Visegrad Summit in Israel Collapses after Poles Accused of ‘Suckling Anti-Semitism with Mothers’ Milk’
Comments by Israel’s interim Foreign Minister have been construed as “anti-Polonism” by Poland’s Prime Minister.
A planned summit in Israel of the EU states from the Visegrad Group has collapsed because of Poland’s withdrawal after comments by the interim Israeli Foreign Ministry that the Poles “suckled Anti-Semitism with their mothers’ milk” have exacerbated a row over Nazi collaboration in the Holocaust during World War II.
The row between Poland and Israel erupted at the end of last week as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, visiting Warsaw for a US-sponsored Middle East summit, said that Poles had collaborated with the Nazis during the Holocaust.
Netanyahu’s office later clarified he had not meant the Polish nation as a whole but the row led Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki to announce on Sunday he was skipping the Visegrad Four’s summit in Israel, and that Poland would be represented by Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz.
On Monday, however, Morawiecki canceled Poland’s participation altogether after a fresh batch of comments on the historical dispute by Israel’s interim Foreign Minister Israel Katz.
Katz told Israeli television on Sunday that Poles had “collaborated with the Nazis” and “suckled anti-Semitism from their mothers’ milk,” as cited by DW.
The Polish Foreign Ministry said it had summoned Israel’s ambassador to Poland, Anna Azari, for explanation for the second time in several days, after it did so following Netanyahu’s initial comments last week.
Polish Prime Minister Morawiecki, however, went further by pulling out his country altogether of the Israeli summit of the Visegrad Group (consisting of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia), which was supposed to take place in Jerusalem on Monday and Tuesday.
Reacting in Warsaw early on Monday, Morawiecki slammed Israel Katz for his “reprehensible, unacceptable and simply racist words.”
“This is an example of racist anti-Polonism,” the Polish leader said, as cited by PAP and Radio Poland.
Morawiecki argued that Poles had suffered the most from Nazi crimes during the World War II Holocaust together with the Jews and the Roma.
A total of 6 million Polish citizens were killed during the Nazi occupation of Poland during World War II, including 3 million Jews. Many of the worst Nazi Holocaust death camps were located in occupied Poland.
“[The cancelation of the Visegrad summit] is an unequivocal signal to other governments and international opinion that historical truth is fundamental,” the government in Warsaw said.
The Holocaust row between Poland and Israel comes at a time when Netanyahu had been seeking to consolidate the already existing support of the Visegrad Four countries.
Back in May 2018, Hungary and the Czech Republic allegedly vetoed a joint EU statement criticizing the decision of the USA to relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, while the Visegrad Four have abstained from voting against Israel in the UN General Assembly.
Historical disputes over the Holocaust already soured the relations between Poland and Israel back in 2018 because of a Polish law banning accusations that Poland collaborated with the Nazis during World War II.
After protests by Israel and massive US pressure, the law was amended so that nobody found guilty under it would be sent to prison.
As the Visegrad Group summit in Israel collapsed over the Poland – Israel Holocaust row, a spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry said on Monday that the leaders of the three other Central European EU states, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia, would hold separate meetings with Israeli leaders later this week.
“It will not be called Visegrad, because this entails the presence of all four. It’s going to be a summit with Visegrad members,” the spokesperson said.
(Banner image: Visegrad Four Presidency on Twitter)