation provoked outrage. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, noting that exactly 73 years had passed since the Auschwitz death camp on Polish soil was liberated, cited the words of a former Polish president about how history could not be faked and the truth could not be hidden.

“The Jewish people, the State of Israel, and the entire world must ensure that the Holocaust is recognized for its horrors and atrocities,” Rivlin said. “Also among the Polish people, there were those who aided the Nazis in their crimes. Every crime, every offense, must be condemned. They must be examined and revealed.”

Today’s Poles have been raised on stories of their people’s wartime suffering and heroism. Many react viscerally when confronted with the growing body of scholarship about Polish involvement in the killing of Jews.

In a sign of the sensitivities on both sides, Yair Lapid, head of Israel’s centrist Yesh Atid party and the son of a survivor, got into a heated Twitter spat Saturday with the Polish Embassy in Israel.

“I utterly condemn the new Polish law which tries to deny Polish complicity in the Holocaust. It was conceived in Germany but hundreds of thousands of Jews were murdered without ever meeting a German soldier. There were Polish death camps and no law can ever change that,” Lapid wrote.

That sparked the Embassy to respond: “Your unsupportable claims show how badly Holocaust education is needed, even here in Israel.” “My grandmother was murdered in Poland by Germans and Poles,” Lapid responded. “I don’t need Holocaust education from you. We live with the consequences every day in our collective memory. Your embassy should offer an immediate apology.”

To which the embassy retorted: “Shameless.” Israel’s foreign ministry said the deputy Polish ambassador to Israel had been summoned for a clarification. For decades, Polish society avoided discussing the killing of Jews by civilians or denied that anti-Semitism motivated the slayings, blaming all atrocities on the Germans.

A turning point was the publication in 2000 of a book, “Neighbors,” by Polish-American sociologist Jan Tomasz Gross, which explored the murder of Jews by their Polish neighbors in the village of Jedwabne. The book resulted in widespread soul-searching and official state apologies.

But since the conservative and nationalistic Law and Justice party consolidated power in 2015, it has sought to stamp out discussions and research on the topic. It demonized Gross and investigated whether he had slandered Poland by asserting that Poles killed more Jews than they killed Germans during the war.

Holocaust researchers have collected ample evidence of Polish villagers who murdered Jews fleeing the Nazis. According to one scholar at Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, of the 160,000-250,000 Jews who escaped and sought help from fellow Poles, about 10 percent to 20 percent survived. The rest were rejected, informed upon or killed by rural Poles, according to the Tel Aviv University scholar, Havi Dreifuss.

At Auschwitz, however, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki stressed the Poles who helped Jews risking their own lives, noting that some 7,000 had been recognized by Yad Vashem but suggesting that the Polish sacrifices have not been acknowledged adequately.

“Jews, Poles, and all victims should be guardians of the memory of all who were murdered by German Nazis. Auschwitz-Birkenau is not a Polish name, and Arbeit Macht Frei is not a Polish phrase,” Morawiecki said later on Twitter.

Yad Vashem issued a statement Saturday night opposing the Polish legislation and trying to put into historical context the “complex truth” regarding the Polish population’s attitude toward its Jews. “There is no doubt that the term ‘Polish death camps’ is a historical misrepresentation,” the Yad Vashem memorial said. “However, restrictions on statements by scholars and others regarding the Polish people’s direct or indirect complicity with the crimes committed on their land during the Holocaust are a serious distortion.”

Vanessa Gera contributed from Warsaw.

Polish gov’t pressured to act following report on neo-Nazis

January 22, 2018

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland’s right-wing government faced pressure on Monday to act forcefully against far-right extremists following an expose of Polish neo-Nazis who celebrated Adolf Hitler, burning a swastika and dressing in Nazi German uniforms.

Private news channel TVN24 broadcast hidden-camera footage Saturday of neo-Nazis celebrating what would have been Hitler’s 128th birthday in a wooded area in southwestern Poland last spring. The participants chanted “Sieg Heil” and praised Hitler as they burned a large swastika.

The report revealed that the same neo-Nazi group, “Pride and Modernity,” was behind a November protest where pictures of centrist European Parliament lawmakers from Poland were hung on mock gallows in the city of Katowice. The far-right participants at that protest called the lawmakers traitors to Poland for having voted against the Polish government in a resolution in the European Parliament over alleged rule of law violations and the government’s response to an Independence Day march organized by far-right nationalists.

The weekend TVN24 report has provoked widespread revulsion in Poland, which was occupied by Germany during World War II and subjected to widespread destruction and mass killings. Poles and other Slavs were considered subhuman in Hitler’s ideology, and scenes of young Poles praising the man who unleashed such atrocities on the country are hard for many in Poland to fathom.

On Sunday, Poland’s chief prosecutor launched an investigation into whether the crime of propagating fascism had been committed, which can carry a prison sentence of up to two years. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki also said propagating fascism tramples “the memory of our ancestors and their heroic fight for a Poland that is just and free from hatred.”

Grzegorz Schetyna, leader of Civic Platform, the largest opposition party in parliament, called Monday for the neo-Nazi group to be criminalized. He also accused the ruling right-wing Law and Justice party of having allowed extremism to grow during its more than two years in power. In one example, he faulted the government for abolishing a special government office aimed at fighting discrimination and racism soon after it took power in late 2015.

The Law and Justice party has been often accused of turning a blind eye to far-right excesses hoping to win votes on the far right. Its adoption of anti-Muslim, anti-refugee rhetoric has also been seen as one factor leading to a rising number of reported attacks against people with dark skin in Poland.

The strong government denunciations come amid a broader attempt by Morawiecki to moderate the ruling party’s radical image and improve strained ties with European partners. As part of this change, some of the government’s most controversial ministers were fired earlier this month.

Rafal Pankowski, the head of Never Again, an organization that monitors and fights extremism, told The Associated Press that he believes “the far right has felt emboldened in the last two years, which has been expressed in many street marches and racist attacks.”

“It’s time for Polish leaders to condemn xenophobia and take concrete steps against it,” Pankowski said. “I hope the recent statements by Prime Minister Morawiecki are just the beginning of a new attitude to the problem on the part of the ruling elite.”

Poland approved for possible F-16 support package

Washington (UPI)

Dec 28, 2017

A purchase by Poland of follow-on support from the United States for F-16 fighter aircraft has won approval by the U.S. State Department.

The approval of the foreign military sale was conveyed to Congress earlier this week by the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which manages the FMS program.

“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States by helping to improve the security of a NATO ally,” DSCA said in a press release. “This potential sale will continue the sustainment of Poland’s F-16 capability.”

Specifically, Poland has asked for support and sustainment services to include aircraft maintenance, system and overhauls and upgrades, engine support, spare and repair parts, support and test equipment, publications and technical documentation, and U.S. Government and contractor engineering, technical, and logistical support.

The estimated value of the contract is $200 million.

“Contracts will be awarded when necessary to provide the defense articles ordered if items ordered are not available from U.S. stock or are to be purchased further in the future,” DSCA said.

Potential prime contractors under the deal would be Harris Corporation, Boeing, UTC Aerospace Systems, ISR Systems, Lockheed Martin, Cubic Defense Applications, L-3 Communications, Exelis Electronic, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Honeywell, Booz Allen Hamilton and BAE Systems.

Source: Space Daily.

Link: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Poland_approved_for_possible_F-16_support_package_999.html.

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