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article imageIsrael voices dismay over Polish Holocaust bill

By AFP     Feb 1, 2018 in World

Israel expressed dismay on Thursday after the Polish senate passed a controversial bill on the Holocaust, perceived by the Jewish state as enabling a distortion of history.

The bill sets fines or a maximum three-year jail term for anyone who refers to Nazi German death camps as Polish or accuses Poland of complicity in the Third Reich's crimes.

The legislation had been approved by the Polish lower parliament on Friday, sparking vocal protests in Israel, which said it could serve to deny Polish involvement in Nazi Germany's extermination of Jews.

Israel set up a team to conduct a dialogue with the Polish government in hope of amending or delaying the bill, but the Polish upper house approved it early on Thursday.

Polish President Andrzej Duda now has 21 days to sign it into law.

The Israeli foreign ministry said it "categorically opposes the Polish senate decision."

"Israel views with utmost gravity any attempt to challenge historical truth. No law will change the facts," ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said.

Transport Minister Israel Katz said "the law constitutes the renunciation of responsibility and denial of Poland's part in the Holocaust."

Katz, who is a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party, called on the premier to recall the Israeli ambassador to Poland for consultations.

Construction Minister Yoav Gallant called the law "Holocaust denial."

"The memory of six million (Jews murdered in the Holocaust) is stronger than any law," he tweeted.

Opposition member of parliament Itzik Shmuli said the bill made Poland "the first nation to legislate Holocaust denial."

"History will judge Poland twice -- for its role (in the Holocaust) and its despicable attempt at denial."

Shmuli led a group of lawmakers who penned a bill of their own on Wednesday to amend Israel's law regarding Holocaust denial so that diminishing or denying the role of those who aided the Nazis in crimes against Jews would be punishable with jail.

Poland was attacked and occupied by Nazi Germany in World War II, losing six million of its citizens including three million Jews.

Israel's Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem called the legislation "unfortunate."

"This law is liable to blur historical truths due to limitations it places on expressions regarding the complicity of segments of the Polish population in crimes against Jews committed by its own people, either directly or indirectly, on Polish soil during the Holocaust," Yad Vashem said.

Reiterating that the term "Polish death camps" was indeed erroneous, Yad Vashem said that nevertheless "the correct way to combat these historical misrepresentations is not by criminalising these statements but by reinforcing educational activities."

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