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How to Respond to Poland’s New Law Censoring Discussion of the Holocaust

A law recently passed by the Polish parliament declares it illegal to use the phrase “Polish death camps” to refer to the factories of mass-murder built by Germany on Polish soil during World War II. More ominously, the law also states that “whoever accuses, publicly and against the facts, the Polish nation, or the Polish state, of being responsible or complicit in the Nazi crimes committed by the Third German Reich . . . shall be subject to a fine or a penalty of imprisonment of up to three years.” While calling the law “foolish,” Jonathan Tobin also urges Jews to be circumspect in their response:

[The law] is an attempt to deny the long history of Polish antisemitism, the fact that some Poles helped the Germans kill Jews, and the hostile and sometimes violent reception Jewish survivors got when they tried to return to their homes after the war. . . .

But as wrongheaded as this bill is, this is a moment for Jews to stop and think about the meaning of history and its implications for our lives today. . . . Jewish attitudes toward Poles are still more the product of historical memories than of the generally good relations that exist today between Israel and Poland. Jew-hatred was widespread in the independent Polish republic that was destroyed by a German invasion in 1939. [Beginning in the 1930s], it was also officially sanctioned by the government and rooted in centuries of religious prejudice whipped up by many in the Catholic Church. . . .

[Yet], as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has noted, talk of “Polish death camps” is inaccurate. The phrase shifts blame from the Nazis who perpetrated the Holocaust to the invaded nation where the bulk of the murders took place. The Holocaust was the fault of its German perpetrators and their collaborators, not the Poles. The fact that the death camps were located in Poland was a function of logistics, not a belief that that Poles would help the Nazis kill Jews. . . .

Jews and Poles don’t need to be enemies anymore. To the contrary, given Poland’s delicate strategic situation and the ongoing attacks on Israel, they have much in common. So rather than engaging in mutual condemnations, Jewish critics of the new law should speak with the same understanding and compassion for Polish suffering and sensibilities that they demand for their own history.

Read more at JNS

More about: Anti-Semitism, Holocaust, Poland, Politics & Current Affairs

 

How the U.S. Can Strike at Iran without Risking War

In his testimony before Congress on Tuesday, Michael Doran urged the U.S. to pursue a policy of rolling back Iranian influence in the Middle East, and explained how this can be accomplished. (Video of the testimony, along with the full text, are available at the link below.)

The United States . . . has indirect ways of striking at Iran—ways that do not risk drawing the United States into a quagmire. The easiest of these is to support allies who are already in the fight. . . . In contrast to the United States, Israel is already engaged in military operations whose stated goal is to drive Iran from Syria. We should therefore ask ourselves what actions we might take to strengthen Israel’s hand. Militarily, these might include, on the passive end of the spectrum, positioning our forces so as to deter Russian counterattacks against Israel. On the [more active] end, they might include arming and training Syrian forces to engage in operations against Iran and its proxies—much as we armed the mujahedin in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Diplomatically, the United States might associate itself much more directly with the red lines that Israel has announced regarding the Iranian presence in Syria. Israel has, for example, called for pushing Iran and its proxies away from its border on the Golan Heights. Who is prepared to say that Washington has done all in its power to demonstrate to Moscow that it fully supports this goal? In short, a policy of greater coordination with Jerusalem is both possible and desirable.

In Yemen, too, greater coordination with Saudi Arabia is worth pursuing. . . . In Lebanon and Iraq, conditions will not support a hard rollback policy. In these countries the goal should be to shift the policy away from a modus vivendi [with Iran] and in the direction of containment. In Iraq, the priority, of course, is the dismantling of the militia infrastructure that the Iranians have built. In Lebanon, [it should be] using sanctions to force the Lebanese banking sector to choose between doing business with Hizballah and Iran and doing business with the United States and its financial institutions. . . .

Iran will not take a coercive American policy sitting down. It will strike back—and it will do so cleverly. . . . It almost goes without saying that the United States should begin working with its allies now to develop contingency plans for countering the tactics [Tehran is likely to use]. I say “almost” because I know from experience in the White House that contingency planning is something we extol much more than we conduct. As obvious as these tactics [against us] are, they have often taken Western decision makers by surprise, and they have proved effective in wearing down Western resolve.

Read more at Hudson

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen